Hurricane Irene came through town and in the kitchen, we were armed with flashlights, ready cook come rain or shine.
Unlike a restaurant or bakery, a hotel can’t simply close the kitchen. A minibar can only sustain a person for so long and the staff can’t leave guests stranded, fending for themselves with mini bottles of vodka and Coffee-Mate. They still need to eat. The cooking must go on.
So, five of us packed our overnight bags to keep the kitchen running as normally as possible. We were assigned roommates, handed hotel room keys, and after dinner service, we were instructed to report back to work at 6:00am the next morning.
We formulated two game plans – The “Power Outage” Plan and The “If We Still Have Power” Plan. The power outage plan involved prepping platters of cold cuts, breads and cheeses to be served buffet style and several individual gas burners that we could use via lantern-light. The with-power plan was for the five of us to continue breakfast, lunch and dinner service as normal.
Despite the ominous skies, the torrential rain, the gusting winds and the leaking ceilings, it was fun. A mixture of adventure, adrenaline and pride pulsed through the kitchen and there was a powerful sense of camaraderie and trust. While others stayed in their houses, cancelled work and cowered from the storm, we carried on.
In fact, while others stopped working, we worked even harder – this knowledge differentiated us from the rest of the world and confirmed what we already knew – we are cooks. We work holidays, we work when the rest of the world sleeps, we work come rain or shine or hurricane. And despite the occasional grumbling, we like that we aren’t in sync with the normal folk. We live differently then the rest because as a general rule, we are different. We’re all a bunch of nut ball, food junkies with a taste for a good adrenaline rush.
During the storm, one of the line cooks took a smoke break on the loading dock as usual and watched the trees bend backwards with unimpressed eyes. A lot more than wind would have to keep us from cooking. Whether or not hotel guests appreciated, or even realized our extra effort is unimportant. We got the job done, we cooked good food, and that is a good day’s work.