A Recovering Chef

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“I’m too angry at food,” I realized, “to actually eat anything.” After eleven hours on my feet and my third brunch in a row where I was yelled at for not cooking fast enough, poaching eggs to order and desperately trying not to overcook patty melts in the cast iron skillet set firmly and greasily on the flat top. The eggs had a weird brown sheen due to the use of red wine vinegar because we’d run out of distilled white vinegar.

“What do you mean you need to sear more potatoes?”

“You can’t be out of bacon! We don’t 86 bacon!”

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I’d arrived at 6 that Monday morning as usual, aware that it was a long weekend but not quite comprehending the impact a national holiday would have on my life.

“Who the fuck wants scrambled eggs at 2:30?” I frantically moved my rubber spatula around the skillet while extracting yet another piping hot cast iron pan and dropping a scoopful of dutch pancake batter into the sizzling clarified butter. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about plating the “dutchy” for another twenty minutes but who knows, I might have died of shock and dehydration by then.

My heart raced in short painful beats, sweat dripping down my face and burger fat stuck to my hands. I rushed to the sink and roughly dipped them in the cool water, slapping them on my thighs to dry as fast as possible. Truthfully I was moving faster than I’d ever moved before but it still wasn’t enough, we were going down in flames, sometimes literally.

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The strings hung awkwardly as the apron itself was made for a much taller and larger person. My inept fold and creative tying had come undone hours ago and I was too frantic to care.

Mercifully 4 o’clock rolled around and it was finally time to pack it in. I quickly slugged warm whiskey from a communal paper cup and packed away the bits and pieces left over from my barely adequate mise en place, or prepped ingredients. If I sat down on the bench to change there was no way I was standing up again.

By the time I made it to the bar, my partner in crime, the lead line cook, was already deep into his beer and whiskey. I grunted something, barely aware of my name not to mention my drink order. The last thing I’d eaten was a stolen bite from a misfired burger 5 hours previously. My bourbon arrived, the only thing I could consider ingesting.

Not only was I mad at food but I was mad at the world: brunch is awful. Three days in a row was simply too much .

It’s been three months since I left my job as a line cook and I am just finally able to cook for myself again. My roommates think I’m obsessed with any form of take-out Asian food: pho, dumplings, noodles, chicken and broccoli. They’re right, it is the farthest thing from the French inspired farm to table food I cooked for eleven hours a day for a year.

Today, finally, the mind numbing assault of brunch has dimmed and I made breakfast: farm fresh poached eggs from my cousins place, Flatbrook Farms in New Jersey. It was amazing. That is all.

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