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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Slice and Dice on the Line and Memory Lane

Last Sunday was the food section in The Only Real Paper I Read. I wandered over to This Week in Review and paused. I know that the Op-Art section is cute, a tie in to other weighty pieces but really Choice Cuts? Asking chefs and “chefs” about their burns and cuts on the line?

I gazed at my arms and went down memory lane. My right arm is criss-crossed with various line scars. My right arm was the oven arm and there are many quiche scars and Salamander licks. Splatter burns? Yes I’m sure some of the scars are from an overzealous jerk of the pan in the heat of sauté. Little nicks from barnacles on mussels, and I remember a few times I grabbed a hot sauté pan handle that bubbled the whole hand in the heat of the action. Such is a cook’s life.

There was the time when I was new at a restaurant and doing prep for dinner service. I sliced lemons and myself. Not wanting to bring attention (I was the only female in a testosterone cesspool) I grabbed a clean side towel wrapped it around the finger and continued to slice. It was painful.

There are only slight scars where a cleaver came down on 4 joints as it missed the mark on a chunk of Parmesan. Why the heck was I slicing it during service on a Saturday night? I guess the chef told me to and we needed it. Four squirting fingers joints brought the chef and manager to my side. I was woozy and the manager promptly brought a glass of brandy. He took the first sip. I regrouped, calmed down, went back on the line and finished my shift.

This wasn’t out of old school camaraderie it was about not losing a few hours of pay. Every penny counted in the glamorous world of restaurants.

There are matching thumb scars with stitches created at different times and honestly I don’t remember when. They’re kind of cute in a perverted way.

I don’t see why the public would be interested in scars on knucklehead cooks’ arms. Paula Deen burned her forearm taking out cookies. Big Wazoo.

I think the most ridiculous was the cook who inadvertently burned his chef with splattered grease on the chefs’ pants. At the end of the service the budding chefflete found the dupe that caused the burn, put it in the deep fat fryer for 15 seconds and heroically adhered it to his forearm to replicate the pain he inflicted. He has two more hash burns he has self inflected to remind him of preventable gaffes. Wow that’s noble! Can’t wait to see him at 50!

I have never sat next to a chef drinking a smarty and jauntily asking him about the burns on his arms. Shit happens. Your timing is off some nights. What is more important is getting the food out and not getting the line in the weeds. That is the true fear that numbs the random burns and cuts makes you suck it up and keep slinging hash.

I think Marcus Samuelsson summed it up. “I have scars all over, but they’re part of my DNA as a chef.”

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