Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Behind the Curtain and Into the Kitchen

 It starts as quiet.  Laughter as jokes and rips are thrown at one another, and a relative calm permeates throughout the kitchen.  And then in a 7-minute period seven tables have been seated and have put in their orders.  Ranging from 2 tops to a group of 22, the kitchen and the people within it are struck by a lightning bolt of energy as the game begins.

 It can be described as a dance, a well-oiled machine, or a bit of a military march, but no matter what it is a team.  Everyone has his or her part and if one person doesn’t make it, then nobody does.  As one person opens an oven door, another person instinctively moves forward; one-person turns, and another moves in to the plate.  It is all fluid motions that come from a well-trained team.  One on the grill, another on vegetables, another on pasta, soup, and hot appetizers, and yet another who runs the tickets, plates the dishes, and makes sure that the other people are on point.  And there is still one person on salads and cheese, desserts, dishwashers, and food runners.

And lastly, there is of course Chef.  He stands over everyone, giving the orders, keeping track of the flow, and coming when help is needed.  Consistently checking that the plate is right: the temperature, the garnish, and the flavor.  This is one of the many reasons that Equinox remains on the top of the DC restaurant list; when the chef is in the kitchen the message of the restaurant remains clear and constant.

The heat is rising in the kitchen and the tickets are still whirring out.  Though the since of urgency has increased, there is still a clear and calm line of attack as everyone continues to move through the orders.  It is a symphony of clangs, sizzling protein, towels wiping plates, water hitting cutlery for washing, and footsteps moving through this “dance”.  It has a hypnotizing effect on me as I try to put together how it all works.  

Finally we have seemed to meet an impasse and the calm sets in again.  Jokes and laughter begin to run through the kitchen as people tease each other on how that was just too easy.  It appears all is calm again, until tomorrow.


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