Into the frying pan

In which I suddenly find myself working as a cook at a Basque restaurant.

Moving back to New York has destroyed my feet and the early-rising habits I had developed in Massachusetts, but so far the adventures have been worth the sacrifice.

Last week I started working at Txikito, on 9th Avenue in Chelsea.  I don’t know exactly what my role is, yet.  Perhaps “sponge” would be most appropriate, since I have been charged with following one or another more-experienced employee around the kitchen, soaking up every bit of advice and instruction they offer.

I also had to man the cold station during dinner service on my second day of training.  I like to think of that as my quickfire challenge, though there is barely any actual fire in Txikito’s kitchen–one of my mentors explained that the restaurant is mainly powered by pressure cookers and induction burners.  As service started, Eder, one of the owners and head chefs, took up his position as expeditor.  He spoke in Spanish to Christian, who was there to back me up at the cold station, and through his elaborate hand gestures, grinning glances in my direction, and a certain explosive sound effect his meaning was clear.  I laughed, and said, “so you’re going to see if I crash and burn?”

I didn’t.

It’s not as if they were expecting me to crash and burn, either.  In fact, everyone in the restaurant has been extremely generous and helpful in my first week, as I learn the ropes and try to learn the menu, the specifics of each dish, and all the ingredients that are supposed to be at my station.

At first I was very worried about fitting in.  Other than Eder’s wife, co-owner, and co-chef Alex, I’m only the second girl in the kitchen; I’m the only person in the kitchen who doesn’t speak Spanish, and the only one with next-to-no experience in restaurants.  As the week went on, however, this worry waned slightly.  I found many things to talk about with the other girl in the kitchen–not nail polish and high heels as Eder joked, but music and movies and cooking shows.  And though I still felt like an outsider while I was at work, I realized that when I was out and about the city I carried around the feeling that I was a part of a team.  When I overheard people on the subway talking about El Quinto Pino, the sister restaurant of Txikito, a gratifying feeling of pride welled up in me.

Evening sunshine in Brooklyn Heights

About adventuresofaleece

Senior Project Manager at The Working World, a non-profit CDFI with an investment fund that focuses on loans and equity investments for worker-owned cooperative businesses. Recently graduated with an MA in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University. Formerly Executive Director of the BerkShares local currency program in Western Massachusetts and Director of Programs at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics. Former line cook and prep cook at Txikito Cocina Vasca. Writer, teacher, and traveler.
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6 Responses to Into the frying pan

  1. Nistha says:

    food is the universal language, after all, alice! Keep us posted as you progress from sponge to … well, the next stage 🙂

  2. Tia says:

    I’ve heard of a lot of sponges becoming successful restaurant owners!

  3. piscoule says:

    J’adore ton texte ! En le lisant, j’avais l’impression d’être avec toi.
    Bonne continuation !

  4. Janice Storti says:

    Since I have been reading your blogs (which I have enjoyed very very much), I should not be surprised. I am very excited for you to be out on your own odyssey! Living in New York was alwasy a dream of mine. Enjoy (and have a much more pleasant and fun time than Inman did)! I love hearing from you. Ms. Storti

  5. Nistha says:

    Also, I read this today, obviously made me think of you:
    http://www.oprah.com/food/How-to-Become-a-Food-Entrepreneur-Careers-in-Food

  6. harrison says:

    Une éponge fière. Maintenant je sais que les éponges ont des sentiments aussi.

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