The Brae Way

One hour after I landed at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport, I arrived in the city only to depart straightaway, from Southern Cross Train Station, and arrived in Birregurra two hours later.

I wheeled my belongings behind me through a shack of a train station to the parking lot—a thin layer of gravel spread over dirt. I surveyed my surroundings and dry farmland spread before me for miles, with all the hay bundles and cows that come with it. I didn’t see people, cars or buildings. I was in the middle of nowhere.

Two guys who alighted the same train as me were chatting with each other and waiting for someone to pick them up. One of them asked, “Are you waiting for Damien [the sous chef]?” “Yes,” I replied. “Yeah, I figured,” he responded. “No one comes out here unless they’re staging at Brae.”

Welcome to the Brae way.

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Back with the boys

Strangely enough, females have dominated the kitchens I’ve worked in so far on this trip—an anomaly, considering the profession. And it’s been a refreshing environment to be in because I can let a certain guard down. Strength in sisterhood.

But as I walked through the back door of Tippling Club on my first day, I stepped right back into the boys club—though not necessarily a bad thing. It feels familiar which puts me at ease. Welcome back into the fold.

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Could it be?…Willy Wonka’s factory?

When I was instructed to arrive at 37 MacTaggart Road at 7am on my first day, I realized that I wasn’t going to 2am:dessertbar, Chef Janice Wong’s restaurant. Through her Instagram account, I knew that she had to be doing a lot of production for her speciality chocolate candies and catering items, but I assumed that it was all being done at the restaurant. A production facility? Was that where I was headed?

Several thoughts raced through my head. Was I going to be sitting on a production line, slapping stickers on boxes of chocolate? Was I going to be wearing one of those catch-all hairnets? Was I going to learn anything? Wtf, man.

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I make potatoes

Out of the ten or so restaurants I have worked or staged in, only one (Per Se) had deck ovens and a proofing box for bread-making and it was technically not the restaurant’s, but Bouchon Bakery’s, which operated in the same space.

I did not see deck ovens or proofing boxes when I worked at Restaurant Daniel, though admittedly they did exist in the pastry kitchen before I arrived but had since been moved to the commissary Chef Daniel Boulud opened to bake the bread for all his New York City restaurants.

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Bathroom or bottom?

The first day at a stage is undoubtably the hardest. You’re always in the way because there’s never enough room, you never know where to find anything, and no one knows you. Mentally it’s a lonely day.

Now compound this with being in a foreign country where there are language and cultural barriers. I was treading new territory and feeling a bit of trepidation.

I should have known better in Bali.

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