There are times when a Chef’s movements seem unattainable. During school, while us students were awkwardly gripping knives and clumsily spreading batters, the chefs had a fluidity that made a twelve-step demo look like one uninterrupted motion.
They had a tricky way of making every task seem effortless. They functioned in this world where knives only cut in perfectly straight lines and cling-wrap always behaved itself. At times, I was sure that the Chefs and the equipment were in cahoots. Like Snow White and the woodland critters. I conjured up images of 60-year-old portly, German Chefs whistling happy tunes while mixing bowls and balls of bouncing dough danced along in perfect time.
But, when the time came to mimic whatever dish had been demonstrated, I felt more like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The equipment ran amuck, knives became unruly, and in general, everything felt to be at an awkward angle to my body, making soufflés fall and mousses separate.
After awhile, we learned that the perceived easiness was an illusion that would only become available to us after another twenty or so more years of practice. A frustrating revelation to have after a laborious afternoon making two tart that took the chef twenty minutes to produce. It’s a little like a picture menu at a diner where food on your plate never quite matches up.
At my new job (Let’s call the place, “Big City Neighborhood Bakery.”) everyone functions like they’re in the freaking Radio City Spectacular, with perfect choreography, overly stimulating movement, and producing festive, calculated products that people swarm to consume. It’s like the chef’s at school, but instead of making one demonstration plate, we make enough food to feed what seems like all of Boston.
When I was fifteen, I resigned to the fact that I would never be tall enough to become a Rockette. This job, on the other hand, does not have a height requirement. And yesterday, I tackled the art of building cakes in mid-air. For lack of space and time, this is how cake building is done at Big City Neighborhood Bakery. So, I lifted and rotated the cake with one hand and frosted with the other, and for what seemed like the first time, I felt in-step with the rest of the company. I had a rhythm and flow and proudly wished that someone might be watching. In a way, my baffled, former self was watching, hoping that she too might frost cakes in the air some day. I assured her she would.