I've come to appreciate dusk. It's the time of day that I am least likely to be outdoors, as I find myself on most days to be busy preparing for the evening's service. I hadn't really thought much of this particular time of day until it came up in conversation one late afternoon with Michael Laiskonis, who has a particular appreciation for the fading light. He hasn't seen much of it either in his career. Since then, I always try to catch at least a fleeting glance at this special type of light that presents itself for a few moments daily.
I separate my days into two smaller days, preparation and service. It takes two different mentalities or states of focus to be successful at either periods of the day. Without winning one, you surely will not win the other. The prep part of the day is when I am at my most aggressive and frantic, more multitasking is needed during this time of day. There are stations to watch, to check the preparation of our many ingredients; deliveries, ensuring that the product is correct as it comes in the door; talking with our fish contacts to find out what is coming out of the waters days ahead so that we can correctly plan our week. I prefer a tough prep with an easy service than the other way around.
When the lights go down for service in our kitchen, my focus narrows significantly. I am concerned only with what is coming to the pass and what is put on the plate. This is not the time for phone calls to purveyors, to ponder future menu planning, or to even consider what the next day holds in store for us. Only this service matters at this point, and only the happiness of our guests is what is on my mind. Seasoning, temperature, proper execution. Is the plate hot yet not too hot? Is the Dover sole being overcooked in the poacher? Are we keeping pace so as not to be forced to hold table fires later in the evening? Only until the very last plate has walked from the kitchen do I focus on anything else.
In between these two parts that make up my day, I try to take a moment to myself outside. I have found that this is vitally important to switching my perspective from prep to service. To change gears from the hectic nature of preparation and all that it entailed to a state of dilligence and focus for the evening ahead.
Across the alleyway from our backdoor lies a 4 story apartment complex. For years I have gazed across at this old, converted brick structure, trying to collect my thoughts. On the second floor of this building, a person I have never met or even set eyes upon practices the violin nightly. Every once in a while I can pick out the melody being practiced, a bit of Schubert or a touch of Mahler. I am always surprised by the powerful nature of memory derived from music, touching a lost memory in me from a time when I was passionate about something besides cooking, before I became totally consumed by my life's work. It at times can be saddening to contemplate, but most evenings I find these reverberations of these strings calming, helping in my daily movement from light to dark, from frantic to focused, from prep to service. A moment of dusk.
More news soon.......