Friday, May 22, 2009

Cuts, Burns, Scars, Tats and Other Things That Makes Me Look Like a Bad Ass

In between jumping out of the shower and turning on reruns of the West Wing, I had a sudden idea. I don't know what sparked it really, but I realized that I had and knew all these little stories from myself, other people, word of mouth and just pure kitchen myth/legend. I obviously didn't want to write about them as if they were purely true (partly because they are not my stories and they are probably not completely true anyways). So I'm just going to write a series of fun little short stories and you can try to take with it as much as you think is true or as much as you think is not. They are all based and inspired by truths somewhere though, so it will serve as quite a bit of fun for those who really try to decipher things. Some pieces will most definitely be false at certain times, but the point is just to give the readers some fun kitchen stories through the eyes of one particular chef. I'm sure many can relate...

So this is the first of many hopefully that I wrote last night and I'm calling these set of stories:

Cuts, Burns, Scars, Tats and Other Things That Make Me Look Like a Badass.

PART 1:

"18"



“Fuck.”

No, this was not a directed or primal scream – rather, a soft crescendo of the word that was just a gentle whisper at the suggestion of pain. Seemingly less dramatic (though similar) than the normal “fuck” that you get coming from my mouth when I’m dick deep in the weeds during service, but more like a slow-realizing and panic ridden, which is much more fucking worse.

I have just cut off 1/3 of my middle fingernail and part of my flesh into a sea of 1 mm by 1 mm brunoise chopped red peppers with my Wusthof Classic Santoku (I knew I hated that bloody knife). Most of the sentiment of the “fuck” can be attributed to the impending pain, but I’d rationalize that 30% of it clearly has to do with the thought of redoing all those peppers with a good chunk of my middle fingernail gone.

The whole situation was definitely not how I envisioned my third day in the kitchen to be, but accidents don’t happen in the kitchen when you are routinely making cuts and focusing on what you need to be doing. Accidents happen when you are focusing on the funny conversation that your executive chef and chef-de-cuisine are having all while simultaneously staring at the stunning 18-year-old hostess waltz into the kitchen with her little white t-shirt top and sporting a natural 34C (borderline D) cup. That’s how accidents - and eventually “fuck”, happen.

At that moment, exec chef Tom quickly rushes over, “Keith, are you okay?” The words “what the fuck do you think” and "that's not my fucking name" strike a quick mental reaction in my mind, but I regain control of my thoughts and decide that’s not the best course of action.

“Dude, I’m fine. It doesn’t even hurt. Fuck, I gotta do those fucking peppers over.” I grumble more words and head to the first aid kit. It was only 2pm. Knowing the theory of how when it rains, it pours shit on you - I should have assumed that this cut was going to bleed through 4 layers of band aids, gauge pads, duct tape and a plastic finger condom. Thank god I was working daytime prep and observing night service. Only 8 more hours of medieval bloodletting to go…

Service ends, I drink Fernet and ginger-back. I go home, clean the wound and pass out. Another day done.

Months later, I will recount this story to some friends while Tom (who now knows my name) and I are close the verge of being completely shit-faced. Tom contributes to my storytelling and asks on cue something to the drunken effect of, “yeah, what happened that day?”

“You guys were laughing and shit in there and then '18' walked in with a little white t-shirt and shit. It was all downhill from there.”

To this day, I will always remember exactly how “18” (her secret back of house nickname) looked on that day in that moment. Aside from little lust filled kitchen jokes, “18” had no significant impact on my tenure in that kitchen or in my life, but strangely became one of the few women that left an indelible mark. That and I have a great badass lopsided middle fingernail to remind me of this story.

I love funny anatomic reminders of absolute shitshows. Ah, yes.

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