Monday, March 17, 2008

My experience working at a commercial kitchen

I had an opportunity working at a restaurant kitchen for three days by volunteering food preparation for Washington Middle School’s fund raising auction. The restaurant was St. clouds(1). I was very excited working in the commercial kitchen for the first time. John Platt, who is owner and the chef at St. clouds, was very nice to let us use his kitchen and gave us cooking instructions. Our job was mainly peeling, cutting, chopping, and mixing vegetables and other ingredients. Some people may think it is boring and tiring. But I love cooking and loved this task. I brought my Japanese knife and tried it out then borrowed the restaurant's knife. I learned while my Japanese knife may be good to cut large pieces or slicing vegetables, I liked using the restaurant’s knife which was more efficient chopping vegetables into very small pieces than my knife.

One of dishes which I helped cooking was bread pudding. It is interesting coincidence that I helped making the bread pudding after I wrote about the pudding in the British food. I asked JohnP if this pudding was British. He told me we were preparing French pudding not British. According to him, French loved bread and made pudding using day old bread.

At my first day at St. clouds, my job was peeling and slicing onions. Two of us tackled many onions. Amazingly we had no tears in our eyes. Next I chopped and minced fresh thyme. All chopped onions were placed into huge metal pans with melted butter and oil on the bottom and spices and minced fresh thyme and other spices were added to it. I mixed these onions with all sort of spices with my rubber-gloved hands. Onions were ready to be cooked to be caramelized in the oven. Meanwhile, other volunteers were cutting the crust off from day-old bread which the head of food preparation volunteers got free from Essential baking Co.(2). Essential baking Co. is one of the best bakeries in Seattle. The day-old bread was still tasted delicious. I helped cutting crust off bread and non crust part into smaller pieces while I snacked delicious crust which would go to composed bin soon.

At the second day, onions were already caramelized and ready to be used. I spread one layer of chopped bead into 8 large metal pans. Other volunteers were chopping pears into small pieces and cooked them with caramelized onion in a large frying pan. The pears looked like red potatoes. Two of us spread onion-pear mix in the pans. We added another layer of bread pieces. Meanwhile, two ladies were mixing eggs, milk, cream, and blue cheese with spices in the large container. We got this egg and milk mixture and mixed well and pour into the eight pans. Our final task for pudding was pushing bread down to soak into the liquid to prevent being dry. JohnP told me push floating bread pieces down every 20 minutes. While I waited to press bread pieces into liquid, I helped chopping a lot of pickled green olives into paper corn size to prepare Olive Tapanade.

Final day at the restaurant kitchen, I chopped chives for the Tapanade. I washed many pans, knifes, pots, spoons and everything. I was surprised that dish washing machine was not like one at my house. I scrubbed and rinsed to remove any food waste on the pans. The dish washing machine rinses dishes or anything inside twice and sanitizes them. It only took about 5 minutes. The restaurant doesn’t need many plates using this machine. Only it need person pre-washed dishes and insert it to dish washer. The last task was to help rotating 6 bread pudding pans clockwise from bottom to top, left to right every 20 minutes. This will help cooking pudding in the pans evenly. The pan was very heavy. The chef has to have muscle.

These were my three days’ experience working at restaurant’s commercial kitchen.

I enjoyed meeting and talking other volunteers at St. clouds. I was excited going to auction to help final preparation for 2 hours in advance. And I will be the guest to try out the final meal after 3 days of our hard work. Please read my next blog article to find out the meal at the WMS auction night.

(1)St. Clouds restaurant website.
(2) Essential Baking CO. website:

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