Just got home from my best ever evening service at the restaurant. We had 40 (!) bookings, which is near maximum capacity for the tiny neighbourhood establishment where Chefette plies her trade. Plus a couple of walk-in tables. And although technically the hours of evening service are between 7pm and 11pm, in reality the tables are never evenly spaced over that time frame. Most of the diners on a Saturday evening arrive in two waves, the first at around 8pm, the second an hour later. All of this results in a frenetic hour-and-a-half-long tornado of concentrated physical and mental exertion, in which you're trying to whip out the best food you can in as short a time as possible.
Suffice to say, C and I were well and truly in "the zone" tonight. At one point, I had on the go -- simultaneously, mind you -- 5 bruschetta under the grill (finished with a rub of freshly cut garlic and a drizzle of olive oil), a pumpkin soup, 3 orders of beetroot tortelloni with gorgonzola sauce, 2 orders of mussels in beer batter in the deep fryer, 2 skewers of balsamic-marinated veal heart on the griddle plate, while also plating up a salad of rocket, buffalo mozzarella, parma ham and grilled figs. All with different cooking times, and at two different stations. If that's not multi-tasking on adrenalin, I don't know what is! Never in my wildest dreams in cooking school did I imagine I'd ever be able to do that kind of juggling and still turn out delicious food.
Looking back on it, what well and truly shocked me was... it didn't actually seem that hard. I've somehow started to tap into a new level of intuition at the cooker. A zen-like state of knowing instinctively which bits can be left to grill, fry or simmer while something else needs close attention. I still have to concentrate like crazy to get everything prepped and plated in the right order. But once I've spent 20-30 seconds figuring out the running time, the execution is falling into place more and more smoothly.
Best compliment we had tonight came from one of the guests who used to be a chef at the Ivy (one of the most famous restaurants in London). He told one of the waiters he recently moved to the area, and after reading our menus in the window these past few weeks, he vowed to give us a try. He came tonight with his wife and said he really loved the food. What a warm feeling of pride welled up inside me when I heard that!
To cap off the evening, C and I finished with a couple of glasses of chilled prosecco while we were cleaning down and turning out the staff meal. A perfect aftermath to the buzz of a busy service. But I can't leave you all thinking this restaurant malarkey is all sweetness and light. I just took a look down at my hands, and my fingernails are ringed with a thin layer of reddish black grime all the way round. Not all that glamourous, eh?