A few weeks ago I was diligently sorting through piles of people's discarded clothing/doing my community service when my phone rang. Normally I don't answer calls from #'s I don't recognize, but for some reason I picked up this time. Thank God I did...
It was the general manager of one of the best restaurants in Chicago, if not the entire country. Months ago I randomly applied for a food runner position, certain that I wasn't qualified based on my (in)experience in fine dining, but decided that it was worth a shot.
Fast forward to 2 weeks ago and I'm sitting in a bar, meeting with said general manager - who was not what I expected. Instead of a finely polished man in a business suit, he sat casually in jean cut offs and a heavy metal band t-shirt. Looking back, it makes perfect sense.
After discussing my previous jobs and how I lack the prerequisites for an establishment of such...caliber, he kindly offered me the chance to "audition" for the job, cautioning me that nothing was certain, and that this specific role is much, Much, MUCH more demanding than simply delivering plates to table.
A day later I received an e-mail containing not only the menu, which is 9 courses, but the ingredients, where they come from and even the FUCKING history of what things came from where. I wasn't aware that Arabians introduced rice to Europe, did you?
Well, the other night I had my trial night/audition, and to say I was nervous is a serious understatement. Terrified would be a more apt description. To add to the existing pressure, I was informed in the 2nd pre-service meeting, that a internationally renowned Chef would be visiting. Literally a culinary Rawk Star.
But I kept my cool - as much as I could in a kitchen that felt like it was on the surface of the sun. Mind you, I'm wearing black dress shoes, suit pants and an extra large shirt starched within an inch of it's life (they didn't have any mediums).
First impression - there are A LOT of staff. Here's my count:
-6 prep cooks
-4 line cooks
-3 food runners (and me)
-3 back waiters
-4 head waiters
-1 captain waiter
-1 sous chef
-1 chef du cuisine
-2 pastry chefs
-1 head chef
-1 executive chef
-1 general manager
Keep in mind, the place only can accommodate 60 people in one sitting (counting the chef's table that adjourns the kitchen. I was assigned to one of the food runners, who was super nice and helpful, but also had no problem telling me when I fucked up. Which was a lot, but apparently not too much.
At the end of my shift I had a quick meeting with the general manager. He did not say "good job" nor "you are an idiot", but rather asked me what my thoughts were. I betrayed my instinct to say "I don't know if I can do this" or "a microscopic piece of fennel fell off a dish" or "holy shit what the hell am I doing here".
Sometime next week I can expect a call; either I get it or I don't, and either way I will be fine. But I WANT IT, although I must say, I am a bit frightened to actually GET IT.