Chef once told me, “If you ever work at an office, you aren’t going to have any problems being efficient and organized – because that’s the most important part of being a line cook. It’s so ingrained into your head here, you never forget it.”
Last Thursday, I packed my knife bag and took off my chef’s coat for the last time. Yes, I’m officially finished with my longer-than-expected (but totally worth it) stint as a line cook. On August 1st, I will be starting a one-year fellowship with the editorial team at Oxmoor House, the book publishing division of Southern Progress. Specifically, I will be helping to write and edit cookbooks from Southern Living, Cooking Light, Weight Watchers and more. I couldn’t be more excited for this new adventure (and I hope Chef’s words will prove to be true!).
For the past year and three months, I have worked as a line cook at Cashion’s Eat Place. During this time, my guiding philosophy was mis en place, or “everything in its place.” This is where Chef’s words about organization and efficiency come into play – you must not only make sure you have enough of every ingredient, you must place it in a location where it’s easy to grab or use during service.
I’ve also learned that mistakes are okay, as long as you don’t make them again. Once, I spilled about five quarts of a sauce that takes several hours to prepare. And yes, it was right in front of chef, about thirty minutes before a busy dinner service. Needless to say, I have not spilled anything since that.
Yes, working in a kitchen is a dirty job that is not all glamorous. Despite this, it can be extremely rewarding. I will miss working the grill on a busy, Saturday night. Oddly, it’s kind of fun to cook five steaks, four skin-on fish filets and three burgers all at once, kind of like an intense aerobic workout, actually.
I will also miss hanging out with the cooks after service – we’d take shots of whiskey, play pool, drink beer, sometimes venture to this crazy Latino karaoke place and have pupusa, a kind of corn flatbread filled with cheese or beans.
In many ways, it’s bittersweet, but it’s time to move forward with my food writing career. Who knows, though, maybe I’ll find myself back in the restaurant kitchen later on.
So, as you have probably gathered, I will not be writing much about the D.C. food scene once I am in Birmingham. When I get settled, I would love to pursue freelancing in Birmingham – I have heard the city has a great food scene.
Thank you to everyone who has read my D.C. blog over the past two years. I’m going to miss living in this incredible city, but it’s time for a new adventure!