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My First Day At Calle Ocho

Today was the first day of my culinary externship. I was super nervous today, mostly because I had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, they’ve never actually had an extern work for them before, so it’s a new experience for them too. The good thing was the sous chef Edgar was really cool about everything. I did some basic prep just to get myself wet again, cutting up stuff and what not. The good thing about me is that you can tell me how you want something cut or prepared or whatever, and I will remember it for next time. The prep there is uber simple, mostly diced and julienned stuff, but their dishes have a lot of different ingredients, so there’s a lot of mise en place. The other executive chef was there, Chef Alex. Nice guy, CIA grad, been in the business 20 years or so. We spoke for a bit about what the expectations are, about what I’d like to get out of it, as well as well as front of house opportunities. He strongly suggested that I sit with Chef Rod — the one usually about — and get a station and FOH schedule together. That’s why I’ll be back on Wednesday instead of tomorrow since that’s when he’ll be back.

My time tonight was spent observing: who is doing what, where is everything during service, what dishes looked like (Chef Alex gave me a copy of the menu to keep and review)… I also got to taste some of this stuff. Can’t cook it without knowing what it’s supposed to taste like, right?

I got a fair number of the dishes down visually and by name — the names are all in Spanish.

So. We come to the crux of what made this tricky. Some of the line cooks don’t speak English. No that comes as no surprise to me; that’s an industry standard. But with all the dishes in Spanish, total Spanish talking going on and even the orders called out are in Spanish.. I’m unexpectedly overloaded. I have the sound of it still resonating in my head!! They were like, oh don’t worry — we will get you back speaking Spanish in no time! Because remember, I understand 80% of what is being said in Spanish, which is pretty good I think, so after my ear switched over to “Spanish absorption mode”, I had an easier time of understanding why they said. It will still present a challenge, so we will see how that goes.

All in all, it was good to observe what was going on. Man, Edgar is a fast and efficient cook; there is no wasted motion with him. The people working there were all very pleasant, so it was cool. Family meal was nice too: white rice, spicy chicken in butter sauce and pasta. Simple and carby, to get you through the evening. I lost track of time after a while even: Chef Alex came up to me and said you know, you can go home if you want. (they had already started cleaning up stuff, and only 15 more minutes for the kitchen to be open). I didn’t realize it was 10:30 already! I’ve been there since 2:45p today!

Anyway, there you have it. First day recounting. I’m looking forward to learning some of the dishes and working on them during service. As for now, I’m going home to sleep. Got work tomorrow. Ciao!