"Kitchen Newbie 101"
Greetings, foodies, potential foodies, and lovers of food-related
things! Heartfelt gratitude to Pants Off Reviews for having me in order
to welcome a release I am so proud and happy to present. On this, the
second day of the Appetite "Tour de Foodie" to accompany the release of A
Cut Above the Rest, I wanted to bring out a guide to basic kitchen
skills, stations, and other terms and roles that you'll see in the
Restaurants exist on two planes: the front of house, and the kitchen. The front of house is what they call the dining area: the place where a host or hostess greets diners, and brings them to tables or booths for their meal. Whether no-frills or fancy, the front of house is the place where meals are served and customers enjoy the magic dished up from the hard-working chefs behind the line.
The kitchen is where the magic is created. The layout of the kitchen, and the way it operates, depends on the type of restaurant as well as that restaurant's size. A modest diner, for example, can get away with one line cook, maybe two. That one cook will be in charge of all the food that comes out of the kitchen. In larger restaurants, especially fine dining, they are staffed with more cooks. The greater the complexity of the operations taking place in the restaurant, the more stations the restaurant will have, and the more specialized they'll be.
In the Appetite series, for example, the kitchen is supervised by the executive chef/owner. Under him, there is an executive sous chef, a sous chef, and several line cooks who each work different stations at the kitchen such as garnish, fish, meat, and so on. It's separated out in that way, almost production-line style with everyone performing a different type of work, in order to produce large quantities of food while bringing it together under a single chef who does quality control to make sure that the food leaving the kitchen is up to standards.
At the front of house, waitstaff take orders in the form of a "ticket" that is sent to the kitchen. These tickets arrive at the expedite station. Of all stations, the expedite station is the conductor of the symphony, the wizard's platform where the magic all comes together. The person doing expedite, typically the executive chef, calls out the tickets and gets the various stations moving on what they need to cook. As the stations cook their food, they must communicate amongst one another, calling out timings for when their component will be ready so that they can bring their food to the hot plate at the same time.
The hot plate is where all of the components for each dish come together at the expedite station, where the food is kept warm. From there, the food is plated, arranged on plates to the chef's satisfaction, and picked up by servers to go to eagerly-awaiting patrons.
On especially busy nights, when the kitchen is slammed, a term very specific to cooks that you'll see is that they're "in the weeds." It means the chefs are so busy or behind on their cooking, it's hard bordering on impossible to catch up. The origin of the term is unclear, but it's been used in cooking establishments dating back to the late 1800s.
When the kitchen is in the weeds, it's not uncommon for a dish to get eighty-sixed, meaning it has to be removed from the menu due to lack of ingredients. Let's say the diner came in for the flank steak special with asiago risotto, and that flank steak was so popular that the kitchen ran out of that cut of meat. In kitchens that serve fresh food, they don't have any option but to eighty-six that special until they can order more product and serve it again the next night.
"Eighty-six" is another term with muddy origins, though it's theorized it came about during Prohibition Era—and, at the time, meant the customer themselves was getting the boot before the cops could come around to bust them.
Getting back to when all goes well, the food goes up to the expedite station and it gets plated so that it's a feast for the eyes, and from there is delivered to the customers. Another item worthy of note—while some restaurants add an enforced gratuity, or tip, ranging from 15 – 18%, the new standard for tipping has been 20% for some years. Of course, a discussion on tipping could take another entry on its own.
The chef's gratuity, much like the author's, is often in the satisfaction that the diners get from what they've served (whether they review on Yelp or not) as well as the repeat business from those who've enjoyed what they have on offer. Good eating to you, or, bon appetite!
The door creaked open and shut further up the alley. Alex turned, expecting to see Florian joining him for a smoke. Nik stepped out into the alleyway, unfastening his chef's jacket all down the front, baring a red t-shirt with a scrawl of words over the upper chest. He peeled up the bottom of his red shirt, fanning it out to circulate cool air through the front.
Alex lifted a hand, but found his voice was stoppered in his throat. He reached for his cigarette instead, turning to one side to ogle Nik less obviously, unable to resist the slender nape revealed by the dark hair pulled into its severe tail, the skinny chest spanned into a stretch as Nik lifted both of his strong, slender wrists into the air, pushing them as far as they would go. His face went soft-focused, his defenses dropping in that moment while he shifted positions, extending his arms in front of him and lacing his fingers, stretching those as well. Nik bounced on his tiptoes, making soft grunts of exertion that Alex could hear even from the back of the alley.
Stretching one arm over the other, Nik swung in Alex's direction. His eyes widened to such an extent that Alex could see white even from his distance. "What are you doing?" he exclaimed.
Alex performed a quarter turn, glancing to one side of him, then the other as though expecting to find any others that Nik might be addressing. He waved his cigarette laden hand through the alley air. "Taking that break you told me to?"
Nik stormed up the alley, aiming a finger at Alex like a cocked gun. "You're smoking!" he uttered in tones of mingled anger and betrayal. "I can't believe you're smoking ... it ruins your palate, and it cheapens our restaurant." He didn't stop walking until he was toe to toe with Alex.
Alex flicked his cigarette ashes to one side and kept the butt gripped low. That was all he needed, to burn his chef with stray ashes during an argument over the fact that he was smoking. "Yah, I know you Americans think it's a filthy habit, but I am on my break, okay?"
Nik came right into Alex's personal space to aim that finger near his nose, his face shuttered down in cold, hard lines once more. "Don't 'you Americans' me, Alex, I have dual citizenship and I can speak German almost as well as you," he exclaimed. "I'm surprised at you; what do you expect to accomplish, killing your taste buds like this?"
The unexpected attack on his break, Alex's one moment outside of the kitchen that had been consuming his life, threw Alex into quiet confusion for a moment. "You can't tell me not to smoke." Alex kept his cigarette off to the side, but its smoke continued to waft up between them. Fuck it. He wasn't going to try and hide something for fear of Nik's displeasure. Alex brought his cigarette and set it between his lips.
Nik's nostrils flared. "I can tell you not to smoke on our property," he retorted, reaching up to snatch the cigarette from between Alex's lips, leaving them tingling. "You're a chef, Alex, and if you want to be a great one, you ought to think about what this does to your palate. Your sense of taste, your sense of smell." He held the cigarette pinched by the very end, smoke curling in the air between their faces.
Alex inhaled, on the verge of saying something a man should never say to his ranking chef, on the line or off it.
"Besides," Nik continued, bringing the cigarette to his lips and taking a thick drag, his plush mouth closing on the filter where Alex's lips had been clamped only seconds before. He inhaled, taking the smoke directly into his lungs before leaning forward until there was only radiant heat between them. "Would you want to kiss this?"
Before Alex could move or formulate a response, Nik exhaled a stream of smoke directly into his open mouth.
It set Alex to coughing. His eyes watered and he balled his fists up as Nik pitched his cigarette to the ground, grinding it out with the ball of his non-slip shoes, eyeing Alex from across the smoldering distance between them before turning about face. Nik stalked back up the alley without another word.
Alex struggled to formulate thought in a haze of smoke and liquefied brain matter. A part of his primitive brain was still tracking the sway of Nik's hips even as Alex grappled with the upsurge of emotion that he had to label as rage. He was trying to set Nik's well-tended hair on fire with the power of his mind. He couldn't even muster a 'how dare you' for Nik's presumption.
He definitely couldn't let himself think he more than wanted to kiss that mouth, ashtray taste or no. He wanted to ravish it with his own until there was more than just a kiss between them.
You can purchase A Cut Above the Rest at Less Than Three Press.
Check out my giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the novel, and the "Tour de Foodie" continues tomorrow at Babes in Boyland!