Thursday, January 10, 2013

Back behind the counter

I'm half-way through the first week of my new job. The very early shift, 2 a.m. -10:30 a.m., is a little weird.  Why?  Because I punch out, come home, have a nap and when I leave to pick up Will from school at 2:30 p.m. I realize I've already worked a full shift.  But, I still have the rest of the day left.  Yes, I have to go to bed very early.  But, I like being able to pick him up from school and be here when Zoe gets home. 

It's fascinating to me that retail is retail is retail.  I'm thinking specifically about the social make-up of the store.  There are still the cliques, usually organized by department, who gossip about each other.  Some people drift in between, but mostly the employees stick with the other people in their own territory.  There are still the personality clashes, the various philosophies towards their work and all that good stuff.  There is still the person who will tell you that the store you're going to is gross and the boss is mean.  Still the same old inter-departmental personality clashes.  Luckily, I'm used to this.  I'll be okay.  

The really early shift consists of frying donuts, baking bagels, baking breads for the deli, baking kolaches, replacing all the product on the racks for preparation for the next day, helping the 4 a.m. bakers with whatever they need assistance with and putting away supplies that have been received before cleaning up and punching out.  

The assistant manager I worked with yesterday showed me a very streamlined way to complete all these tasks in the time allowed.  She's younger than me, but attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York and has worked at a number of resorts giving her a total of 14 years experience in baking.  Her system makes sense and I paid attention.  

My chef instructor's voice is in the back of my head "Mise! Mise! Mise!  Work smarter not harder!  Have everything you need close enough that you don't have to take a step to reach it!  How can you cut out a step to be more efficient?" 

Tuesday, I worked with a man who has been baking for 40+ years.  He's been in the US for 39 years but still isn't 100% fluent in English.  But, his English is better than my Spanish.  Between the two of us we operated the majority of the shift in Spanglish and pantomime.  At one point, he put his hands over mine to show me how to form a ball of dough into a soup bowl loaf.  

Because he knows so much and is so good at what he does, I found myself paying outrageous attention to his instructions.  Have you ever met someone who knows everything about something you want to know everything about?  You want to ask them a million and a half questions and watch what they do. It's like that with me.  I found myself desperate for his approval.  All I wanted to do was have him tell me "Si, bueno."  

He had to keep telling me to stop working the dough.  I like to do that because it feels nice.  

As I was putting pieces of dough onto a sheet pan which would be formed into different products he said "Organize! Organize! Organize!  Vamanos!  Vamanos!"  In other words "Mise!  Mise! Quickly!  Quickly!"  as my chef would say.  

He also circled the loaves I shaped so I could see how mine differed from his when they were baked the next day.  Sadly, I was off my shift the next day before they came out of the oven.  

I'm working with him tomorrow.  I'm bringing a little notebook so I can take notes and draw pictures.  

When I came home from training with him I was overwhelmed and doubting my ability.  But, one day isn't going to decide if I can do the bread baking.  And it's something I really WANT to be good at, which makes me think I'm not going to be able to be good at it.  Why do I think that?  Hell, I don't know, that's why I'm in therapy.  

The bread baking from scratch is going to take practice with both organizing and working with the dough. 

However, when I was making donuts and putting pre-shaped cookie dough on sheet pans, I was VERY organized.  I had the box of dough circles on my right, parchment paper on my left, the sheet pans in front of me and the rack where I'd be placing them right next to me, far enough away that I could just turn at the waist and rack them up.  I'd been told to place 48 on a sheet pan. So, six across then eight across, fill in the grid.  Rack it up.  Parchment on the sheet pan, six across then eight across, fill in the grid. Rack it up. Repeat.  Snickerdoodles are sugar cookies dredged in cinnamon and sugar.  Box of sweet stuff next to my sheet pants.  Count 48 into the box, shake it up, six across then eight across, fill in the grid.  

When I came home yesterday I was SORE, mostly from putting boxes in the freezer and cooler.  The fact that I was sore and tired made me worried.  But I'm going to worry no matter what.  

I have today off.  I will spend it getting something to read at Half Price Books and going to see a movie with the gift card I received from my aunt and uncle for Christmas.  

Tomorrow, I go back and make bread some more.  Here's to hoping I'll get the "Si, bueno" at least once.  

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  A baby washcloth is great for exfoliating your face.  Use gentle pressure and don't forget to get under your chin.  

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