Working in a kitchen has always been a pleasure for me ever since I landed a job in a restaurant. I was a teenager then and my prior experience with cooking extended only to the occasional grilled cheese sandwich. But I found myself in desperate need of a job. Any job.
So, I took a job busing tables for a new restaurant. It was grueling work that lasted well into the night, as the bar area was just getting into full swing at nine.
I kept at it though, as the steady paycheck was a privilege during the recession.
I watched as cooks came and went, each, it seemed, mumbled some inaudible expletive on their way out the swinging door.
One Friday night there wasn't a cook to be had and the restaurant was set to open in an hour.
"Who's going to prep?"
"Make salad dressings and pan gravy?" the wait staff was panicked as the enormity of the problem set in. The restaurant's owner was gong through a divorce and couldn't be located in his time of sorrow.
"I'll do it." I said. I'd seen the process, watched them mix and stir and shout. "I can do it."
"Really?" Trina looked at me incredulously.
"It's not rocket science." I assured her and grabbed a clean apron, washed my hands and assumed my position.
I't's not rocket science became my mantra and I mixed and stirred and shouted like the best of them.
And I was hooked.
My efforts came to the attention of the owner and I was rewarded with a new position (literally overnight) and title: Kitchen Manager.
I was confident; for once my ignorance precluded me from being afraid of such a responsibility. That is until the chili ran out and there was no recipe~anywhere. Mind you, these were pre~internet times where a Tex~Mex recipe inquiry necessitated a trip to the library.
So I winged.
Anything was better than what Sharon had made, which can best be described as home style spaghetti with chili powder; it was that bad and hardly ever requested.
A little of this. A little of that. And several jalapenos later, Voila!
I don't know how I concocted this chili ~ supposedly borne of the southwest but the owner was impressed and promptly added it to the menu in cup and bowl sizes, where before it was only a burger condiment.
"Good news!" My boss chirped uncharacteristically. "We're gonna be reviewed by a food writer at Bon Appetit!
He wasn't kidding.
She came and went before I could catch a glimpse of her. I didn't even know what she'd ordered (really).
It soon became evident what this mysterious diner had feasted on as I read the article:
". . . quaint restaurant . . . mis~matched chairs . . . converted depot . . .and the chili is amazing with it's unmistakable southwestern flavor."
One just never knows what they'll create.