On the Off-Chance there are Tacos

I’ve had this wordpress account for quite a while now, and haven’t figured out what to do with it. Blogging? It seems so… egocentric. As if my daily activities are of any interest to anyone. As a direct result of this conclusion, I’ve been using this blog to back up some of my old article work (none of which are any good, imo) and as a spot for my fanfiction. Then I mostly forgot about it.

Recently however, I’ve been seeing how some other folks are using this remarkable tool, and okay, fine, there’s a lot that can be done with it. Stories, personal quests, and useful diy are only some of the things that have made me stop and go, “well dayum, that’s some grade-A memoir, not some buttermilk bull$h!7.” Far be it for me to tear down the Babylonian tower of self-obsession that defines today’s information age America, right?

Right! That brings me to the title of the blog, newly birthed and dripping with the brain juice of inspiration. Allow me to, ironically, delve into some personal history:

Hello everyone! I’m a young professional cook in the glamorous and aptly named meatpacking district of New York City. I graduated from culinary school right here, in the hard seedy core of the big apple, approximately one year ago and have been working in the industry for about 9 months, give or take a volunteer experience here or indentured servitude there. I also have a bachelor’s in media and communication, and apologies to my alma mater but all that really amounts to is a major in procrastination.

I started my culinary career  in a frantic frenzy of unemployment and self-hate. Here I was, in my twenties, fresh out of college all shiny and edumacated, and I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I had gone to all the classes, tried all the disciplines, and when I had run out of ideas decided to do something a little more practical: I was going to be in an industry that was up and growing, and had been for the entirety of human civilization.

Seriously! Who doesn’t eat? It’s not merely a question of sustaining yourself anymore, eating, like sex, nearly defines us as a conscious species. Your very identity is wrapped up in what, where, how, when, and for some very limited cultures, who you eat. Every major philosophical question a person might have can be boiled down to a metaphor about food. Do you have compassion for all living creatures and wish they would be awesome Zen masters like yourself? Become a vegetarian. Do you sneer at vegetarians on the street and wish they could be as hard-core as you? Become a vegan. Do you wish you had a warehouse-sized industrial complex in which to smoke meat? Become a barbecuian. Not to say I look down on any of these categories, though cooks are notoriously hateful about vegetarians who come to restaurants and order a goddamn steamed vegetable plate for twenty dollars that they could easily cook at home and not bother us with while there are twenty tickets on the board and about a hundred people waiting to be sat on a busy Saturday night. Nope, not at all bitter about it. In fact, my lovely girlfriend is a vegetarian, and I have the best creative time figuring out what she’d like for dinner- AT HOME. We actually complain about people who complain about going to vegetarian restaurants. If you haven’t had a deep-fried soy burger with sweet potato fries, please, I beg of you, find a vegetarian friend to take you to a vegetarian restaurant and leave us red-meat-flipping cooks alone.

Hum. First proper blog and I’ve already slipped into ranting. Well done, Vox my boy, well freaking done.

At any rate, when I finally plucked up the courage and went on a trail (interview, but in chef-jargon) two things occurred which might have blown me out of the water before I even picked up my knife:

1) I came to the interview wearing a t-shirt.

2) the shirt read “Born to rock, forced to work.”

Now in any other industry, the interviewer probably would take one look and either call security or call their colleagues in to have a good belly laugh at the noob. Not so with cooking! Aye, even one as thick and sleep-deprived as I can enter a kitchen in NEW YORK CITY and murder a shackful of shallots in a shameful display of knife butchery and still get a job! To be honest, I was really really sincere about it.

And so, my working relationship with one of the best kitchens i’ve been in began. Part of the reason it’s been so awesome is that I helped build it. That’s right, when I came in on that fateful interview, the restaurant hadn’t even been open. Bits of it were still covered in tarpaulin, and we had one stove and an unfinished walk-in of a kitchen. More on that later.

Suffice it to say, I’ve had an incredible time. Kitchen work is like a roller coaster, with ups and downs, stressful times, and sometimes people will  have sex in the employee bathroom while you’re trying to change and go home. Good times. There’s pressure- lots of pressure. Even if you’ve done all the preparation work (mise en place, or everything in its place in the French) and you’re convinced there’s nothing more to do that could possibly improve your situation, the guy downstairs could be short on something that needs to be cut on the fly, on a whirling blade the size of your face, and the only guy who can do it is you. Or, the runner could drop your food. Or, an order can be sent back because someone can’t tell what a medium rare is. We’ve had one guy send back a thirty-seven dollar rack of lamb because he suspected the “quality of the lamb was sub-par.” Perfectly cooked, but sub par. Still, at the end of the day when every plate has been sent out and every diner stuffed full, and you’re just hanging back post-coitus with your knife cooling in its sheath and a beer in your hand, somebody next to you will pull a pan of browned onions and peppers and charred meat with a pile of toasty warm soft tortillas on the side, and you’ll lean back and think, this is what I came in for. A lot of guys will cave on the pressure and call out, or make up some excuse not to work. On the off-chance there are tacos, I always come in. Doesn’t matter if I know I’m getting chewed out, or my station is a mess because the lunch guys leave all their crap there, or I have to make forty orders of beef carpaccio in the space of twenty minutes. I come in because sometimes, when my job is done, there will be tacos.

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One thought on “On the Off-Chance there are Tacos

  1. Claudia

    Love this idea. More entries! I love your writing style in here, want more kitchen gossip. Love how the title fit into the end so smoothly.

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