Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Reflections on a Feast - TMT 2015

AndBefore I begin, I want to emphasize to any of my readers that the purpose of this blog is for me. It is a place I can reflect on my experiences and share my works, but most importantly it is a place for me to be brutally honest about what I do so I can learn. It helps me to explore why things work or don't, and give me things to look back on.

For starters, this was a very rough feast for me.

I'm not saying this was a bad feast, in many ways it was a success. Food was good, plenty of noms for folks, the shtick was lovely and everyone dining had a great time. Most people never really saw the cracks in the foundation either, which is also a success. This feast, by many standards of measurement, was a success and thus was a good feast. But this doesn't make it smooth or less than rough.

1) Feast Planning - My first stumbling blocks were at the very beginning with my feast planning. Now I had plenty of work into this, many test feasts and culinary food runs helped me plan this one out months before. I had a good firm foundation of planning, but things distracted me towards the end. The stress and strain of my job, combined with the stress and strain that this began to put on my relationships, distracted me.

What this caused was me to make a quite dramatic mathematical error in planning my shopping. While shopping for dry goods it wasn't too obvious, but as the food numbers began to add up with the produce and meat I was suddenly made quite aware. This was a rocky start to my weekend, which I had to scramble to correct. It also became difficult because I had purchased many dry ingredients slowly over the weeks and in many ways I overbought on too much.

As well, in the hustle and bustle many small items got left. My feast box had many pieces missing that I forgot to account for, and some really vital equipment didn't make it to site. This made me have to shuffle around to deal with site equipment, and more often than not I did not have everything I needed to provide to my volunteers.

2) On Site Prep (Friday/Saturday) - Friday was a long day. Yes I completed every task I needed to, but I poorly scheduled out many items. I was so focused on accomplishing prep goals on Friday that i overloaded myself on tiny tasks to get done. There were several small things that I should had done earlier in the week to make my life easier (see previous mention of former job stress being a distraction) that instead I tried to cram into the event and clogged me quite a bit.

Another thing that really hurt me was injuring myself. Yes I have hurt myself before (and probably will in the future), but the severity of this injury shook my confidence and really wrecked me. I was being cocky, cutting too much too quickly, and took a nice chunk out of my pinky. It bled for 2 hours, the wound gaped open and by all rights I should have simply gotten stitches. But I didn't, on reflection a poor choice. This made me go a bit unhinged and took the wind out of my sails.

What I mean by this is that while I normally have a great confidence in my ability, after 2 hours of being stuck and bleeding I started to second guess everything I did. I got nervous, uncomfortable and unsure. Dishes I had been practicing for months I wanted to suddenly change, I was unsure of portion control. Thank the gods I had my Laurel and one of my best cooking friends in the kitchen for me, to sometimes even smack me around when I needed it.

When I get nervous and uncomfortable, I start to get very micromanagie. I want my hands on everything, to grab and hold it tight when I don't feel I'm in control. More times than not this weekend I was in total control, but because I did not feel it I caused nothing but issues. There were times Madhavi had to force me away from a thing, because I just didn't need to be involved in what was going on.

3) Clean-up/departure - With my original clean-up plans falling through several times, having grabbed someone to cover the food replacement plan was nice. I still had issues here, because now that nerves were over I wasn't as focused on clean-up as I should have been. I don't feel I was polite to my fellow Cook and I felt like I did not set her up for success as much as I'd like to. I tried to get my things out as early as I could muster, but I know I was still muchly in her way.

As far as food removal, I feel I was less than stellar. I know I grabbed my leftovers that I knew were staged, but I know for a fact I left dry goods by accident on site. I fear I may have left more, and hopefully a good beat down from Wolfmom will better help me correct myself in the future. 

I know that there is a lot of things I did well, a lot of kitchen wizardry I pulled from my hood to make some magic happen. The food tasted great, the portions worked and every guest had an amazing time. But I feel it's important to recognize not just my successes, but my mistakes. It's how I learn, it's how I grow as a person and an apprentice. 

Next post will be much more positive, as well as a discussion of my favorite moments. But for today, I acknowledge my mistakes and am happy to have the learning experience.