Nanette again, back to talk about food! Growing up I was told to be weary of lazily using the word “need” because there are few things that we truly need. Water, food, air, temperature and sun. Those are the things I found that all living organisms need to survive. It’s funny working in a restaurant because it’s like working in a beehive. Everyone is coming in and out to collect what they “need” and we’re there to give it to them.
What I learned today is that there is no way to fully appreciate where our food is coming from. Do you think about how the veggies in your food were grown locally and picked up to be added to your dish? Or how the kitchen glazes every single tofu kabob before they send it out for you to enjoy. Kitchen shifts last around 10-12 hours everyday and each position does something different, but they’re all vital to the process of getting your food to the table in a timely manner. First, you’ve got the prep crew who comes in around 7:30 a.m. to start prepping food for it to be ready in time for opening. Then you’ve got the line cooks, all working together to cook and plate the food so that it comes out in a way that’s “soigne” and in good time.
Chris Sterley, Sous Chef, has been with Aslan long enough to know how the kitchen works. Each of his work days starts with a flood of people telling him what they’re out of and what they need in the kitchen. But in between all the order sheets, late trucks of produce, and managing employees, one of his newfound favorite parts of his job is the relationships he has with local vendors. He described how nice it was to be able to call Annie at Joe’s Garden when he needed something right away. And how sometimes he’d leave the garden with a juicy peach in hand. We order from over a dozen local vendors a week. And although it takes more time and effort to have to order separately, it’s worth it for the connections because they last a lifetime. We have to order more food from more vendors every other day to keep up with the demand of the restaurant. It's nuts!
On the line, you’ve got some awesome and eccentric characters working in the kitchen. Colton, one of the lead line cooks, is one of the most level-headed people I know (maybe why he’s perfect for the job). He told me to write that he’s “22, single and ready to mingle.” In all seriousness, Colton puts his all into what he does everyday. He loves that Aslan is busy because when you’re slow for a 10-hour shift, your body never forgives you. But when it’s busy, your body copes with it and lets the adrenaline move you. He eventually wants to learn more about cooking and expand his knowledge to gourmet foods.
What I’ve discovered about the kitchen is that everyone’s passions are different. Another one of the line cooks, John, said that his real love for the kitchen comes from the energetic atmosphere. He could never have a desk job or do something monotonous because he loves the environment that’s created in the kitchen. Then of course he started naming off his passions as “the open road, freshly rained-on pavement..” and more that sounded like a dating ad.
Seddy, the line cook who’s been in the Aslan kitchen the longest, has a passion for botany. He loves plants! And one of the plants hanging above the door at Aslan came from him nursing a clipping he’d taken from someone’s jasmine plant. Some people call him the silent killer because he always comes to work with few words and kills it at what he does. It’s those type of people who really give value to a place, who add uniqueness. And I appreciate Seddy for that. He keeps people grounded.
Something I’d love to show people is how much time goes into preparing food. Aslan isn’t just a restaurant and it isn’t just a brewery. We are both of those things and more. But we’re always aiming to do better. Like our Brewmaster Frank said in one of the earlier blog posts, and I think it applies to Aslan as a whole, is that “if we thought our beers were perfect, what else would we do?”
In this beehive, there’s so much to be said about the vitality of the kitchen that I can’t sum it up in one post. But next time you watch the line cooks through the kitchen window, try to imagine how much it takes to get your food delivered to you and take note of all the smiles doing it.