A couple weeks ago, i willingly launched myself into helping out in an underground restaurant. A Wild Kitchen. A wild dinner. At the end of the night, I emerged tattered and my muscles ached. I wondered how the hell 8 hours slipped by without my notice. I wondered how the hell I got through it. I wondered how the hell we did it.
Here are some numbers (because we all love numbers):
- 25 people
- 4 kitchen staff
- 3 portable burners
- 3 pot of hot fat - of varying temperature and compositions
- 1 pig's face
- 1/2 a front of the house waiter.
I had aspirations of grandeur going in. My assumption that things would work out without serious forethought and anticipation was trampled by the reality of the night - the motions of attending to minutiae and the ticking of that hideous clock. But, I was happy doing so. I felt myself being assertive - with the visceral feel or urgency and, and a desire to do the best that I could. Let me tell you - that is a rare find my friends - a rare find.
Whimsy, does not a successful restaurant make.
I realize that, in any craft, we depend on lists and planning, anticipation and management to get the job done. You also need confidence and assertiveness, and a thick skin.
I require a lot of this when I make wedding cakes for others. I make lists, post-its - killing trees and ficases in the process with my furious pen. I even re-write my plans as if they were notes in class - with each iteration, understanding something new. I thrive off this sort of planning an anticipation. It excites me.
I also learned a valuable lesson in the art of scalability. What can and cannot be served to 25 people with the same quality and expediency as to 5 people? What about to 150 people? Holy hell, my eyeballs are sore.
Here is a little offering of what we did:
We rolled up a skinned pig's face and slow poached it to create porchetta di testo. We sliced it thin. And served it with chicken liver pate.
We flash fried smelts, browned potatoes in vanilla pork fat, and oil poached tuna in a gallon of olive oil in the alleyway of a bike shop. The concrete stained by our destruction.
We thinly sliced fresh abalone (foraged from the sea) on a meat slicer, pounded it thin, and sautéed it, and served it with a sweet sauce.
We fried seabeans (aka pickleweed) tempura style. Natures pickles, fried raw. (Take that NYTimes blog).
And yes, they were epic dishes.