Christmas came and went, and if I thought that the month was busy right up to Christmas Eve, I had a surprise in store. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, relative to work, pushed all of my buttons and then pushed them again, like a little kid in an elevator car.
I’ve got a job at The Greenhouse Tavern in downtown Cleveland. My position as pastry chef is a new deal for me, and I’ve not been at it that long- only since mid-September, really, and the day-to-day of a cook in the fine-dining world is just starting to make itself real to me. Fun as it is to play with flour (and collect a paycheck for my kitchen musings, to boot) it’s an overwhelming thing to be the sole commander of a busy kitchen’s dessert menu. I had no idea what the holiday would be like, and I was drastically under-prepared for the New Year’s Eve prepwork necessary to throw the party we were going to throw.
I put in nearly 19 hours on December 31st. I clocked in at 7 am and didn’t leave till after 1:30 the next morning. I missed a rare winter day with temperatures in the 50’s, and I toasted the birth of 2011 in the basement, the smell of the sautee line burning in my nostrils as Chef Sawyer called out tickets, holding a champagne flute in his free hand.
It’s hard fucking work. I had no idea, until that week, and that service, how difficult. I needed a week to begin to feel like myself again, and my body fought me on my first few days back to work. My confidence was shattered after five days of sobbing and stressing over the sheer volume, not to mention difficulty, of the items we’d chosen for dessert specials. I’m not sure it’s back up to par. Still, every morning, I get up, get on my bike, and head off to the ovens to parry with pastry and chase whatever greasy glory comes at the end of this job well done.