You know, starting something new is never easy. Like take my blog for example. Yes, I have had this blog since October 2010 and every now and then, when I feel like it and when there is a full moon and the stars align, I might actually post something in my blog. But really, it has just been used as a tool to post information about my raw food classes and I admittedly have not been consistent.
So let’s just say that today, on the eve of my 36th birthday, I am starting anew…and no, it’s not easy. It’s not easy because in my head, I have made it difficult. I don’t want to “mess up” my blog. I don’t want to write stories that people won’t care about. I don’t want to be insignificant. But now I realize that my entire life IS full of significance and that people really do want to hear about me and my daily activities (as crazy as that often sounds to me). I usually get about 3-4 inquiries a week about “how things are going at Wynn?” or “how are things going with your chef business?”. I never knew that people were actually interested in what I do. But I have some very interesting and funny stories about my personal chef business and my time at the fabulous Wynn Las Vegas Banquet and Catering Kitchen and so this is where I begin…I recently celebrated my one year anniversary working at Wynn and my time there has been filled with life’s learning lessons complete with laughter, tears, sweat and blood…literally. I’m not gonna give you all of the lessons and stories today, but I will tell the story that I feel is most relevant to my entire experience at Wynn thus far. I had an “aha” moment the other day…when I burned the Crème Brulee.
Since my first day, I have felt and quite honestly, have been the “black sheep” of the Wynn Catering and Banquets Kitchen. I am the ONLY vegan who works in Catering and Banquets and its safe to say that I am the only vegan who works in Food and Beverage on the entire Wynn and Encore property. Prior to working at Wynn, I had not touched meat in 12 years. Let me just say that going from preparing baked tofu cutlets to searing raw fleshy bloody filet mignon was an adjustment. And this adjustment carries over to all aspects of the kitchen. Here is my story:
Last week, on a lovely and very very very early (4am early) Wednesday morning, I arrive at the Wynn Kitchen ready to learn new and exciting techniques, sharpen my skills and take on the world in the pastry department. I am given the task of cooking 500 crème brulee cups for the week. I immediately get to work and count out my ramekins and begin the task of filling each one to the perfect amount. I double check the temperature on the oven and make sure it is set to 225 degrees and then I gently place all the crème brulee in the oven, rack by rack. No need to put on the timer, because last time the crème brulee took about an hour or so to cook. So I thought.
I go about my other tasks and leave the crème brulee in the oven to bake, and bake, and bake, and bake and bake…and after a bathroom break, I come back to the kitchen and see one of my co-workers pulling what I thought were perfectly cooked crème brulee out of the oven. But behind her was the morning pastry chef scowling at me with a very disapproving eye and another pastry chef shaking her head saying “Stacey Stacey Stacey”. Apparently, I was a bit off on my timing because in the huge industrial ovens in the Wynn Kitchen, the crème brulee only take about 20-25 minutes to cook. Crème brulee is not supposed to come out of the oven with a light brown crust on them. The light brown crust is induced by adding sugar and burning the tops.
Now if you would’ve caught me a few months ago, I would have felt terrible for burning the crème brulee. I would’ve beat myself up, replaying the scenario over and over in my head and even telling myself that “I am no good as a chef, I suck, and I should, in the words of the judges of Top Chef “pack my knives and go””. But this wasn’t the case today. Today I am more confident. So I first attempted to explain to the pastry chef the reason why I kept the crème brulee in the oven for so long. But I was quickly met with a disdainful retort of “that’s not the point”. Based on the chefs’ reaction, something inside me told me to switch gears…so I did. I immediately apologized, and my apology went a little something like this “I apologize for burning the crème brulee, I did not do it on purpose and it will not happen again”. Silence. No retort. Nothing. So I went about preparing another 250 crème brulee (only half of them were burned) and I was able to execute with success. You see, I know where my heart lies and I know that I am going to make mistakes. It is inevitable. I will not beat myself up or allow anyone else to beat me up because of a mistake that I made.
The interesting part of this scenario comes from the executive chef of the entire kitchen. He is the big boss and if you can avoid making mistakes in front of him, you should. He came in the pastry kitchen and saw the crème brulee. He immediately thought it was one of my co-workers who was responsible for burning them. I did not want to run from the blame so I fessed up and told the chef that it was indeed, I, who burned the crème brulee. He looked at me, smiled and said “this is not tofu Stacey” and walked away. I thought it was funny, and so did everyone else in the pastry kitchen. Heck, if the executive chef is not upset then why should we be? But one thing I know, and the executive chef understands is that I am new to this entire field of non-vegan food preparation. Preparing food with eggs and milk and crème and flesh and all manner of animal parts is not what I am used to so I am at a slight disadvantage. I am literally learning on the job. Who knew that the crème brulee, if cooked too long would turn to scrambled eggs? I guess everyone except me. But the moral of this story is this: Give me time. Time is my friend and my teacher. My mistakes are gifts to teach me lessons on patience and steadfastness. From now on, I will be much more careful in my cooking. I will not offer excuses because people don’t want to hear them. What people want to hear is humility and now I understand. I will be the first to apologize, admit my mistakes, learn from them and move on.