Kitchen Apprentice: K.I.S.S.

Kitchen Apprentice

Dispatches from an always popular, bustling restaurant kitchen.

Editor's note: Each week "Chris P. Beycon" shares tales from behind the kitchen door, where she works as an apprentice at a popular restaurant. Read her column here each Thursday! —The Mgmt.

201100908-kitchen-apprentice.jpgAfter an unremarkably average performance on my "pasta midterm," I was determined to do a little better on the final I'd have to face. Beyond joking about the assessment test he'd eventually administer, Jeff still didn't have much set in stone in the way of planning the actual final—until last week.

"Whatever it is, there must be repercussions."

I nodded as I weighed out the flour for a batch of dough.

"Oh I know, I'm going to have you create your own pasta dish."

Invent something completely new? I could barely keep my shit together following step by step instructions.

"Ha, yeah and then I could feed it to family."

"That's actually a great idea! You know what, that's what I'll have you do. I'll have you make family sometime."

My big mouth.

Feed family? At breakfast? Family breakfast is something I look forward to every week. Sarah, the line cook responsible for putting out staff meal as part of her side work, always turns out something amazing: The other week it was a breakfast burrito bar with pulled pork cooked in cola and orange juice. Before that it was French toast with brandied bananas and poached eggs over fried potatoes. I'd be depriving the staff of their reliably delicious meal.

I can't even cook.

The one time I helped Sarah with breakfast, I burned a good amount of the pancakes I was tasked with flipping. We cooked the pancakes on the plancha, a flat cooking surface we sear proteins on during dinner service. I did not know that the plancha had hotspots, something I learned at the cost of two batches of blackened pancakes.

After burning half the staff's breakfast and generally ruining things with my detrimental cluelessness, Sarah swooped in to save the day, deftly ladeling batter and flipping golden-crisp pancakes into a hotel pan one after another. I couldn't bring myself to throw away food, and tried shuffling my little coal-cakes under Sarah's pillowy-soft batch instead. When breakfast was served, I dragged out two of the sorriest looking pancakes from the bottom of the hotel pan. They were so burnt, they left cinder-dust in the dregs of my syrup; I prayed nobody would have to taste the ones I cooked.

I wouldn't have Sarah's help during my final. I envisioned serving a hotel pan brimming with blackened pancakes, heaped up like a pile of burnt cowpies. Or it might be a tough, amorphous mass of eggs, a pan of underseasoned, undercooked potatoes. I saw myself dropping things, spilling things, struggling to lift things, setting side towels on fire, burning myself, or worse, others.

"Can I let you in on a secret? Not all family meals are amazing."

But they're all good! At the very least they're palatable, something I'm not entirely sure my food would be. To some degree I think I'm psyching myself out a little, and I understand that not all family meals are incredible gastronomic experiences, but I don't want to be the person who serves up crap first thing in the morning. What a terrible start to the day! Can you imagine, coming in at 6 or 7 in the morning, tired, a little cranky, looking forward to breakfast, and then...what the hell is that?! I die.

"A piece of advice: Keep It Simple, Stupid."

Like I could fancy anything up.

Any suggestions, Serious Eaters? What are some simple, tasty dishes I could produce in volume for family breakfast? Any things I shouldn't attempt?