Last week I was able to take advantage of a couple really interesting opportunities, unfortunately it meant that I didn’t get a full day off or time to write but they were both great experiences and I’m excited to share about them.
The first was a stage, which is kind of like a guest shift in a restaurant. They are often used as an extended interview so you can see how someone works before hiring them but it is also a chance to see another kitchen, learn new dishes and work with different people. It’s an amazing way to gain exposure and experience without having to change jobs. I had been interested in this particular space for a long time so getting to work there for a day was a delight especially because I've learned so much since I first started going there as a guest.
Stages can be short or long, in this case I was able to stay as long or little as I wanted. I was only planning on staying 2-3 hours but ended up enjoying my time so much that I spend 6 hours cooking and making coffee. I was brought into this stage particularly for my coffee experience and it was a lot of fun to work an espresso station again.
When I was first becoming a barista I would often feel frustrated that as soon as I learned a new skill or something was changed, the whole process of working the station felt foreign. It was like I had to start all over again each time, even though I was working in the same space. One of my mentors quieted these frustrations by assuring me that as I got more comfortable and confident I would be able to adapt to different situations and bar set ups easily. This week felt like the fulfillment of that conversation when I was able to jump into a different bar arrangement and start playing around almost instantly.
I was elated by the familiarity of an old skill set with the pleasure of equipment and coffee I had never handled before. I would love to one day bring coffee back into my career but I know that I do not want to handle it with great intensity all of the time. Its definitely something I’m striving to find a balance with.
I also worked the line a bit, observing all the dishes and plating a few of the simpler ones during a couple busy moments. I loved observing the techniques and style of a restaurant so different from the one I’m currently in. It made me appreciate the simplicity of where I’m at because it is well matched to my current skill set. While I loved pushing myself to learn a new style for a few hours, I don’t think I’m ready to be submerged in their techniques just yet. However, I may be interested in making a move in the future when my skills are further developed.
On Saturday I was a part of a pop-up where I worked the wine bar. I’ve always loved working events because people are doing something out of the ordinary which makes them more excited to have an experience and also because it doesn’t really feel like work. It was a long day but was well worth it.
One of the reasons I wanted to be in food was to learn more about wine and this was my first chance to taste and serve wine and beer. Being able to expand my wine knowledge was very enticing and I also appreciated the opportunity to get better at opening bottles in a relatively relaxed setting. Most of the time I asked people about their day in an attempt to distract from the fact that it probably takes me a full 60 seconds to get a bottle open and when someone is silently staring at you that feels like a really long time.
On the other hand, knowing a wine list is not unlike knowing your coffees and I took pleasure in being able to articulate the differences between the wines and guide people to something they would find enjoyable.
After a few months away from interacting with guests I loved getting to talk to people about what they were eating and drinking. I felt refreshed and genuinely enjoyed the conversations I had that day. In the past I've felt burnt out from interacting with 100+ people everyday but this reminded me that I can still enjoy serving.
Both of these experiences brought me energy to continue this journey I’m taking in the culinary world. They have inspired me to keep learning and trying new things and that was certainly worth my days off. When my manager asked me how Saturday went he said 'it pays to say yes,' and right now I couldn't agree more.