I’ve been gone a week, I know. It’s been a crazy week guys. I’ve been looking to get another cooking job and was lucky enough to find out that Menton, one of Boston’s best restaurants, is looking for a line cook. The restaurant is fine-dining french, and the Chef de Cuisine is Kristen Kish, who won Top Chef last year. She’s crazy talented and focused, and runs a smooth kitchen. Talk about intimidating. I’d love to be in her shoes someday.
Dream big, right? I said what the hell and applied.
So here’s the crazy part: Kish emails me back the next day and asks me to come in for a stage (pronounced stAgsh, like a fancy person would say). A stage is kinda like an interview, where you come in and work in the kitchen for a day or two and see if you’d be a good fit. It’s like a scary interview. You can talk yourself up all you want, but if the proof isn’t in the pudding, the potential employer will know before they ever hire you. Pressure is on.
I’m going to tell y’all up front: after being invited back for a second stage, I didn’t get the gig. It was my first stage ever, guys, and I’ve only been cooking professionally for 5 months. It was an honor enough to be called back for a second stage, one I was told was shared with very few people who have tried out for the job. The passion is there, but I need to fine-tune my skills a bit. I was a touch disappointed, but more happy that is experience even happened. I learned more than I thought I could in two days, got to meet chefs with some serious talent, got to meet one of my idols, and had some amazing food. Not a bad consolation prize, I think.
So lets talk about that.
Ms. Kish was so incredibly nice. I thought she would be scary, but she acted just like she did on TV, down to earth, sweet, and soft-spoken. Shes not afraid to speak her mind, though. She commands respect from her staff in a way I’ve never seen before. When she calls an order during service, the kitchen stops while she reads the order, then everyone says “oui chef” in unison before getting back to work. It was awesome.
Have I said anything about the kitchen yet? It was incredible. So clean and well organized and beautiful.
The day begins with the chefs prepping the food for the evening in the downstairs kitchen, which is huge and shares the space with two other restaurants (all three are owned by chef Barbara Lynch, Kish’s mentor). During the day, two meetings are had with the entire back of house staff, to make sure everyone is doing okay with their stations and provide feedback.
When it’s time for service, everything runs smooth. It’s hard to describe everything, but it was kinda like watching a music show. When everything works well together, it’s beautiful. Each station makes their separate components, then Kish plates everything with a pair of tweezers. It was nuts. It also really inspired me and reaffirmed that this is the career I want. I don’t get this awe-struck over just anything, ya know.
I also got to try the food, which was worth it in it’s own. Every dish was beautiful, and incredibly tasty. By the way, by “try” the food I mean she gave me and another stage I was working with each a six-course tasting menu. It was unreal. I’m still dreaming about this food. Still.
THEN (yes, there’s more) We shared the rabbit dish with mustard sauce and cabbage and the buffalo short rib with a consume, which is a broth packed with flavor. Oh. Man. Both so incredible, the flavor combinations and richness. I could taste everything but together, it all sang.
Finally, we finished with dessert. Tiny banana bread cakes with brown butter popcorn and espresso foam. By this time I didn’t know if I could hold it all in and help clean the kitchen with the rest of the staff. I somehow managed to pull it together.
After the kitchen was closed and the last customer had left, Kish had a final meeting with her staff. It was incredible to watch how in tune everyone was, and how they really worked as a team. The whole experience really gave me something to strive for, and the people I met were awesome. I guess this post is more like a long thank you letter to that experience. I feel, now more than ever, that this is my calling in life. Now, time to make my dreams happen!