The Magic

There are days in a chefs life when things just don’t go well.  Things go horribly wrong actually.  Staff is genuinely pissed off.  Too much work. Too much stress. Even the delivery drivers scowl.  The patio wave smashes the dignity of the cooks. Pushing everyone to the limit.  (The seating grows but the kitchen doesn’t–still we must be perfect)   Could be a power outage during a lunch rush…anything can happen.  Off days, we have em a lot.  The expectations feel like a boulder weighing you to the ground sometimes.   And then your sleepy broiler cook sends out RAW meat (WTF!). The fry cook sells a baseball size clump of (inedible) half-cooked calamari. The soup tastes like shoe no matter what you do……and all of this calamity (somehow) finds its way to the owner’s table… an hours time.  Sounds funny right? I’m pretty sure he was not laughing.  All of the moving parts in a professional kitchen, from crew to ingredients to equipment, can screw your serenity at any moment.  Oops!  forgot to schedule a dishwasher….way to get the whole crew pissed and bitter!! The food processor is broken again.  Freezer still down. FUUUUCK. Where is the pay off?

The magic. The mystical night when it all comes together. When nature delivers the perfect tomatoes. When food speaks for itself.  With minimal manipulation you conjure up a perfect romesco sauce that positively dances across your tounge.  Why? Why now? Why tonight? It is strange when these moments happen. These magic moments.  They seem to come out of no where.  Us chefs are so ready for the side punch to the head instead.  Fed up with the hours, the blind dedication and about to hang up your apron?–you taste something–you feel something–and you know, it’s the magic.

Some chefs like to think it’s them.  But, I know better.  I don’t care how great you are at seasoning and layering flavors –if your products don’t deliver–neither can you.  There is only so much extra garlic, lemon juice, honey, chile, salt, vinegar, truffle etc etc that you can add before things become a muddled mess.  It can look amazing and be handled perfectly but the guests know when its blah. The worst part is…so do you.  Its good but it’s not amazing. I’m talking about those elusive nights when you get the best of everything–at its peak. And the best of everyone on your staff. We live for those moments. They make our careers sometimes.  Blow the mind of the right person on the right night and you’ve got it made.  But what do you do when the magic is on holiday?  Hang tight and buck up.

When the magic is in the house the whole staff feels it.  It’s in the air.  The music is just right. The guests seem happier than usual.  The food is alive.  The kitchen, a single cell, pumps in unison.  Servers glide effortlessly through the dining room. It just feels good.  Machines run right.  Cooks are joyful, fed and ready to handle ANYTHING with a goofy smile. No one wants to go home early (for once).  Someone hands you a huge sandwich when you are starving–its the best you’ve ever had. Getting the picture here?

The magic hovers and creates new lovers over chocolate and red wine.  The magic can whisk me back to my childhood when I hunted luscious tomatoes at a crowded and boisterous farmstand–mom’s death grip on my tiny hand. Spontaneous wedding proposals and other flights of fancy just happen on these nights that the magic appears.  Connected to each other. To the seasons. To nature. Perhaps that’s all it is. I still call it magic.  We all need more of it.


~ by abmccune on August 16, 2011.

One Response to “The Magic”

  1. Reblogged this on The Back of the House.

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