The start of 2016 marked my transition into being a prep cook and away from dishwashing after three long months, a promise fulfilled from my first conversation with Chef-Owner Trevett that late September Saturday when I first walked into his restaurant, asked to speak to the chef, and asked for a job. “I have zero restaurant experience, but I’ll do anything,” I had pleaded. “One of our dishwashers just quit. If you stick with me until the new year, I’ll put you in line to cook,” he had told me. That was a promise that, at the time, was much more than I had dreamed of. Just three months on dish? Easy breezy.
This is not to brag, but I think anyone in Legume’s kitchen and even the front-of-house [FOH] staff will tell you (and have indeed told me) that I’ve come a long way. Mostly because where I started was a deep pit of pathetic embarrassment.
Oh, where to begin. It had never once occurred to me that a job such as this would require actual physical strength. As a former white collar Excel-bot, I had never held a job that required any sort of physical strength. I am a 5’2″ Asian female who regularly shops at J. Crew Crewcuts. I have none. My first week, I found it to be a nearly Herculean feat to lift the full racks of water and beer glasses once the FOH flipped them over to be run through the dish machine. This happens perhaps once every hour on a normal weeknight and maybe every half hour on a busy night. Yeah, we are a 60ish-table restaurant attached to a separately-named full bar. This means we go through a lot of water and beer glasses. I also found difficulty in carrying heavy loads up and down the single flight of steps between the main kitchen and the lower kitchen/storage area, carrying full hotel pans of cleaned silverware over to be polished, mopping (wet mops are heavy, yo), and reaching anything on any top shelf ever. I am sure that there were many more things about my initial work performance that were pathetic and embarrassing, but at present I cannot think of them/have subconsciously blocked them out for the sake of self-preservation.
Now, four months later, all those things do indeed feel easy breezy. I feel like a dishwashing veteran. Bring on your racks of heavy glasses! Throw me a night of full reservations! As pathetic as it is that these were even hurdles I had to overcome, I feel pretty damn proud of myself. Not too shabby for a former spreadsheet monkey.