I'm not one to believe in fate. i've never had much of a poetic soul, inclined to think that there's some master plan laid for me. however, the last few weeks have certainly felt a little bit like there was just something meant-to-be, like i'd finally stopped fighting against the current of where my life was supposed to take me and have instead embraced the tide.
Early in august, anna looks at me.
"did you know that there's an internship position available? you should come talk to them about it."
there is indeed an internship available. it sounds perfect, working as an entry-level kitchen assistant for a startup company in the financial district. the task is to prepare gourmet, restaurant-quality food for between 50-100 people everyday. there is an immense amount of creativity included. i am nervous but the chefs put me at ease. i'm invited to come and cook with them the next week.
i arrived at the kitchen promptly at 7.30 am in my rolled up jeans and brand new non-stick kitchen shoes. the menu for the day was maryland-style crabcakes, southern fried chicken, brussels sprouts, and a variety of cold salads. my station is garde manger, a time-honored entry kitchen position that essentially every chef works at some point in their kitchen life. in garde manger, all cold prep work is done and most salads are prepared. i'm particularly excited for this position right before culinary school begins as the garde manger spot is extremely heavy on knife work and various knife skills and i expect to gain an immense amount of practice.
the first day was a whirlwind. there is a daze of exhilaration and a thirst to prove I can be as accurate and fast as possible. i am set to chopping everything, from the cucumbers and tomatoes from the cold salad bar to these gorgeous watermelon radishes i had never seen before. as i finish the prep work, we set to work on making a cold tortellini pasta salad.
"what should go in it, chef?"
"anything you want." uh oh. what do i want? i panic a little, try to calm my mind and start to think of flavors that might pair well. we have olive oil and parmesan, red pepper flakes. broccoli for color. i combine them and have a brand new respect for the mystery basket challenges on masterchef.
our last task of the day is to finish off the southern fried chicken. i have a mountain of chicken thighs and drumsticks in front of me. at first, i make a crucial error and use one hand to dip the chicken in the batter and then roll in the seasoned flour. while this definitely succeeds in flouring the chicken, my glove is also taking on quite a pile of battered flour. it looks like i'm melting. i cast a look over at the chefs and see they're using separate hands, one to dip the chicken in the batter and a separate one to roll in the flour. it's the little details.
after service, chef looks at me and says, "so, do you want to come back next week?"
oh hell yes please.
the next day, i arrive again at 7.30 am. i am at once terrified that i'll be expected to remember everything and that nothing will come to me. but the day settles in smoothly, i focus on chopping paddypan squash, an adorable yellow summer squash with ruffled edges, to be roasted with gruyere cheese.
we're doing a seafood menu. lobster rolls, scallops, fried shrimp and oysters, mussels, and clams. i prepare salads, nervously eyeing a giant can of black beans. what am i going to do with these? i start to feel familiar themes rise. let's start with onions. maybe some green pepper. maybe some chilis. god, i'd really love to taste some lime in here. i ask about throwing a vinaigrette together and am introduced to one of my new loves.
i throw in three parts oil and then finish with lime juice, zest, white vinegar, and salt and pepper. the vitamix purrs. the vinaigrette i pour out into my tasting spoon is shimmery and when i taste it there is an explosion of bright citrus flavor on my tongue. it is delicious.
after service, chef tells me i have officially been accepted for the internship and that it starts on september 2nd. i am overjoyed. i kind of want to hug him. we go out for drinks after and i order jameson on the rocks. we talk about food. i say that i'd love to make gravlax.
"alright." chef says, "i'll order some salmon. we'll make gravlax."
on the way home, i listen to le tigre's cover of i'm so excited on repeat.