What are you doing up at 4:30 in the morning? Baking scones and gougères? Oh wait, that's me. Yes, I wake up at the same time I used to go to sleep on a Saturday (that's a lie, but just go with it) so people like yourself can have their hot buns at 7:30am.
I've been externing at the kick-ass Tartine for just over a month now and it's been going swimmingly. I've been working on a few different stations: cookies/bars, shelling (lining/baking pastry shells for tarts/quiches) and the morning bake team which is either "quiche side" or "scone side" as they call it. Each station has been stellar and I've loved all the variety. Hell, I've even enjoyed working the 4:30am shift, who knew?! Those days actually fly by and the kitchen is less chaotic the first half of the day, due to the fact that there's usually only 5 of us there in vs 20+.
So one of the things Tartine is known for is it's line, due to it's popularity. Lines are the worst, but there's a reason for it. The food is legit guys! I can attest to this because I've tried most of the menu by now. #patsonbuddahbelly I actually think it's kind of exciting that people are willing to wait in line for Tartine's goodies. Yes, perhaps people are just in line because of the hype, but I'd be a liar if I said that the hype isn't justified and the line isn't worth waiting in. DO IT, or even better, holler at me when you're coming and I'll buy you a warm croissant to keep you company in line.
Surprises so far? The amount of heavy labor! Tartine is cranking out a ton of products for the masses so the yield is always LARGE. These LARGE yields need to be chopped, stirred and folded by hand sometimes which is, frankly, a workout and a half. For example, I break a sweat every time I make gougères (which requires vigorous continuous stirring by hand) and I have a gougère calluses on my hand to show for it.
Another surprise, that has nothing to do with any of the above, is I've become a biker! Not the Hells Angels kind (I'm certain that's what you were imagining), but the bicycle kind. My sweet ride is from junior high, so it's real hip. At least I don't have to worry about it ever getting stolen...
Back on subject again, here are some solid things I've learned so far while working at Tartine:
Lift with your knees, not your back! I've been aware of this tip, but it's an important one to recall when you have to lift a 50lb bag of flour. Those bags are no joke! It seriously feels like I'm carrying a large child through the kitchen.
Hands and arms make fantastic tools! Bowl scrapers and spatulas are nice and all, but sometimes ya gotta get in there with your hand or even your arm to get all the sneaky hidden spots. Also, folding brownie batter with your hand/arm is ridiculously fun.
Have one clean hand and one dirty hand. Love this one, but it's a challenge to follow sometimes. When you need to scrape down a bowl using either your hand or bowl scraper, that hand will likely get batter and such on it, so in turn it becomes your "dirty hand." The other hand, by default, is your "clean hand" and should be used to do "clean tasks" like turn the mixer on/off and raise/lower the mixer. This is especially useful for recipes that require you to scrape down the bowl several times over several rounds. In the end, having these clean/dirty hands will avoid more cleanup- making you more efficient! #winning
Refill the line if there's a lull. This is the new "If you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean." Sooo "if you've got time to lean, you've got time to refill?" Where's a poet when I need one?
Walking by a pot? Give it a stir sister! This kitchen multi-tasks like champions so the stove top is always full. If you find yourself passing by, why not stir that chocolate or pastry cream or apples for a hot second? Thaaaaanks.
Behind! Hot! Sharp! I hear the phrase "behind" at least 100x a day, "hot" about 40x a day and "sharp" a solid 10x. There's a reason for this- no one wants a run-in with 3 sheet trays of shells or a hot pot of bacon fat or perhaps get stabbed in the thigh with a chef's knife. That would make for a bad day.
Be efficient! Try to take as few trips as possible when gathering what you need- ingredients, tools etc. Also, try to re-use bowls, measuring cups and such when you're putting a recipe together. Work smart you dummy!
When in doubt, write it down! Pounds and ounces and grams, oh my! Perhaps if I had a photographic memory, I'd have no use for a notepad, but alas, my memory is more like a goldfisheseseses.
No one is awake at 4am except crackheads and bakers! When I bike to Tartine at this ungodly hour, I bike like zombies are chasing me (the fast "28 Days Later" kind of zombies, not the slow "Walking Dead" kind). I hope I don't come across humans (or zombies) because most likely they're up to no good and will surely steal my junior high bike and break my knee-caps if they spot me. #fact
This would be the part where I'd cue a song and show you all the beautiful things I've been working on, but sadly, I've got nothing for you. Pulling out your phone at work to take selfies and food porn photos are frowned upon- I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to have a photo shoot with croissants/cookies/cakes/bread/bars etc. Where's a Google Glass to take surreptitious pics when I need one?!
If you'd like to see me in action and eat all the pastries, come visit me! I've got only 3 weeks left!