Thursday, September 08, 2005

Drama at the OK Corral

Though we've switched to Chef Bob, he's out of town for three days, so we have Chef Sam--who has already received the MOF, despite being under 40. Chef Sam is probably the least relaxed of the four chefs, but he's extremely helpful, extremely knowledgeable, and also funny. He's got a much thicker French accent than Chef Fred, too, but his English is excellent, so that's no problem. (I suppose it might be more difficult for students whose native language isn't English.) He acknowledged that it's difficult to work with someone new for only a couple of days--and, after all, we've only worked with Chef Bob for two days, plus we're in a new kitchen, so there's a certain amount of discombobulation.

In any case, we had some Drama today, though it wasn't entirely clear how it precipitated. One of our members ALWAYS mops the floors. It's not clear to me why he does this, seeing as how (a) this job, like all jobs, is supposed to rotate, and (b) there are people who don't do anything close to their share of the cleaning (one in particular, back to whom I'll get in a minute). The last time it was my turn to do floors, one day he directed me to do his job and he'd do the floors. I was surprised--and not terribly gracious about it, for which I apologized the next morning when I saw him--and I still don't understand why he does it. Today, however, he started bitching, at top volume, and all I could think was, "Dude, why not just do YOUR job, and then pick up something else to do--there's no need to do the floors every day. Really. That's the whole point of switching around." At one point he even said, "I'm supposed to clean out the freezer, which I can do in a frickin minute." Ummm, so why don't you? I'm not being critical of him, exactly--he's a hard worker, and very knowledgeable, and serious about the class, and he's definitely an asset in many, many ways--I just don't understand why he does what he does.

Part of the problem is that there's one person (at least; I have my suspicions about one or two others, but refuse to spend my energy worrying about it) who manages to disappear. She barely does what she's supposed to do, and she rarely, if ever, will pick up any slack if someone else is behind. She's imperious, too, in part because she's used to being a boss. I think a number of people are just getting a little . . . tired of it. It points to one of the things that differs significantly, in at least some ways, from a work environment. If a boss is paying attention at all--especially if a boss is working alongside you--then the boss will figure out who's working and who's slacking. It's a little harder to tell for office jobs, I think, but for jobs that involve cleaning and production and waiting on customers and so on, you can usually tell. (Personally, I'd rather work than stand around; it's less boring.) In this situation, though, there's no boss, or, at least, not in the same way. In most classes, you can ignore someone if need be, but, since we're all supposed to pitch in, that's not possible here; in addition, of course, we really must work together, even though we're each in this for our own storehouse of knowledge. There's really no enforcer, the way there would be in a work environment, and there's no penalty, as long as the chef doesn't figure out that you're slacking. I'll be interested to see how this one plays out--I have no idea.

One of the other class members--whom I like a lot, and who has a lot of experience, despite being relatively young--is teaching me a little Spanish. She's been giving me a word a day, and tomorrow she's going to bring me a list of verbs. She's also a sweetheart, and good-humored; I'd hire her in a minute.

But you really want to know what we've been making, don't you?

Tuesday we made marzipan with a little pistachio in it, we caramelized almonds and hazelnuts, and we made nougatine. (I told you this, didn't I; oh, well.) Wednesday we caramelized more hazelnuts and formed them into groups of three; we later attached the trios to a little circle of chocolate. Yesterday we made a big rectangle of ganache (i.e., chocolate plus a dairy product); today we made two more ganaches, one with a hazelnut paste and the other with something else, plus we made a kirsch buttercream-type filling. Today we were supposed to cut the ganache (using the guitar cutter) into squares, the way we did yesterday with the marzipan, but my partner and I screwed it up when it came to cutting, so we remade the ganache and incorporated the old one into the new batch. We've also started dipping--everything I've listed gets dipped in yet more chocolate. I'll try to remember to bring the camera tomorrow, in the expectation that there will be samples I can photograph. We'll see. I've also volunteered to stand outside the school next Thursday, in my uniform (no toque, though), handing out chocolate samples. And I've made a list of things I must do to start a business . . .

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