My stage started easily enough.

It was a lovely Tuesday. There was only three people in the kitchen when I walked in. Brian was doing R&D for Bacon fest and some menu changes. The dishwasher was shucking oysters, I didn’t catch her name. Danny, the super green prep cook was slightly shaking as he cut up some mise en place. Dave was working on a couple of projects, trying to get everything set up for the night.

Brian pointed out quickly that he was roasting a ham in his wood fired oven box. Every once in a while he would pull it out, smell it, brag about how good it looked (It looked very, very good),temp it,  and put it back in to roast longer. He was also helping with some prep for that night.

They got me to work pretty quickly, the kitchen isn’t that big and I got a little mini tour. Dish line is in the back, prep/ deserts is right after that, then the hot line is in the dining room, nice and open: on the hot line there is an adorable little garmo nook that fits exactly one person.

The line is split up into three stations, Harmon, grill or middle ( mostly seafood and poultry), and  meat ( mostly meats).

The fire was already started when I came in. And the first thing I started doing was to grill the lamb. Needless to say I was pumped. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that grill. Dave did a wonderful job showing me how the grill worked, and the proper way to use it.

The lambs took a while to cook (there were eight cases, think 100#+, enough for a couple of days. They were rubbed with oil and herbs, they smelled amazing when they went on to the grill and even better when they came off.

Brian and I got the chance to talk for a while the lamb was cooking.  Brian’s a stocky short guy with a lush beard. He has a certain warmth and comfortable personality that is punctuated with his minstrelsy sense of humor and incredible energy. We spent a lot of time talking about food, laughing and yelling. He is totally my kind of dude.

Eventually his crew started sprinkling in. Garmo came in first he has the most prep. He is a quiet younger guy who is fighting a career in medical sales to do what he loves and work on the line.

Marinara came and set up. She’s the Pastry Chef. She’s super goofy, hilarious, and full of awkward charm. We used to work together, and she is super talented and organized. She has a lot of fun desserts, Little penguin ice cream sandwiches and Ice cream that’s lit on fire at the table.

Next came in Alan. Alan is a friend of mine. I worked with him when he was new like Danny, incredibly unsure of what he was doing, but never waning on what he wanted to be.

Alan strutted in and started busting out family meal. Pasta and meatballs. It was just good food. Nice and simple, nothing flashy, just a solid, let’s have a good service, meal.

Felipe is not quiet. He’s the tournant and he was constantly motivating the cooks. It was great. He hopped around making lists, checking with the other guys, getting his station set up then helping out anyone else.

Everyone sat down for family meal, Including John Manion, who had been running around all day. John is the Excecutive Chef/Owner and he’s a very nice guy. He took the time during the day to talk to Danny, and ask him some questions that need to be asked of a young cook.

The service was killer, It was a little slower. but everyone held themselves well and kept busy., The food looked great. and tasted even better. The was food was super cool. It was well thought, really nice and simple and everything felt good to eat.

The style is really fun, it isn’t heavy not a lot of butter or heavy fats, there was a lot of meat, but there was just as much vegetables. All of the product was top-notch. The oysters with fried leeks, and celery root puree was warm and crazy tasty.  The lamb ribs were bright and fresh and meaty. The pork chop was super cool because it was so simple. It’s mustard and grapes to give like a sweet spicy thing, and it’s topped off with some peanuts to add some earthy nuttiness. It’s great.

I had an amazing time. The food was good, everyone was amazing. One of the things I like so much about the restaurant is that everyone who is upper management, at least in the kitchen, didn’t have a ton of experience in upper management. They treat their employees with respect and kindness and I think a big part of that is because there isn’t that much separation between them and their cooks. I find it really refreshing to see that in a high-end restaurant.

This  gave me a huge amount of respect for John Manion. It takes a lot of confidence, perception and trust to put people in the big positions without a ton of experience and have them do so well. It really shows he knows what he’s doing.

If you get a chance to stage at El Che, or to eat there,  do it. It’s awesome.

 

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