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Kitchen Apprentice: 'Spaghetti'

Cooking is about adapting, an exercise in observation, utilizing all your senses. Every pasta comes with its own set of rules, finicky things to look out for. For the most part, I enjoy learning about each pasta's characteristics and familiarizing myself with their quirks. But I cannot even pretend to like "spaghetti." More

Kitchen Apprentice: Midterm

For a while now, Jeff has been telling me that he would eventually administer an aptitude test of sorts—a pasta practical—to see how far I've come. I would be in charge the entire day, from checking inventory to determining the day's checklist and driving production. I remember laughing the first time he mentioned it: Me, in charge? Surely, you jest. More

Kitchen Apprentice: Getting the Hang of Cavatelli

Even though my triceps and forearms were ready to fall off after coaxing flour into eight batches of cavatelli, it's still one of my favorite things to do in the pasta station. Kneading each batch took me longer than I liked—by the time I wrapped up the last batch for resting, the first was ready to get rolled out—about two hours. More

Kitchen Apprentice: Waste Not

No matter how fabulous the establishment, at the end of a day, a restaurant is a business. In order to maximize profit margins, waste has to be kept at a minimum. At The Restaurant, the sous chefs in charge of ordering take care to purchase the freshest, highest quality produce, whether that entails personal trips to the farmer's market or sourcing dried pastas from Italy. More

Kitchen Apprentice: To Erica

I practically clung to Erica's apron the first day I trailed. She was on the hot station, and was responsible for any fried sides or appetizers that went out with an order. I was sandwiched between her and Mark on garde manger. Those two stations alone commanded more surface area and lowboys than the entire kitchen at the restaurant I'd worked at previously. More

Kitchen Apprentice: Badass Ladies on the Line

Every woman in my family cooks. When I think of my maternal grandmother, I think of the boiled amaranth greens she'd put on top of congee, the iron from their roots bleeding across our bowls. My paternal grandmother was famous for her shizitou, a fist-sized meatball skirted by mushrooms and baby bok choy. More

Kitchen Apprentice: Trial by Lack of Fire

"Behind! Hot!" He set the pot down onto a stovetop at the back of the kitchen and turned to me. "Do you remember how to make this? You better—I'm serious." I couldn't see what was in the rondeau from where I was standing but he spoke with such conviction, it could have been filled with rocks and shoe leather and I wouldn't have dared to say no. More

Kitchen Apprentice: The Sunday Brunch Crunch

Of course, any service can be rough, but several factors can turn Sunday brunch into a minefield for cooks. Parties are usually smaller at brunch so the turnover time for a table can be much shorter than one for dinner. The increase in potential diners, coupled with the fact that brunch is longer than dinner, turns a typically busy (300 covers) service into a marathon where cooks find themselves sprinting (350-430 covers) the entire way. More

Kitchen Apprentice: Becoming a Better Home Cook

Before my apprenticeship, besides baking the occasional birthday cake or roasting turkey for Thanksgiving, the primary use for my oven was for storing muffin pans and a multi-tier steamer. Now, almost everything I cook gets roasted or flashed in the oven at some point. My pasta water gets more salt than it ever used to, and my attempts at fresh ravioli are increasing in frequency. More

Kitchen Apprentice: A Brief Tour of the Kitchen

The organism that is the kitchen cannot perform at its peak when its contributing parts are not performing at theirs; there is nobody in the kitchen who is superfluous during service (with myself being a rare exception), and everyone needs to be moving, searing, boiling, frying, plating to the beat of the same drum. More

New Column: Meet the Kitchen Apprentice

Please welcome our new Kitchen Apprentice columnist "Chris P. Beycon." He (or is it a she? muhaha) is keeping his identity and that of the restaurant confidential, but will be sharing kitchen escapades with us each week. Read more about the experiences of a newbie with a chef's knife. More

Kitchen Apprentice: Midterm

@Nico S, @Cary: Thank you for reading!

@winternutt: It's alright, I don't really expect to collect gold stars for doing what was expected of me, and it was reassuring, being reminded that creativity is actively encouraged in the kitchen. Jeff wasn't upset at all, I hope it doesn't come off as such!

Kitchen Apprentice: Getting the Hang of Cavatelli

@Cary, @lexohpile: Thank you! It's refreshing to get something right once in a while.

@jo_wang: Thanks for reading the whole time!

@guycooking: I'm flattered that anyone would compare my writing to that of Hannah Howard's (the author of Grocery Girl), but I can assure you that I am not she! I am also in no way a pasta master--your confidence in my abilities is humbling, if horribly misplaced :)

Kitchen Apprentice: When Eating Where You Work

@joyyy: Yes, thank you! I completely forgot to mention the tip. Taking into consideration the great service, restaurant discounts or any comped dishes I might receive when dining where I work, my tip will definitely be more generous than when I usually dine out. Fussy is certainly no bueno, but there's really no excuse for tipping poorly (or not at all).

Kitchen Apprentice: Becoming a Better Home Cook

@Rodzilla: We use the Emiliomiti Nina pasta machine, it works like a dream. Production schedules for fresh pasta change day by day, and depend largely on what is being offered on the menu or what needs to be restocked: LOTS of production during restaurant week.

@jkatt: I am actually going to explain more in detail in next week's column: all line cooks have bains of their tools set up at their station, spoons included, but yes, sometimes it is just faster to grab a pasta noodle to taste while plating. I know I speak from scant experience, but I cannot imagine every cook in every decent restaurant is always gloved or always uses utensils when plating or tasting dishes. The kitchen is also outfitted with plenty of sinks, rest assured, our hands are always clean!

Kitchen Apprentice: A View From the Pasta Closet

Thanks for the kind comments, all!

@Teachertalk: I think I was just in the right place at the right time. I'd planned on blogging about my experience working BOH for my own blog, but pitched the concept to SE on a whim, to see if they would be interested. I'd been an avid reader of SE for a long time, so when they agreed to run the column, I was absolutely ecstatic :)

Kitchen Apprentice: A Brief Tour of the Kitchen

@chascates: The pasta pros at The Restaurant are outfitted with the Emiliomiti Nina and it works wonderfully, although it kind of stopped working one service and they had to make do with an Imperia for a few long hours.

@guycooking: I definitely agree that it's a difficult business, but the thing is, I don't have to be there, I get to be there. Like I've said before, I don't think I have the stamina to cook for a living, but I'm determined to soak up all that I can while I have the chance!

@Rodzilla: For obvious reasons, I can neither confirm nor deny, but thanks for playing :)

New Column: Meet the Kitchen Apprentice

@Pavlov: Thanks! And that's the second time "Heat" has been mentioned, picking up a copy today, I'll have a look over "On Food and Cooking" while I'm there.

New Column: Meet the Kitchen Apprentice


- I will keep your co-worker caveat in mind the next time I pull on my whites. You could very well be 100% correct, in which case I will simply have to work harder...because I'm definitely not quitting.
- While I cannot argue that my skills leave something to be desired, I hope I do not come off as flip or anything less than completely devoted in regards to time I spend in the kitchen. Right now, I mince things. I slice things. Occasionally, I even mandolin things. I am determined to slice each batch more perfectly and consistently than the last. I simply acknowledge the fact that I do not possess the stamina required to stand over 95,000 blasting btus 5 days a week as a career. Naturally, my passion for learning how to cook trumped my desire to write: how else would I learn to "write what I know," when I know so little? Acquiring knowledge was, is and will continue to be a top priority of mine, although I deeply appreciate the opportunity to pursue both interests. I hope it is understood that this column reflects the experiences of a very green student and not an expert. It's an unusual situation, but it was never my intention to offend with material I considered merely interesting.
- Totally fair on the nail polish; manicures are largely a waste if you work BOH and I hadn't had one in the longest, it completely slipped my mind to take it off prior to my shift. Definitely won't happen again.

New Column: Meet the Kitchen Apprentice

@crispyduck13 Thanks for the feedback! A close reader is always appreciated. Let's see if I can't work through your questions:

- This opportunity was made possible due to the Executive Chef's kindness and willingness to take a chance on a "kitchen noob." I come in twice a week and do not operate on the line, so I am not directly responsible for anything that a customer would consume. I do what I can and learn as much as possible.
- If there is anything that this time in the kitchen has taught me so far, it is that I am simply not cut out to be a full-time chef in a professional kitchen. I was never looking to develop my culinary career working at The Restaurant; I was always more interested in the experience working back of the house and building a solid foundation in food knowledge.
- No, just like how I don't really have the upper body strength of a third grader...it's more like a kindergartner's, even on a good day. :) But I really was unnerved.
- Guess not.
- All stylized text gets formatted in the editing phase of publishing; I don't have much say in what gets italicized, bolded, curlicued, flourished, etc.
- I'm sorry if you found the lack of column parameters frustrating, hopefully I'll do a better job next week!

@Jenny Lee-Adrian The writing component of my experience was always secondary to my desire to learn more about food. I was more concerned about getting my foot through the door than documenting the experience: the fact that I have Chef's blessing for the column is just a hugely generous bonus!

New Column: Meet the Kitchen Apprentice

@Grease Yes, most of the people I work with, including the Executive Chef, are aware that I will be chronicling my experiences in the kitchen. The anonymity is just to protect everyone involved.

New Column: Meet the Kitchen Apprentice

Hello everyone! Thanks for all the support, will be back next week with a little more background on The Restaurant and the excellent people I get to work with.

@jpeckjr Sound advice! I've been trying to suppress my skittish, panic-prone inclinations and get a grip ever since I walked through those double doors...we'll just have to see how things go.

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