The Foodish Boy on Chef Duty in Iceland
Our contributor heads to Iceland to work the 'back of the house' while in search of new Nordic cuisine
June 21, 2013 is a day I'll never forget. Having spent two days working lunch shifts, I stepped into my chef whites for the first time to cook a dinner service for a fully booked Dill Restaurant.
I really don't like to make life easy for myself. My first time in a professional kitchen and I’m here to help lead a seven-course tasting menu at Iceland's leading restaurant? Heart pounding, hands shaking, butterflies in my stomach, I hadn't felt this nervous since my first piano exam.
"Lexi, table four. Four snacks. Go!" Chef Gunnar calls the first order for the snack and amuse-bouche. Deep breath. Here we go... snack ready. "Service," I announce as I send out my first ever dish in a professional kitchen. I've never felt so alive. The buzz and adrenaline are incredible.
Steadily the tables started to fill up and the pace quickened rapidly. Dill has an open kitchen and diners can keep a watchful eye on your every step. "Lexi, always keep good posture and cook with energy and grace." Certainly an aspect I never considered when cooking at home (unless I'm trying to impress a woman, of course).
Snacks complete, it was time to take down the station and move onto the main substance of the menu. Plating up the first course of rutabaga, cheese foam, sweet and sour dill sauce, and crispy millet, I was still struggling to fathom how such responsibility had been given to someone with no kitchen experience beyond two days training. I had to pinch myself... yes, it was really happening.
The next few hours flew by in a daze of color and heat. I became so engrossed in the orders I sometimes lost all sense of my surroundings. "Lexi, when I say something you respond yes. If we were in France you'd have to answer 'oui chef' because the French will be French." Chef Arnar jokingly made sure I maintained good communication in the midst of chaos.
Before I knew it, the first five courses were complete and only the puddings remained. Relieved to get away from the hot stove, it was time for some fun with the liquid nitrogen.
At the end of a grueling 14-hour shift I sat down for an ice-cold beer with Gunnar, Arnar, and head waiter Tumi. As I gazed at the early-morning light on the longest day of the year, I struggled to take in what an incredible experience this had been. It really was a midsummer night's dream.
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