July 15, 2015

..Continued from May... 
Where did I leave off.... Ah yes... I believe I was explaining a little bit about an all-night cooking experience.  I'll try my best to recollect details of the night so you can put it down as fact. What I remember is this:  It was the last stretch of one of those brutal Decembers at the Fairfield Golf and Country Club in Fairfield, Iowa- the oldest country club west of the Mississippi River.  25 parties in 22 days.  What you need to understand is that there were 2 employed cooks at the FGCC. We had a sub for the rare event that one of us took a vacation- a guy named Elijah, or just "Jah" for time constraints.  But, "Jah" is a completely different story for a different day.  It should be noted, however, that the dude was a complete beast.  I'll have to tell you about him one day.
Anyway, so there we were, the kitchen staff of the Fairfield Golf and Country Club, all two of us:  Ryan, My boss/head chef, and myself, the bonafide sous chef. A 25 party December was staring us down.  You need to understand that in a kitchen, there are only a certain amount of items that can be prepped in advance.  For example, you can't just go ahead and cook 20 prime ribs and cut them an hour in advance.  You can, however, season the prime ribs a half day in advance and hold them, lined up, looking mean in a walk-in cooler waiting patiently for just the right time to be perfectly cooked and then fed to the lions beyond the swinging door.  I don't think a lot of people understand the process very well before they gorge themselves until they nearly pop.  Slow down.  Relax with the food.  Personally, while cooking, I often talk to food.  To me, that's part of the "love" that goes into it.  It's all a part of the process. The process to take down 25 parties in 22 days was going to suck.  
When you're staring down that sort of task, the process actually begins with panic.  "No way we can pull this off," or "How the heck are we gunna do this," were some pretty common phrases tossed around along with some various expletives that I can't write.  But the challenge was upon us, and we were going to win it.  A wise man/family friend named Sparky Reardon once told me during a time of great stress in my life:  "There's only one way to eat an elephant... And that way is one bite at a time."  You wouldn't believe how many times I've applied that little bit of Philosophy to my professional life.  That December at Fairfield Golf and Country Club was definitely one of those times.  The margin for error was non-existent.  Everything we did was broken down into 30 minute intervals:  30 minutes to cook chicken, meanwhile, cut veggies and boil potatoes.  30 minutes to cut the chicken. There was something in the oven and on the stove top at all times.  Keep in mind we had to also be ready for regular lunch and dinner service during this time.  Meanwhile, every party wanted the kitchen to do a curtain call so they could "meet the chefs."  And, without fail, every curtain call would end with Ryan, frustrated because there was constantly something else to do other than accept recognition for doing what we did best would say, "Ok... Are we done yet, people?!? We have s*** to do."  The curtain calls were not apart of our allotted schedule. So, after the round of applause we'd rush back into the kitchen and continue towards our finish line.  Completion was the only applause that mattered to us. There was no point in that December that wasn't pure strategic time-managed genius.
"How do you eat an elephant, young grasshopper?"
"One bite at a time."
So, the last party to end the gauntlet of a December wanted lasagna.... A whole bunch of lasagna and all different kinds.  Just the amount of vegetables to chop alone was completely insane.  We started prepping the lasagnas at 10pm after a dinner service.  Around midnight, things were going pretty good.  It really felt like we might actually pull it off.  Around 2am my hands started to give out. Not good.  Around 4am, the pain in my feet were too much to bear anymore, so I pulled up a bucket, flipped it over, sat down and continued to chop... and chop, and chop, and chop.  By this time of this particular December, my knees had become swollen due to the stress of an entire month of complete madness.  My body was telling the to "slow down... relax with the food." But still, vegetables needed to be chopped.  The thought of the end of the month seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel.  I knew that every vegetable I chopped was one more that I no longer would have to chop.  I reassured myself, my body, and the onions I was chopping that it would all be over soon.  I reassured myself that the pain was only temporary and told my knees that they'd be back to normal soon.  "Just give me a little more," I said. 
At 6am, I dozed off while julianning a red bell pepper.  My boss, who was right there with me in every sense of the phrase, laughed.  I too, laughed. And pressed on.  I was a man on a mission.  I wasn't going to lose.  At 7am, right about the time the sun was waking up the morning time birds out there in the real world, Ryan told me to take a break. I didn't want to on the account of pride, but I certainly wasn't going to argue with him, either.  I was completely wiped out.  A zombie.  I made my bed for the evening on a brown leather couch in the lounge of the Fairfield Golf and Country Club.  Ryan pressed on.  The dude was a phenom.
At 8:30am Ryan woke me up.  Physically, I can't remember any time in my life where I felt worse than at that particular moment, but I also knew that the month was over.  Mentally, I was proud... Tired, yes.  A little confused, sure.  But underneath that layer of drool on my cheek, beyond the confusion and bloodshot eyes, I was proud... Tired, yes.  A little confused, sure.  But underneath that layer of drool on my cheek, beyond the confusion and bloodshot eyes, I was proud.  We'd go on to win that party later in the evening. Lunch service for the day would begin at 11:30, prep would begin at 10:30.  But, the elephant that was a December at the Fairfield Golf and Country Club in Fairfield, Iowa, the oldest country club west of the Mississippi River had finally been eaten.  It was over.