I am amazed every day at my progression, even by the hour. I dance every night at work, moving from each dish to the next. Plating one item, then putting another in the oven. Thinking one step ahead, and constantly moving my feet, my entire body, with ease, not even thinking of the pain in my back, my feet, my legs. I feel weightless at that point, and every step is one towards a goal. My chefs anchor me, as they call out orders and I call back, like an African question-and-answer chant. I am not phased by the sounds of clanging pots and pans around me, only hearing them as background music, supporting the singing vegetables, noodles, and curry in pans. We cannot see them, but our audience waits outside to judge the expression of our love for this food: the final decree.
There are so many parallels between Grace and Greens, these parallels opposing one another's characteristics. There are on total opposite sides of the U.S., one in Portland, Maine, the other in San Francisco, California. One serves an abundance of meat, enriching with delicious fat, while the other is completely vegetarian, with a relatively healthy approach to cooking. Both are very large restaurants with beautiful views, one the inside of a church with pews and cathedral ceilings, an organ; the other filled with tables carved from the giant Redwood trees growing in the forests of the surrounding area. Both are beautiful in there own entirely different ways. And I believe this certainty allows me to be a better cook, and a more adaptable person in general.
My chefs are so caring and willing to help. Chef Denny briefly explained what I would be doing my first day, and that basically was to assist Dana, the extern from the Culinary Institute of America in Poughkeepsie, New York. I would be helping prepare the Greek pizzas, consisting of sliced red onion, blanched (and fervently squeezed with layers of cheesecloth, then seasoned with rosemary and lemon zest), asiago cheese, chopped Kalamata olives, diced tomatoes, and feta. On the station we would be plating the Poblano peppers stuffed with corn, quinoa, goat cheese, and herbs, and serving it alongside beans, tomatillo sauce, a bright salsa, crème fraîche, and a fan of buttery avocado. We would also be composing a dish of pupusas, or a thick, soft, handmade corn tortilla, filled with summer squash, spring onions, serrano chilies, pumpkin seeds, smoked cheddar and cilantro. Complementing this would be salsa rosa, pickled vegetables, herb salad, and more California avocados. Most of the produce here is from organic, local farmers. All of the fruit and vegetables are so beautiful. The close connections with the farmers can be easily viewed each time they drop off their orders. They come in with a cup of coffee in hand, everyone greeting and thanking them for their care in the products they present each week. Ed greeted me yesterday, saying hello, and introducing himself as the peach man from Blossom Bluff Orchards. We grill his peaches simply, only drizzling with Snyder's (another bee farmer's) honey, Belweather Dairy's fromage blanc, and watercress. This dish demonstrates the rustic approach in which Greens has created their menu. No, the restaurant does not create gastronomical experiments, but they choose wonderful ingredients and showcase them with simplicity, not having to try because the components of each dish speak for themselves.
I am so delighted to be a part of this kitchen: one that resonates with the ways I feel about food. While I appreciate modern gastronomy, I don't wish to make it a part of each day. I do admit that sometimes I feel intimidated by my colleagues at school who masterfully plate dishes with a magnifying glass and tweezers in hand. But then I think back to my own beliefs. The roots of my life are shown through my cooking; it is comfortable, not cocky, and create memories through the food and the love the chef puts into it, not the chef who morphed the food into something it is not meant to be.
The positive re-enforcement I receive from the chefs and line cooks around me appease something that has always been inside my heart. I cannot silence my need for feeling respected and appreciated. This only motivates me to move forward and work even harder. I am exhausted at the end of every shift, but am ecstatic to be well-liked. I only hope I can impress them further. Everyday my goal is to improve. And I will get there. I know I will.