Tiffin Project

Know Your Enemy

by Jacob Galbraith on November 11, 2010

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The culinary world is full of vices, some of which you drink, others you smoke, while edible etceteras find themselves filed in the knotted bellies of kitchen folk everywhere. While some cooks find their fingers up to the knuckle in at least one of these pies, I only ever catch a whiff of the one I’m after, and it always smells like the best fucking pie in the history of pies. I’d wager a slice of Obvious pie that you’ve already guessed that I’m talking about Information pie. I get the impression that it exists in a perpetual state of cooling on an infinite sill somewhere in the restaurant universe that is just beyond my reach, but is close enough that I won’t stop trying to get my mitts on it. If I did manage such a feat, I’m positive the filling would be exponentially hotter than that molten apple goo you find in those dirt cheap and deep fried monstrosities they sell at any number of fast food chains, and that not only would it blister the roof of your mouth eternally, it would most certainly melt your brains. Nevertheless, I want me some of that goddamned pie.

By now you’re probably asking “What the fuck?!”, which is something I get to utter daily/nightly/madly/deeply. I’m often disappointed by the carnage that comes with dinner service on the weekend, mostly because I know that there’s a bevy of information that could be used to try and prevent it. To exist in a world where any questions you’ve got can be aimed at the internet and answered with astonishing swiftness and accuracy, and then work in another world where questions are met with several different answers that are consistent only by nature of their vagueness, is extremely frustrating. You’d think that after years of wading through misinformation that I’d stop asking, but I’m hoping that by hanging on to thousands of tiny details I’ll eventually have something that resembles the restaurant equivalent of that amazing book Marty McFly was packing around with him in Back To The Future 2, at which point I’ll ride my hoverboard out of Restaurant Hell and into Restaurant Heaven.

The people who have the information, or at least the ability to acquire it, are seemingly unaware of its importance to people such as myself. Before service begins I want two things: a cup of coffee and the numbers, and I usually do get these things. Everything seems kosher, and then we open. Madness ensues and priceless knowledge gets tossed around like a hot potato until it inevitably falls to the floor and gets kicked under a table, only to be discovered by the cleaners the next day and returned to the kitchen damaged and no longer useful.

The stakes are numerous and varied, of note are the collective morale of the staff, and the constant toeing of the fine line between having prepared too little or too much food. In the eyes of the cook, knowing what’s coming means the difference between eating or being eaten, and all too often we’re gobbled up by toothy mobs of well heeled clientele, our bones left in a cluttered heap in front of the stove. Instead of dreaming of success, our sleep is terrorized by worst case scenarios, haunted by hoards of hungry mouths with fickle palates. The head down/mouth shut approach is fine and all, but I’m not cut from a cloth that is comfortable with not questioning an unending chaos. I want to know why and where and when and how, ideally every five minutes until I get to go home. There can never be enough information, though I’m not sure I need to know if someone’s dog is vegan.

As far as vices go, gambling never really appealed to me because I understand how it feels to be gambled on; it’s awful. My thirst for a beer after service is rivaled only by my hunger for knowledge beforehand. I’m hooked. It reminds me of the old days when I would search throughout the scrambled stations for a glimpse of a nipple, the needle in the hay of my adolescence. Every smidgeon of intelligence that I gather rips a stitch in my blindfold, and sometimes I’m convinced that I can make out the shapes and sizes of what are heading towards me. The collision is always head on and unavoidable, but seeing makes it easier somehow. To be able to brace oneself is an extreme luxury, and a welcome vacation from being blind and misinformed.

~ Jacob Galbraith


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

didur22 November 11, 2010 at 5:00 pm

What are you talking about…douche??? Everytime I read your self-righteous, poor me, I am such an artist articles, it just makes me happy to know that I am real chef and not just a chef who is crying and trying to achieve thomas kellers perfection. This is just self righteous babble. If you really want all this information and to be this great chef then get the fuck out of dodge and do it. Just quit whining about it. I have been a chef for 12 years and I have run into plenty of wet pricks like you…you will be working as a supplier in no time. Man up or shut up.

Sir Jacob Galbraith III Esquire November 11, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Dear Diddur 22,

Let’s make a deal: I’ll stop making you upset if you stop clicking on my articles.


Sir Jacob Galbraith III Esquire

the cat November 11, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Just out of curiosity didur22 what is your definition of a “real chef”?

Billy Jo November 11, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Back in the day, there were things you learned from others, like how to make a nice sauce or the ratio of a great manhattan, then there were things you learned on your own, like how to deal with 20 walk-ins at once. No one can teach you the best way to deal with that because we all deal with that differently and have different coping mechanisms. And yours will be different from everyone else’s.

So grasshopper, slow down and have a beer with your co-workers after service because that’s the best time to discuss and reflect, not in the middle of a busy service. Experience takes time, and you’re not going to be a better cook or chef on just knowledge and information alone. Even the most experienced have bad days, and they’re always learning.

And I have to agree with the above post. The writing style comes off as self indulgent and entitled. Hardly the attitude anyone would want to work and share knowledge with. Maybe there in lies the real problem.

james alexander November 11, 2010 at 8:55 pm

wtf is that article about?

Lindah Vaginablister November 12, 2010 at 3:46 am

James Alexander.

If you read between the navel gazing simile ridden woe is me lines. A summary could be expressed thus, The cook has feelings, and control needs. Information regarding the statistics of dinner service is keenly persued. How many humans are booked ? when is the first table in ? when will it get crunchy ? will you use lube ? When will it stop ? Whats the safe word ? Any deitary oddites ?
Will it be worthy of bandwidth if i seek an internet group hug after the fact ?

Who is the enemy ? is a more apt question. Lets rule out the customer first off. Foh staff ? Maî·tre d’? or the percieved deception in the translation of the haphazard actions and hunger paterns of a room full of people with leisure time expressed into a crude graph representing time and quantity ?

Dancing about architecture any one ?

nato November 12, 2010 at 6:59 pm

I tend to agree with what didur has to say. I enjoy reading articles but this doesnt even make sense.. If your work environment isn’t challenging you enough with all the information pie that you need…then its time to find a new job bubba. Maybe go somewhere where you have to work 16 – 18 hours a day then see if once you get home you still want a piece of that delicious information pie..that you seem to crave, or if your full day of actually cooking has left you full and bloated with nothing left to do but sleep and start a new day.

Matt R. November 12, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Clearly it’s the FOH.

Honmaguro November 13, 2010 at 12:31 am

You have cleaners?

mrs_crispy November 13, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Honey, I think you need a bout of raunchy sex. That should snap you out of it.

paulkamon November 13, 2010 at 6:43 pm

^ Ha ha ha, indeed.

nato November 13, 2010 at 7:11 pm

well sounds like mrs.crispy knows what she is talking about.

Keith Talent November 15, 2010 at 11:46 am

Just for the record, the image selected is awesomeness personified. It also happens to be from the second best movie ever made, just after Apocalypse Now, a fact I’ll gladly debate with anyone so muddle headed as to disagree.

Fake Scout November 15, 2010 at 5:15 pm

This is why you don’t email the boss when you’re on mushrooms.

cheap beer January 8, 2011 at 8:58 am

Are you kidding, why you fight so much???

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