May 2, 2017
New Intern Day at 1O8
Yesterday was the one year anniversary of progress. We cannot say thank you enough. You guys are amazing for supporting us in our dream. We have so much in store for you this year.
We hired several new guys this week. I’ve mentioned that we have a LOT of nationalities represented at 1O8. The hot section is essentially all Italians, cold section is a pretty global mesh, and pastry is the Spanish speaking section. And now we have a Korean section, holding down garnish on the hot side. They’re good. They picked up really quickly on how service runs, rather than the two or three week learning curve which most people need. It finally feels like we have enough people in the kitchen, which is good, because we’re doing a LOT of covers now that the weather is warming up. We did the biggest night since I’ve been here this week: 182. The terrace is supposed to open this week, which is going to mean we’ll be having 200-250 cover days. I’m terrified. Everyone here talks about summer like they talk about winter on Game of Thrones. They whisper about it with big, scared eyes. They say, “summer is coming.”
I had a dream this week that I was at noma Mexico, which the Washington Post has called “the meal of the decade.” Most people would dream that they were eating there, right? Not me, in my dream, I was still an intern—working.
This city is finally starting to feel like home, just in time for me to leave. One night, I told one of the servers, “If I had a life here, this place would have ruined it,” referencing the huge number of hours we put in, creating a complete lack of personal or social life. She told me, “But if you think about it, this is your life.” I’ve been looking at my time here as, well, not my life. The person I am here isn’t who I’ve been. Or, at least, I didn’t think it was. It’s been a slow evolution, a subtle continuum of change. But I have changed, and I have come to embrace this place and what I’m doing here. It feels nice to be fully settled in here. It makes me feel very torn about leaving, much more so than I thought I would.
Regarding the hours we work, it’s very mentally draining. We’re in that building so much, we forget that it’s spring outside. We forget about functional lives. We forget what it’s like to have relationships or time to yourself. You hear people say things like, I haven’t seen my boyfriend or girlfriend in a week, and they live together. Sometimes, we get home at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. and we stay up. We stay up and eat cold leftovers on the floor of the kitchen while we watch TV on your laptop. Or we chain smoke on your balcony while we drink wine and listen to Frank Sinatra. Or we just lie in bed and watch videos on youtube. We do these things, these things that keep you awake and steal the precious hours of sleep you’re allotted, because sometimes we just NEED, so badly, some time to ourselves. People ask me to hang out on my days off, but usually I don’t. I don’t because I want and need to be alone. I need to sit in a quiet apartment and read a book. I need to walk in the park by myself. I need to just not be around people, because I know that I’m going to be standing inches apart from them for another 80 hours this week. It’s nothing personal, it’s just very personal.
I did hang out with one of the bakers yesterday. And, no, we’re not dating, as many have asked and speculated. We ate cheesecake for breakfast (because we’re adults), shopped for things we didn’t need, and laid in the grass in the botanical gardens, mumbling back and forth to each other all the absurd, repetitive phrases we hear in the kitchen every day, until we laughed ourselves to tears. It was a good day.
I had a thought the other night on my way home from work. I thought, the only people out at 3 a.m. are chefs, drunks, and drunk chefs.
The new batch of interns started today, and we’re all anxious to see if they’ll be any good, or how quickly they’ll quit. I’ve been thinking about what advice I should give them, if any. There’s a lot I could say, but I think the most sage advice I could give can be distilled down into this: you get out what you put in. If you work hard and ask a ludicrous amount of questions, you’ll learn and you’ll grow, and you might stick. But if you expect things to be easy or spoon-fed to you, you’re going to sink and you’re going to quit.
Here are some absolutely insane facts about 1O8: our napkins are hand-made and get sent back to the woman who made them, so she can HAND WASH them. Our plates are hand-made. Our cups are hand made. Our silverware took NINE MONTHS to design, and yes, was custom made for our restaurant. Our light fixtures, yes, bespoke. The panes of glass that cage the grill section cost $3,000 EACH. The price tag to build the restaurant is $1.7 million (or maybe that was just the kitchen, I can’t remember).
This week I cooked for the head chef of Faviken, yes, that Faviken. Yes, like the Chef’s Table episode. This week I cooked for chefs from Blue Hill at Sone Barns. Yes, that Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Yes, like the Chef’s Table episode. You cook for these people, you talk to them, you hang out with them after service, and you realize, they’re people, too. I’ve come to realize all these demigods of food that I’d put on such a pedestal, are still people, at the end of the day.
I’m off to go check out the new interns and get the daily kitchen gossip. I hit the lottery this week—the sun is actually shining on my days off.