The Special of the Day

June 5, 2013 Here’s a humble attempt at the WordPress “A picture is worth 1,000 words” challenge, which asks bloggers to write a story about the image below. Flash fiction isn’t usually my thing; I like to mull it over, change the story, and edit it to the extreme before allowing anyone to read it, but sometimes you have to jump off the high dive.

6193397911_8790d8cb9a_b

Presentation is everything.

Those words, straight from the culinary bible, and driven into our heads by a commanding instructor with the demeanor of Joseph Stalin, became my credo while studying the fine art of food. I disputed the words at first, but came to agree with them in theory. You can’t always assume that the better food looks, the better it is. I’ve tasted too much bad sushi to believe that. However, if the dish is good from the start, it will taste better if it looks pleasing.

Yet, I watch these buffoons – a head chef and his sous chef — prepare a dish that resembles something a dog would turn away. Don’t they know the first rule of food preparation? This is not what I signed up for when I accepted the line cook position at a small bistro in a Maryland beach town. I’d rather work at a swanky downtown restaurant where people appreciate fine culinary skills, and not at a place that caters to families after a day at the beach.

I had an inkling this was a bad move yesterday, my first day, when I witnessed the pastry chef pour warm caramel sauce over a poached pear as if he were drowning a meatloaf in onion gravy. The first thing you learn in food basics is how to drizzle sauces with a delicate hand that frames the dessert and the plate, before topping it off with a sprig of fresh mint. I’m not sure how much more of these amateurs I can take.

“I quit,” I shout, but only in my head. I need this job. However, I am grateful it’s only 10 weeks before I head back to school for my last semester at the Culinary Institute.

“And there you have today’s special, Chesapeake Crab Cakes,” the head chef says, proud of his creation. It’s not as pretty as the crab soufflé I created a few years back, but it doesn’t look like dog food anymore. Somehow, like the artist on PBS who creates landscapes with a paintbrush you’d use on the walls of your home, the head chef worked it out in the end.

People around me applaud, and I join in but I do not smile. That would show too much approval for something I know I could do better.

“Wait,” the sous chef says, “let’s not forget the finishing touch.” He picks up a shoot of parsley and lays it on the plate, then lifts it high as if he’s presenting the host at Sunday mass.

“Presentation is everything,” I shout, but this time it’s out loud. Oh crap, that was unintentional. The corners of my mouth turn up in a smile to hide my embarrassment, and the head chef nods, acknowledging that I get it.

“You can help the sous chef prepare the crab mixture,” he says, a coveted job for sure. I smile, but realize he’s not looking at me. Instead, he’s talking to the guy next to me.

“And you,” he says looking at me, “go home! Return tomorrow with a clean and pressed uniform and a better attitude, and I may allow you to wash the dishes!”

With a crooked smile, the sous chef looks at me and says, “Presentation is everything.”

Advertisements

33 thoughts on “The Special of the Day

    • Thanks, Pam. I usually avoid these challenges because I’m not a fast thinker, and in the past people have come up with many amazing posts. It was a good exercise for me though.

    • Thanks Bea. I am amazed by the ideas people come up with on the fly. I like to let ideas stew a bit, so this exercise took me out of my comfort zone.

  1. Oh my gosh, I can so appreciate your words. I’m a novice bread baker and had the great pleasure of meeting the artisan bread baker, Peter Reinhart. He touched briefly upon the subject of buffing ( forgive me if my wording/ description is incorrect), discussing how important that finishing touch is. I recall (humorously) how he explained that the item used must correspond to the subject being presented. An example: just because its a bit of parsley, mint, etc., does not suggest that it is a suitable garnish. (Items must compliment, not distract.). Pure laughter hit me with your caramel sauce ‘dump’ akin to something smothering a piece of meatloaf. I’m still laughing.
    Spot on! A fun read, for sure. Best wishes on your culinary adventures. Kudos to you… I envy you, we’ll, almost. 😉

    • Thank you, Coffee, My culinary skills are moderate at best, but I try. My father is the true chef, and he is always saying that “Presentation is everything!” Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Congratulations on FP! I like your introduction which speaks that you are a person with character. I read a few of your posts which appear to be my cup of tea. I look forward to reading more of Jane’s non- fiction posts!

    • Thank you Nirupamaprv. I have difficulty with shorter pieces. I usually like to ramble on much much more! Appreciate you stopping by.

  3. Congrats on reserving your work in Freshly Pressed. I was bit curious to know who did it – so read your post. I was second to you in the race for this challenge that is my optimism. thanks.

  4. “Here’s humble attempt” at what? Writing an incredible take on the prompted image? By incredible I mean – impressive! There’s no doubt in my mind why the WP editors chose your piece to be featured on FP.

    It was so well detailed that now I’m wondering are you really a student of culinary arts or are you a writer? Maybe both? I gobbled down every word like if they were… gravy with onions on mashed potatoes.

    Nice short story! And I am a fan of the “wink-wink” endings.

    • Thank you, Marie. I enjoyed your play on words in your comment, as well. I’m not a culinary expert, but I do appreciate the art and results!

    • Thanks, Zach. No, the photo isn’t an actual Maryland Crab Cake. It was a photo WordPress posted and challenged bloggers to write about. I live in Southeastern PA, so I’m very aware of how wonderful Maryland Crab Cakes are though. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Thanks. That area is definitely among my favorite to visit. Thankfully, I’m only about an hour or two north on 95 in Philly so I get to visit frequently.

  5. Pingback: 10 Reasons to Keep Blogging | janeMcMaster

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s