We are at the peak of busy service at a very famous restaurant in the city, and the orders for the dishes are piling up. The rustle and bustle of an 8 o’clock dinner rush is deafening for the line cooks in the kitchen. Dishes, plates, pots, vents above your head and a screaming chef, combined, are as loud as a jet plane passing over you. I am overwhelmed at the moment and begin to fail. The pressure is great, and the work is tremendous, I have a line of order tickets in front of me stretching for 3 feet, with at least two orders on each one. The dishes I’m making are terrible; I’m slow and am slowing down the restaurant service.
It is one of those challenges that you might see on TV when the chefs have 60 minutes to complete a 10 course meal. The 8 plates in front of me have to be filled with different dishes and ingredients in less than five minutes, while at the same time the ingredients are frying, boiling, baking and sautéing to order. It is always necessary to prepare well for the dinner rush, and at the time I thought that I was ready. Apparently I was not.
The Executive chef noticing this, begins to scream at me saying to “get the hell out of the kitchen, clock-out and go home, you are a failure.” With the waiters, line cooks, the sous chef and the dishwashers halting their work for a split second to look at me and the chef, a feeling of great humiliation, fear and failure embeds itself inside of me. The sense of fear that the chef maintained in the kitchen, was so great that my co-workers were too afraid to offer me condolences or pat me on the back as I began making my way.
I gathered my knives, chef spoons, spatula, notes and other things. I made my way past my co-workers to the back area that housed the walk-in refrigerators and dry goods storage. As I began to organize the dry goods on the shelves, a few thoughts began running through my head, and I began to organize them as well. This was now a pivotal point in my life, when I realized that this will make me a better person. I told myself that I am not leaving and failing on this note. I gathered myself and my things, and proceeded to return to the kitchen area where everyone was. I nudged my colleague to the side a bit and took over the area where I stood just a few minutes before. I didn’t make eye contact with the chef initially, he didn’t say anything, and I didn’t bother inquiring any further. I became a different person that day, after finishing my shift successfully, I lost a certain fear, that I once had, and that was in a way life changing.
A few years later, I was running a professional restaurant kitchen with a sizable staff. In my short career I had acquired skills to deal with different personalities in order to achieve a common good for everyone, this meaning a kitchen running smoothly and efficiently. I had worked in physically and mentally demanding conditions and under extreme pressure. In this role, I was also a mediator between the owners of the restaurant and the employees beneath me, which is a bit harder than juggling a few plates around, but still a challenge.