One Of Those Days

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors!

It had been a grueling day. The whole kitchen seemed to be operating on Murphy’s Law.
A bad batch of eggs had been caught too late, leading to the failure of at least three batters and every single piece of brioche in the bakery. Fortunately, none had sold and there was no danger of anyone getting sick- even so, it was a lot of product to be thrown out.
Everyone’s production list doubled- the time to get it done did not.

If there was a time for “Crazy Train” to start playing, that was it.

A few hours later, one of our bakers throws open our liftgate in a fit of frustration. The liftgate flies up and catches on our overhead electrics, ripping a box off the rafter and sending an outlet box flying inches from Victoria’s head as she works.
A couple zipties, string, and some scoutcraft make for a “system D” fix, and a sincere apology eases Victoria’s nerves- but she keeps working a little farther down the table anyway.

A few hours more,  it’s nearly the end of the day. I only have a few more things to do, and then I’m free. I can already feel the fresh air and taste my post-shift beer. Biscuits, pull butter for tomorrow, put one last batch of batter away- all that stands between me and freedom.
That’s when the power goes out. A transformer blew a few blocks down- most of the neighborhood is knocked out.

A power outage at home can be a real annoyance, but intelligent use of the fridge and some handy candles and batteries can get you through pretty well. At a restaurant, however, a power outage can mean a WORLD of problems.

  • The walk-in fridge goes down. If it’s kept closed, food can keep pretty well- but as often as it opens during work hours, that can warm up VERY quickly. Even throwing ice on the floor won’t help, as there is no fan to circulate the air.
  • The ANSUL and hood systems go down. Not only is that a fire hazard, there is no ventilation for our gas range.
  • Our ovens are electric. No baking.
  • Our mixer goes down- thank God I don’t have any more batter to go through, or it would be by hand.
  • EVERYTHING the baristas use is functionally hamstrung.

Everyone in the kitchen discusses how to handle this- the expectation is no power for at least 3 hours. We set up the baristas with a big pot of boiling water to make drip and french press coffee. Everything that needs to go in the fridge by the end of the day is piled up to be sent in ONCE, with one guy and a flashlight, to be put away. A flashlight is provided for the bathrooms- closing early is out of the question.

We do what we can, hope for the best when we can’t, and kick out for home.

Around the corner, the beer cart hasn’t closed up just yet- the kegs are pretty well-insulated, may as well sell it while it’s still cold. The Vienna Lager IS cold- like an icepack for the soul after a day like today. Everything went wrong, tempers flared, and it would be so easy to feel bitter.

We fixed everything we could, though. There were problems, and we solved them- we did what we were trained to do.

The next day, I’m on the pastry table. We have power, but we discover that it took 6-8 hours. Everything in the front case is scrapped, everything in the walk-in is rooted through for signs of spoilage. It’ll be a busy morning… but at least this I could see coming. That morning, I’d picked out a few quick recipes that can be churned out to throw in the case, and move my production forward a day.

We all got back to work.

Things tend to go south. Sometimes it’s your fault, and you know how to fix it or make amends. Sometimes it’s not, and there’s no easy answer- no one to blame or focus your ire at.
Regardless of what happens, though, I have found that the same things tend to get me through- creativity, ingenuity, grace, faith in myself and my training, and a stubborn will.

Also the tongue of a drunken sailor, but that doesn’t always make for good reading,

Stay Classy,