Friday, November 04, 2005

Day 1: Spinach

So of course I was awake at about 5:15 this morning. Whenever I have to get up early the next morning, I judiciously set my alarm and somehow convince myself that the alarm won’t go off. So I finally rolled out of bed at 6:30ish and dragged myself in the shower, out of the shower, down my stairs, up the street and onto the “El.” Once I hopped on the train, I noticed that pretty much everyone around me had white ear phones plugged in to their ears with their respective Ipods at the other end. I joined in and scrolled down to Led Zeppelin III to help shake me of my morning grog.

Once the train reached the Chicago Avenue stop, my fellow white wired drones and I shuffled toward the exit. It was only 7:30 and my next mission was to find Starbucks. After downing my morning fix and feeling a bit ashamed that it cost more than my ride to and from work, I continued my walk towards the Ritz-Carlton.

After changing into my uniform, the woman who initially interviewed me escorted me upstairs to introduce me to the Garde Manger Sous Chef, Joelle. She gave me a quick tour of the massive kitchen, briefed me on scheduling and daily breaks, and then introduced me to 40 pounds of baby spinach. On a menu for tomorrow was a salad of baby spinach, red onions, artichokes, and some other goodies. Joelle asked me to stem the baby spinach. Now, you know the little bags of spinach and washed lettuce you get at the grocery store? Those are usually around 10 oz. Multiply that by 64 and you have the amount of baby spinach I had to sift through. I stemmed the good leaves and disposed of the broken and bruised ones. No joke, but around three hours later, I finished. I felt so lame for having taken so long, but there was just so much!

My fingertips had turned green and I was honestly seeing green spots when I looked up to take a break. Once I finished and labeled it and threw it in our walk-in, I took my lunch break. One flight down, the Ritz-Carlton provides a complimentary cafeteria for their employees. And it sucks! It was hilarious, though! I really felt like I was back in high school. On each table, there was “The Ritz Weekly,” a newsletter produced my people with too much time on their hands. On top of that, the the colors of the walls were painted a horrendous lime green and royal blue. Considering the excellence in food that this company represented, I was a little surprised by the quality they were providing to their staff. But, then again, it was free so I should shut up. I grabbed a salad and big bowl of white rice and relaxed, hoping that by the end of my 30 minute break, my feet would stop tingling.

Well, they didn’t and I was back to work. My next job was to make 360 roses out of slivers of smoked salmon. The Garde Manger department smokes their own salmon; about 35 sides twice a week. I was able to get about 60 slivers or so from each side and then struggled for a bit to achieve the “rose” they were looking for. Basically, I wrapped a sliver around my index finger with half of it hanging off and rolled that half onto itself. Eventually, they would be filled with crème fraiche and chives and placed atop potato pancakes. But from about 2:00 until 4:30, they fought with me to hold their shape.

Despite the fact that I only completed two tasks throughout my entire first day, I feel good about where I am. From the 1980's style cafeteria to me fighting with my locker at the end of the day, I had some entertaining run in's with high school again. But I'm working with 6 other men and women who made me feel really comfortable and I feel like once I get my feet wet, I'll really be able to contribute.

But, to be honest, by the end of my first day, I was beat. I schlepped my body back on the train and collapsed on my bed when I got home. My husbad eagery greeted me, curious to hear about everything. While he is innundated with classes taught by Nobel Proze winners and lectures on incidents of a tax, I think hearing me talk about stemming spinach was a welcome releif.

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