I stab them.

If you’ve never worked in a restaurant, you may have only ever seen a check spindle on TV. I call it a stabber. In the kitchen and the bar, it’s used when a check is complete and the food/drink has been delivered to the guest.

In the office, I use it to signify the day’s end. I have a tall pile of stabbed to-do lists that goes back 6 months on my desk.

This is my to-do list for today. Got to much of it. More for tomorrow.

Reconcile cash
Update all house account charges
Update entertainment list on restaurant website
-Update beer lists in the bar books
-Update menus on internal website for staff
Re-order business cards for executive chef
Complete unemployment paperwork for former employee
-Follow up on upcoming food drive
Pick up tri-fold brochures from the printer (http://www.cranberrytwp.minutemanpress.com/ if you’re interested, and they’re going to deliver, thank goodness)
-Figure out how to make vacation days accrue on paychecks
Create agenda for manager meeting
-Tell staff that they did such a good job finding glass flaws that we’re getting 7.5 dozen glasses as credits
-Write down 10 strengths for co-worker
-Work on November e-newsletter
Post on the blog

Blogging (present participle of “blog”): Add new material to or regularly updating a blog

I’m the office manager at Restaurant ECHO, so I end up having quite a mixed bag of responsibilities, tasks and (okay, okay) fun. The blog was my idea, and I think it’s time I take a bigger bite of the job of blogging. I’m not entirely sure what kind of content I can regularly generate, but I’m willing to think creatively (and take my lumps). I’m also a more newly-minted restaurant person. I continue to make comparisons to the offices and corporations of my previous work experience. Some of it holds; some of it doesn’t.

Like many of you, I’m a consumer of food and (sometimes) the Food Network. A big part of their appeal seems to be the behind-the-scenes operations of creating food, especially in restaurants. We have one of those. I get to see the behind-the-scenes operations every day.

When chefs arrive, they get dressed and start the business of preparing their stations (sauté, grill, garde manger, etc.). This involves physically checking the station, butchering meat, preparing sauces, chopping vegetables, and verifying that every part of the station is ready for service. It involves a lot of list-making and checking-off. And it’s scored with the daily flavor of music, which yesterday was the Mumford & Sons channel on Pandora or Spotify (I forget which one). Mumford & Sons is a little mellow for us; you’re more apt to hear 1980s Michael Jackson or 1990s metal.

At this time of day, I like the energy in the air.

It’s not like office energy – typing or answering a ringing phone. It’s an energy that nudges each of my senses. My ears hear rhythmic chopping, sudden laughs and music. My eyes see bright colors and stark reality – a bucket of peppers or a pile of salmon heads, ready for compost. My skin feels the warmth and humidity of the room itself. My nose loses and wins at this time of day… I win when french onion soup is bubbling away and I get a whiff. I lose when the onions are being peeled.

Tasting is the strangest part of working in a restaurant. The chefs around me really love food and the process of cooking it. And any food I eat makes their work harder and their days longer.

Today I have canned soup.

CSAs

What’s a CSA?

“CSA” stands for Community Supported Agriculture. In practice, it means that somebody (I, for example) pay some amount of money to a farm or group of farms at the beginning of the growing season. In return, I receive weekly (or bi-weekly) harvests from the farm, usually in a box.

More about CSAs here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community-supported_agriculture

In western PA, we’re lucky to have so many different types of farms, and thus, fresh farm products. CSA boxes in our area vary by season, but it’s not unusual to receive onions, carrots, peppers, corn, cheese, herbs and beets in summer months.

Why would I ever want to do a CSA?

Most importantly, the food coming from a CSA box TASTES GREAT and is HEALTHY. It’s local food which has not traveled 500-2500 miles in a refrigerated truck to reach you. It has been picked when ripe, not ripened in a store. Because of the short time between harvest and consumption, the nutrient content of the food is high. Things taste the way you remember them tasting.

Participating in a CSA supports the local economy. It also encourages creativity in the kitchen. Rather than preparing your usual mix of fruits and vegetables, that CSA box will having you pulling out old recipes and searching for new ones. You’ll discover new favorites and improve cooking techniques. If you head out of town on vacation, you may end up sharing that week’s items with a neighbor (“c” is for community).

This sounds like a lot… but I’m thinking it over.

Consider splitting a CSA box with a friend, neighbor or relative. You’ll lessen your cost and cooking obligations.

Where can I find out more?

There are CSAs all over the area. Here are a few:

http://www.pennscorner.com/csa-faqs
http://www.kretschmannfarm.com/Signup12.html
http://blackberrymeadows.wordpress.com/
http://harvestvalleyfarms.com/csa-program/
http://sarverhillfarm.org/index.html/?page_id=290