Patty Canedo is a chef in Palm Beach and writes frequently about her kitchen exploits in this column, Half Baked.
Witness the impossible: it's a random Friday night, and two chefs find themselves out to dinner...at dinner time.
"Would you like to put your dinner order in now?" asks the server, clearing away our first round of appertizers and cocktails.
"Do you want to split something, honey?" David hands me a menu.
"We'll try the B.E.L.T," I said. I was already slightly full but wanting to nosh.
"One B.E.L.T." she said, juggling our plates.
"Well how does the egg come? Can I get it over medium?" I asked, compromising my taste for runny eggs and his taste for over done.
"Well it only comes the one way, over well. Unless you want something different. I guess I could ask the kitchen." She bit her lip nervously.
"No that's fine. We are going to split that," David pipes in. Then, to me: "Trying to be difficult?" he teases.
"No, but I do find it weird she didn't ask how we wanted the eggs."
"Well, it is Friday night and she's probably got all the tables out here and a few inside," he noted, sympathetic to the plight of the server. "Besides they are probably pre-cooked eggs anyway."
The sip of water I just took went down the wrong pipe and almost out my nose.
"Are you ok? What was that?!" he couldn't help but laugh at me.
"What do you mean, "pre-cooked"?! That's disgusting! Who would do that?" I was in disbelief at the idea.
"You think that they cook eggs to order here? Look at this place!" at every table on the patio full, the server running in and out the door.
"Who the hell would pre-cook eggs? It's an egg! It takes two seconds to cook." I hold firm to my position.
"I bet you they pre-cook some eggs before service and when they get an order, just toss it on the grill." He is too confident for me.
"That's disgusting. Who would sandbag eggs?" The idea is just horrifing.
"You'd be surprised what people sandbag. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't even cook the eggs here. They might even get them in cooked," he said, continuing to mock me.
"EW! That's just gross. They don't actually make that, right?"
"In Orlando, at 310, Sysco brought me in all sort of stuff to look at."
"PRE-COOKED EGGS, DAVID?!" I demanded to know, angrily disapproving of his shortcut.
"Hey, we did over 400 covers on Sunday. Do you know how many eggs that is? I had to look at anything to make service easy."
To my horror, the server returned quickly with our sandwich.
"Can I get you anything?" My face was blank, staring at my plate. David, of course, was laughing.
"No we're ok. Thank you," he said. He was enjoying himself.
Staring at the plate, I couldn't bring myself to try it. David slid the plate over and opened up the bread. There was one overcooked, fried egg with a couple grill marks on it. Ugh!
"Whatever, I'll eat," he said greedily.
I man up, take a bite and try to forget. Honestly, if we weren't having this conversation, I could remain blissfully ignorant.
"I used to get so busy during brunch I would sandbag omelettes," he went on, enjoying his sandwich, dipping it in ketchup.
"How do you sandbag omelettes?" I wondered, picking at my half.
"I would premake a bunch of plain omelettes. When an order came in, I would sautee off the ingredients, put it in the shell and throw it in the oven. They came out perfect every time."
"Omelettes I guess I understand, but frying an egg takes two seconds. Come on," I was adamant about this. "I know I've only been doing brunch for a couple months now and definitely not at that volume, but come on."
"Let's see what you do to get through a busy rush," he challenged me. "And these people down here are worse than Orlando or New York. They wait for nothing. Remember at the club? And those were some high-end guests that couldn't wait 15 minutes for their well dones. I never believed in having a microwave on the line -- until I worked there."
"That always grossed me out, that you guys would mircowave the proteins." I couldn't eat the sandwich anymore.
"Hey, you have to do what you have to do to push the food out." He quickly snagged my uneaten half.
"If people only knew what went in the kitchen they would never go out to eat," he said. That statement bothered me the moment it came out.
"No, scratch that," he said. "If people knew what we had to do to get their food out because they can't wait five more minutes, maybe they wouldn't push so hard and wait the extra few minutes."
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I couldn't argue with that -- it's the plight of every line cook and chef.