A Pastry Chef's Thanksgiving

 Sunday, November 25, 2012

Turkey Dinner #1, mostly pie
One of the worst parts of working in a restaurant is having to work the holidays. Since I've started professionally baking, I've always been at restaurants that were open 365 days a year. The first year I had to work on Christmas, I bawled my eyes out in the walk-in refrigerator. Thinking about how my family was opening presents and listening to Christmas carols while I worked brunch service (something that would make anyone want to cry regardless of it being a holiday...) was just too much for me, and I had a tiny meltdown. Fortunately, one of my coworkers found me, gave me a hug, and told me to get my ass back upstairs to work. Since then, I've toughened up considerably and working the holidays has become a slight annoyance, but nothing that will cause tears. I've come to view my coworkers as a family, albeit a very, very dysfunctional family and spending the holidays with these people now feels almost normal to me.

It was also one of our chef's mom's birthdays
This Thanksgiving was the first holiday our restaurant was opened for, and it sort of caught me by surprise. With the whole month of trying to transition to an entirely new dessert menu, the hurricane, and my birthday, I kind of forgot about Thanksgiving. I was trying to cram too much into that week, and while everything got done, there were stressful moments. Like when I showed up on Thursday to realize that not only did we have just one working oven (which has been the case for a few weeks now), pastry would need to share it with all the turkey-roasting. And we were opening for dinner service four hours earlier. So all the bread, turkeys, assorted side dishes, and desserts needed to come out of one oven in about half the time we normally have. No sweat, right? Um, cue the tears in the walk-in....Almost.

Pastry's contribution for family meal
The chef/cook team cobbled together a "family meal" for our staff- the term used for the pre-shift meals a lot of restaurants have for employees. I made a couple apple crisps (one of my favorite things to bake, using the same recipe I learned in preschool, no joke) and pecan pies. Kristen, my sous chef, and I sat down to quickly eat some turkey, but weren't really into the side dishes. What amazes me about Thanksgiving is how every family has a roster of side dishes that is particular and unique to them, and every family thinks others makes the exact same sides. For instance, I wrongly believed every family had Stovetop stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, and canned cranberry sauce. Whoever prepared our family meal thought the standards are brussel sprouts, collard greens, and mashed sweet potatoes. And maybe they're onto something...Those mashed sweet potatoes were delicious.


Feeling relatively unsatisfied though, we begged a friend to stop at Wawa on his way to work and bring us a turkey bowl. For those of you unfamiliar with Wawa, you're missing out. It's pretty much the best convenience store you can imagine, but better. Turkey bowls were delivered and consumed, ovens were cleared, and things were looking up.

About an hour later, a server misfired a dinner, so Kristen and I ended up with a turkey dinner for 4, making that our third turkey meal in under three hours. Which made this day maybe the best Thanksgiving ever by some people's standards. We sold a lot of desserts, had some fun, and at the end, went out for some beers.

Pecan Pie Bread Pudding with Maple Bourbon Ice Cream
Thursday also marked the end of my 1 month trial period, and I'm happy to say it went well and my promotion to executive pastry chef is now official. That is definitely something big to be thankful for. I'm excited about the month to come. Holiday season is one of the best baking seasons, and this year will be no different. Stay tuned for a giant gingerbread display that Kristen and I are putting together. It's going to be epic. Or a major fail. We shall see...


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