Out of the Cold Age, into the Hot…

“Scott, do you have a moment to rap,” Chef Patrick asked me, just before service on a busy Friday night, the last night of a harrowing two weeks of Restaurant week. “We’re going to make the move next week. You’re moving to hot apps.”

It had been a stressful month. Maybe you’ve heard, but Barbara Lynch is opening a new restaurant, Menton. And with the need to build a new staff there, several people left No 9 Park to become part of the opening team at Menton. At the same time, Chef’s first child was born. We were suddenly understaffed. I largely did vegetable prep by myself. Most of us worked 6 days a week. Then restaurant week (the last two weeks of March) happened. We were doing 150 people every night. A new extern started, and I was training her during the busiest two weeks I’d seen. After a month of long intense days, I was looking forward to a normal quiet Monday, working cold apps, where I felt comfortable, confident.

But that is not good. I shouldn’t feel complacent. I knew it was time to move on, learn something new. And Chef knew it, too. At the start of April, I would move to hot apps. In fact, everyone was moving. Someone new had just started on meat, and the former hot apps cook would move to fish. “I need the sous chef training Owen on fish, so I think you’ll be able to just figure out everything on hot apps since you’ve been standing next to it for 5 months. And I also need you to train Mac on cold apps.” Yes, chef.

I’m now responsible for cooking the pasta at a restaurant that is most famous for its pasta, especially the prune-stuffed gnocchi, with a Vin Santo-Foie sauce, almonds, prune, and seared foie gras. I’d be cooking over ~30 ounces of foie a night.

Can’t even tell you how nervous I was. Instead of coming up with an amuse every night, I’d be coming up with a pasta dish every night. I’d be using an actual stove. With fire. I’d get an oven. And have to move so, so fast. And help the person on cold apps.

After three weeks, it couldn’t be going better. I love working pasta. I make mistakes still, and need to move faster, but it is going better than I imagined. The first week was difficult, as I needed all my focus to bang out the pasta, and Mac wasn’t doing well enough on cold apps. I needed to be helping her more. So I calmed myself down, got comfortable on pasta, and started coaching and assisting her more. Nowadays, we doing the job we need to do. Push out apps as quickly as possible in order to set up the entree line for a smooth night.

Every night there is a moment when I’m fired on so many dishes, I feel myself beginning to freeze, to panic. “Scotty, right now I’m looking for 7 prune, 3 cannelloni, 4 tastings, and pasta for 4. What can I plate for you?” Ok, I’ve got foie in the pan, but don’t let it burn, keep basting it… the cannelloni are in the oven, I’ll fry the cheese when I’m plating, the gnocchi are down, do I have enough sauce? Make sure you have all of your plates hot, but not too hot! I can start the tastings and the midcourses when I hand off the prunes to be plated, good god could I be sweating more? what is that smell? arm hair. burning arm hair. I didn’t think I had any left. “Scotty, let’s go man!” “Yes, Chef!”

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1 Response to Out of the Cold Age, into the Hot…

  1. David Levine says:

    Hey Scott,

    I’m David, Peter’s brother, and also your mom’s cousin (thereby yours as well)

    I was poking around Facebook, saw your comments about No. 9 Park and lead myself to your blog.

    Just thought I would drop you a friendly note to let you know that I am looking forward to an upcoming relocation to Boston and would look forward to contacting you and making an additonal family connection.

    While not in the restaurant-side of the food business, I have spent 18 or so years on the retail side (think Formaggio Kitchen, Dean and Deluca, etc). Thus, I am certain we will have a lot to discuss.

    Good luck with your culinary career in the meantime.

    Hope to get together with you in the near future.


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