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