Friday, October 16, 2009

Pros and Cons

I've spent a lot of time the past couple of days thinking about things: am I making the right decision, when is the right/best time to tell my boss, what am I going to say when I quit?

People I've talked to recently about my new career have been supportive in general, but have also made me question myself, I can only guess because they care and want to make sure I've thought everything through.

The hardest part is that my parents really don't understand at all. To them, my decision is out of the blue. It's wild. It's ridiculous. It's throwing away years of eduction and training. It makes it hard to be confident in such a big decision without the support of my parents.

So I wrote out my list of pros and cons. It's all stuff I've already thought about, just never really written down. The list really illustrated to me how many pros there are to cooking and how many cons there are to my current job.

Current Job
-good salary
-job security
-stable hours
-great co-workers

-not interested in work
-hate sitting all day staring at the computer
-the work is the same year after year
-it will take me at least two years to finish my exams
-hate studying for something i'm not interested in
-reduced study time from work
-it will take years to be a consultant

-it's fun
-i learn something new every day
-possibility of owning my own business some day
-opportunities for travel
-many opportunities within the industry
-meeting new people
-like having a uniform
-like having a physical job
-i get to eat at work

-pay sucks
-will need to have more than one job at a time
-hours are different each week
-have to work weekends/holidays
-school costs money

My horoscope today: No matter how big the task you have set yourself and no matter how strong the rivals who stand in your way there is no doubt you will beat the odds and come out ahead of the game. You are about to make the big time. Believe it.

And I guess that's the bottom line - I have to believe that I'm doing what's best for me and just go for it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Around the time that I started my new job, I happened be reading the Life section of the Globe and Mail, and I came across these horoscopes that almost seemed like they were written just for me. I don't normally read my horoscope, nor do I really believe in it, but the words just jumped out at me and gave me that little bit of confidence that I was making the right decision in pursuing a new career.

September 15:
Today's aspect between Saturn, planet of the past, and Uranus, planet of the future, means you are at a crossroads in your life. Fortunately, you know exactly what you want and exactly how you are going to get it. By this time next year you'll be the latest success story.

September 17:
There will be some major changes in your everyday environment over the next few weeks and no matter how much you prepare yourself mentally you will still have to think fast and act quickly if you are going to stay on top of each and every situation. You can do it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Opening a Restaurant

I got to work on Monday not knowing what to expect. All I knew was that I wasn't going to be working in Cold Catering.

I headed up to a small kitchen that I later figured out was a temporary kitchen until the new restaurant kitchen opened up. My first task was to make cocktail sauce, so I was going up and down from the temporary kitchen to the regular main kitchen to get my ingredients. I was just about to get started when I found out that we were moving up to the new kitchen.

It was literally brand new. Construction people were actually still working on things when all the kitchen staff moved up there. We brought all our food and stocked the fridges and freezer and just started cooking.

I really had no idea what was going on, so I just tried to do what I was asked, and tried to listen and observe everything. Over the course of the evening, I figured out how the new restaurant was going to work: guests buy tickets for the section and they stay there the whole evening to watch the game, and they get unlimited food while there.

The best part was getting to work with D, the executive chef. He was surprisingly calm, considering all the chaos of opening a new kitchen. B pointed out that I had only been in the industry for two weeks and had already opened a restaurant, which many people who have been working in the industry for years have never done.

My tasks in the kitchen were to fill the cutest mini martini glasses with ceviche and I also made tomato bocconcini salads. It was different from cooking in Cold Catering because everything we made was individual-sized. Around 5pm, D told me I'd be working at an action station, where food is cooked right in front of the guests. Everything was so new that the action stations weren't actually working yet, so all the food was cooked in the kitchen. I basically just had to stand there, answer questions, and make sure the station was always filled with food. It definitely wasn't as exciting as actually cooking, but I did get the feel of what it's like to be a waiter at a restaurant, putting my orders into the kitchen whenever I was getting low on food and serving and interacting with the customers.

Opening a new restaurant is a lot of work and a lot of chaos, but I came home from work in a fantastic high because I think I have finally found what I want to do.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Typical Day in Cold Catering

I have worked a few shifts now and have finally gotten into a bit of a routine. I get to work and quickly change into the uniform I have stashed in my locker. My second day of work, there were no uniforms left, so I had to wear my jeans all day in the kitchen, which was embarrassing to say the least, and quickly taught me to pick out the next day's uniform at the end of my shift.

My uniform consists of a white chef's coat with the two rows of buttons down the center, and black and white checkered pants, which say "small" on the tag, but actually puff out like crazy around the thighs and are way too short for me (think MC Hammer pants). I head to the kitchen carrying my knives in a ridiculous Tupperware-like container (one day someone asked me what I brought in, like I had baked goods in there to share with everyone), then I sign in and grab a white paper chef's hat, an apron, and some dish towels to wear in my apron before heading over to my work area.

I work in Cold Catering. We make all the salads and sandwiches for the team, the wives, the media, and a couple of the suites. Once I get settled in, I take a look at what we are making that day. Up on the wall are about 10 pieces of paper with all the day's menus. The salads and sandwiches are highlighted, so we go through and add up how many of each type of salad or sandwich we need to make. And then we get to work.

Some days are prep days, so the day before a game, we will come in for a shorter shift and just get everything ready for the game day. Some of the things I've done on prep days include cutting, baking, and make individual packages of croutons for caesar salad, roasting vegetables, chiffonading basil, and chopping various things like onions, tomatoes, or bocconcini cheese. Over the course of the prep days, I've learned how to use the steamer for things like potatoes and beets, the oven for all the roasted vegetables and the croutons, and the meat slicer to prep all the deli meat for the sandwiches. I kind of love the prep days because at the end of the day, our fridge is filled with trays of neatly arranged meat and vegetables, and the super-organized part of me is so happy when the mise en place is done and everything is ready to go.

Game days are a little bit crazier. Plating everything isn't so bad, but the problem is when our counts get changed in the middle of the day, which seems to happen a lot. But it's lots of fun making the salads and sandwiches and making sure everything looks nice and trying to find space in the cooler (walk-in fridge) for it all.

I've already learned so much in my first few days. Cold Catering is definitely not my dream culinary career or anything, but it's an amazing opportunity to learn how things work in such a large-scale kitchen. Yesterday, I worked my first shift out of Cold Catering. It was during the game and I actually got to work in a brand new kitchen. It was my best day yet by far. All the details to come in the next post.