Thursday, December 23, 2010

Block 8: Weeks 1 and 2 - Lunch Service

Last week and the first two days of this week, I was serving in the restaurant at school. It was not exactly my first time serving as I had served a couple of times at some of the volunteer stuff at school, but it was still pretty much a new experience - taking orders, using the point of sale system, and dealing with payments was all new to me. But I'm actually kind of enjoying it. And it definitely makes me look at servers in restaurants differently.

Our class is split in half - half works lunch service and the other half does dinner, and then we switch after two weeks. I am doing lunch first, which is perfect for me, because after the Christmas holiday, I do dinner and then Block 9 is also nights, so it makes my schedule a lot easier. I also totally got the better half of the class - I would be pretty miserable if I was in the other group for sure.

The first day, we pretty much just had an orientation of the restaurant, learned about the point of sale system, and then did mock serving with our classmates. I got N and F on a date - and they were very difficult customers :) The second day, the restaurant was open, so we got our first tables. When we first get to school, we set up the room according to the groups that are coming in. Then we set the tables and get everything ready for service. That day, our instructor kept the numbers down so I think everyone had about 6 or 7 customers each. I had one big table of 7, which wasn't too hard to manage. A pretty good start to serving.

My favourite day last week was definitely Wednesday - I got 3 small tables, and one table was a guy who used to come to the cafeteria everyday. He was at one of the events I volunteered at, so I told him to come to JJ's, and he actually did. He was a great customer - he ordered the drink special of the day, a chocolate martini, as well as a chichi (a pina colada with vodka instead of rum), ate three courses, and then tipped generously. We actually get to keep the tips - we just split all the tips at the end of service. Wednesday's tips were the best for all of last week.

The rest of the days weren't anything too special, until the last day of school. We invited the couple that owns the restaurant we often go to after school to come for lunch. They were great customers, ordering lots of drinks and food. They even brought the class a bottle of champagne to share. A friend and I paid for their bill, but they left an amazing tip. Our tips on Tuesday were outstanding.

Lectures in this block are pretty fun. We've learned about bartending, opening wine bottles at the table, and making specialty coffees like espressos and cafe lattes. On dinner service, we do some wine tasting, which should also be fun.

Serving is definitely harder than it looks, but I think it just takes some getting used to. I'm a lot more comfortable serving now than I was on the first day. And it makes you appreciate good service, like at Raincity Grill. A's parents were in town for a few days last week, and we went to Raincity for dinner. It was a really delicious meal - I had duck, A had bison, Mr. B had mussels, and Mrs. B had ribeye. The kitchen sent us mushroom risotto to share and also a plate of four desserts. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

We had some fun afternoons - checking up on the afternoon group, dinner at Al Porto, and lunch at Peckinpah, a new restaurant in Gastown.

I get two weeks off of school and work, which I couldn't be happier about. Plus, we are heading to sunny Jamaica. I can't wait!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Block 7: Week 4 - Pastry

This was a much better week than last week - I decided I needed an attitude adjustment. Getting angry at people for being lazy accomplishes nothing. So I was much more positive and just focused on myself and not other people. It made for a more pleasant week for sure.

Pastry station was pretty easy. We made puff pastry (regular method and quick method), turnovers with the puff pastry, lemon puddings, pastry cream, sweet tart dough, fruit flans, and choux paste. Decorating the fruit flans was probably the thing I hated the most, though for no particular reason. I guess I just didn't feel especially creative. So the second time we had to decorate the fruit flans, I asked my partner to do my share for me. And crazy Chef Larsen gave me a 9 on it and gave my partner a 6. That was pretty frustrating, for both of us.

We wrote our ITA level one test on Friday. It was a 100-question multiple choice test. It was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be, and I had to guess on a bunch of questions. But I'm pretty sure I passed.

Next week - serving in JJ's. Should be interesting.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Block 7: Week 3 - Yeast

I'm a little bit jaded writing this post because the last couple of days at school were pretty frustrating for me, especially yesterday. I'm having a hard time dealing with the laziness of people in my class. Every day, we have to package all the products that we make to be sold in the market. It is the shared responsibility of the whole class, but it tends to fall to those on the yeast station because a majority of the products to be packaged are the breads and danishes made by the yeast station. However, the last few days, a couple of other people and I packaged pretty much everything by ourselves while the rest of the class essentially stands around doing nothing. I don't even know why it makes me so angry, but yesterday, I almost lost it. I really need to work on being more patient. Really.

Yesterday was a crazy long day because I stayed after class to help out with the Winter Feast, a fundraiser for Junior Team Canada. It was a dinner for about 300 people, so we helped set up all the tables, the buffet area, and the silent auction. Then we served the passed canapes, champagne, and cleared the tables. Chef bought us all a beer afterwards to celebrate a successful evening. It was long and tiring, but fun.

Before the Winter Feast, I had lunch at Meat and Bread. It doesn't have a website yet apparently, but it's a new place that opened up near school. It's totally my kind of place - it only serves four sandwiches, one salad, and one soup, and it does everything really well, as far as I can tell. I tried the pork sandwich, which is pieces of this roasted stuffed pork with a salsa verde. They also top it with a bit of the crispy pork skin and serve it with a homemade sambal. Delicious.

Other than the frustration, it really wasn't that bad of a week. We were on the yeast station, which is probably the busiest of the stations this month. We made white bread, brown bread, french bread, sour rye, pumpernickel, danishes, croissants, and cinnamon buns. The hardest part is the timing of everything because once you make each of the doughs, it has to proof before it can be baked.

The best night this week was J's birthday - $2 beers are definitely trouble on a birthday. I also got a new nickname that night: Sar Bear (apparently I look a lot like Sarah Silverman).

Next week - Pastry.