Monday, June 9, 2008

A Stage in the Kitchen

So, the journey has already begun. This past Saturday, I arranged for Kelly to take Madelaine into the kitchen at Hudson's for what is know as a stage. This is part of the now centuries-old apprenticeship tradition of the kitchen. Aspiring chefs who want to work for another older and more established chef, will, to prove their worth and interest in the job, work for a day or at most a week for free. During this time, the aspirants are likely fed, but receive little else.

The purpose of the stage is more than just an offer of free labor in exchange for a chance at a job. It is a submission to the reality of the system that requires that new entrants to any kitchen be tested as thoroughly as possible before they are put on the line.

This is strictly self-preservation. No one wants to put someone on the line who will not be able to measure up, as this will just increase the burden on the chefs who can produce, and most likely on a night when no one can take on any more. Thus the system tests for weakness early and even though it's not foolproof, it does at least weed out those individuals who merely thought they had the stamina to last twelve hours on your feet in a hot, cramped kitchen.

Fortunately, I think Madelaine did well in her stage. She helped to prepare the bread, cutting and weighing out the loaves. She peeled and chopped and sliced vegetables and carried dirty dishes to the dish station and generally tried to stay out of the way when it got busy.

Even though Maddie was a complete rookie and a mere guest in the kitchen, Kelly was most gracious and helped her find things to do, and even didn't fuss at her when she got tired. She did in fact stay on her feet nearly the entire twelve hours, from noon to midnite, and complained only of sore feet at the very end. She was, after her shift, still bright and active and even hungry. We stopped off at an all-nite diner to have breakfast at one in the morning. Now there is a tradition for those of us in the business!

I was of course proud of Maddie for graduating from High School earlier this week, but the pride I felt as I watched her work was immeasurably greater! I hate to look too far into the future, so let's just say that the chef's jacket suited her perfectly, and I can see her in it for a lifetime of creative challenges. We've a long way to go, and this is just the first step.


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