Before I get to today’s Throwback Thursday post, I’d like to take a moment to stress just how much I love that video. Safety Dance, along with Come on Eileen (Dexys Midnight Runners), Twilight Zone (Golden Earring) and Mikey (Tony Basil) are a few of my favorite 80’s gems. They certainly don’t make music like they used to… Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming:
If you have ever worked in a kitchen, or read Kitchen Confidential, you know they can be scary ass places, seriously dangerous, even those that are clean, well-equipped and trying to foster a safe work environment. Cuts, burns and bruises are a fact of life in kitchen work. Since I started school in January I’ve gotten countless minor burns, one not-so-minor burn from a sheet pan I grabbed not knowing that it was just out of a 500 degree oven, one really irksome 365 degree oil burn, couple of shallow cuts and most embarrassingly some very bad bruises from a magnificently uncoordinated trip & fall on the way to interview for a stage. One of the things I find the most different between home baking and professional kitchens is that at home if I burned myself I would stop, apply cold water, ice and generally baby the injury. Not so much at school or work. People do ask if you are ok, but there is often times the implication that the burn/cut/fall could have been avoided if you were more skilled/graceful/experienced in the kitchen. You tell yourself it doesn’t hurt that bad, cover it and move on. Then you get to act like the rest of the tough guys, bragging about your scars and lack of nerve endings in your hands while (literally) crying like a girl on the inside. I’ve heard many horror stories involving everything from trying to uncork a bottle of wine with a 12″ chef’s knife to oyster shucking gone terribly, terribly wrong, a horrific fall carrying a pot of boiling water and so many more. There is definitely some bravado in these tales, but more importantly, IMO, a healthy reminder to be careful. Very careful.
In addition to the element of “danger” there is the sheer physicality of kitchen work. Whether you’re on the savory or pastry side of the house, you spend your kitchen labs and work shifts on your feet. In my case, on your very old, very tired feet. While moving around the kitchen for 8 to 12 hours on your feet you’re also lifting 50 lb. bags of flour and sugar, shimmying down boxes of supplies from 10 foot high shelves, taking sheet pans in and out of the oven and just generally being in constant motion. This is not to say that desk jobs are easy. I spent more than one budget season stuck at my desk for hours and hours, telling myself that I would tie-out one more spreadsheet, enter just one more departments worth of data and THEN I could use the ladies room. You also get sore thumbs from the Blackberry/iPhone and emotionally exhausted from dealing with unrealistic deadlines, clueless management, bullying coworkers and pretending to be empathetic and politically correct. However, those things seemed minor yesterday when I had to lift the bowl of a 60 quart Hobart mixer filled with cheesecake batter. Batter that contained 10 lbs. of cream cheese, 24 eggs and over 5 cups sugar. That shit was heavy. I got the bowl off the mixer, to the pastry station and on the prep table. Through sheer will, and a little corporate-style problem solving, I was able to life the bowl high enough to get the batter into a container for storage. Very proud of myself. In no time I will be an old pro at the standing, lifting, hauling and sheet pan turning. Until then I’ll try to apply the old “work smarter, not harder” and think before I move. To figure out what the shortest path is, most efficient order to grab supplies & equipment and when it’s appropriate (and necessary) to ask for help. Not as easy as it sounds!