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Half-Baked: Chefs' Lessons

Patty Canedo is a chef in Palm Beach. She writes frequently about her kitchen exploits in this column, Half-Baked.

We cooks and servers all know the mark of Mother's Day on the restaurant industry in South Florida; it's our year's end. With the close of this season, I mark five years since I've coated up and never looked back. By kitchen standards, I'm still a toddler working alongside people who've been doing this for as long as I've been alive. It's intimidating but I am fortunate to be able to work and learn along side of these people. I embarked on this road with trepidation knowing that my time on the line would bring me through the fire of Hades and back. But as a driving force and talented friend of mine always says, "I can't imagine doing anything else."

While your year-end lists and countdowns might have occurred about five months ago, this is my own little personal year-end countdown. A tribute to those who've pushed me (both literally and figuratively) to my limit. Whether their motives were good-natured or otherwise still remains to be seen in some cases. I give you some harsh lessons my chefs have taught me...

Chef Gillis: Do what I say, not as I do.

This little bit of info might have served me well during our fabrication lessons. No one loves to hack at a fresh piece of beef like yours truly, but learning how to trim from a lefty poses its issues. Five, to be exact. No stiches required, but the stock on Band-Aids probably rose around the time I was learning.

Chef Eric: This is a man's world.

While rushing to prep for a busy lunch, I was using the robocoup (large, industry food processor) to slice cucumbers. Let's just say rushing through taking this thing apart did lead to stiches. I had to talk this tough, proud Latino through the sight of blood and the bandaging process. Holding it together earned me some quick props, as did coming back from the hospital and working the rest of my shift.

Chef Roberto: Never show up late for a shift.

Even with a mad dash across the property, the damned bridge held me up and made me late. Your chef never fails to miss this. After settling in and setting up my line, I was brought 50 pounds of carrots, told to clean them and save the scraps to make soup. Chef smiled and hoped I enjoyed my gift. Fully aware that I was being punished, I did what I was told. However, he never clarified he didn't want the peelings, and who was I to argue with the chef? He quickly came to correct my "mistake."

"You can't make soup with the peeling -- it'll make it cloudy," he corrected me.

"I know, but you said save the scraps. I was just following what you said," my smart-aleck response earned me a week of peeling onions and carrots... worth it! 

Chef David: A lesson in teamwork, leadership and quality control is EVERYTHING!

More than likely, you won't like your owners and/or investors but you damned well better bring your "A" game when they all show up for dinner.

"Did you try the mozz?!" Chef barked, calling me (the sous) off of sauté during the rush on a Friday night.

"Um...," I laid still, hoping he'd just sniff at me, lose interest, and go away.

"IT'S ROTTEN! YOUR GARDE MANAGER JUST SERVED ROTTEN MOZZ TO AN INVESTOR! HERE! YOU TRY IT!" He didn't go away. I forced the cheese to the back of my mouth and swallowed it whole, but I didn't puke... props to me.

"Here, make him eat it," he carried on. The garde manager came over slowly and frightened. I grabbed all the cheese out of his hand and swallowed it.

"You're lucky, she took the bullet for you," Chef said and let us both return to service. Chef later admired me taking one for the team.

"So, did you puke?" he asked.

"I have been, all night." He got a laugh out of it and patted me on the back.  

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Patty Canedo

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