Megan came by the Patio Grille today with the grandkids, and I showed them the enormous roaring fire I cook on and then took them inside for a kitchen tour. Megan was actually kind of moderately impressed (always a great reaction for a parent) but she wanted to know what I did before Bilal and I go out to cook.
“Prep,” I said. It was true, and I didn’t want to give her my hyperbolic version … that every day is a goddam horserace cranking out prep and guessing what’s enough. Chef Joe has told me to come in as early as I feel comfortable doing, and I almost told him there is no comfort level. But that would be too much information.
Every day I start with the stuff that takes time: roasting chickens, roasting tomatoes, roasting corn for corn salsa, making tomato salsa, caramelizing onions, making croutons, toasting almonds. Bilal is doing the dressings we make (Buttermilk-Chive and Chile-Lime), and I steal Caesar and Balsamic Vinaigrette that the cold line makes. Bilal also does the veg gazpacho, roasted red pepper soup and sour apple-onion barbecue sauce.
Then I go down the checklist of stuff to chop: strawberries, mozzarella, tomatoes, burger sets (red onion slice, two tomato slices, halved dill pickle and lettuce leaf), quartered cukes, shredded cheese blah blah blah. Then I marinate chicken breasts and flatiron steaks, check that we have enough duck, pork, salmon and tuna and stick my nose deeply into the marinated shrimp to make sure it’s okay. Then I check stuff like quesadilla mix, hummus or spinach dip for the amuse bouche, endive marinade and mango ketchup.
Our prep list is two pages, single-spaced. Maybe 80 items. We need all of them every day because as soon as you don’t have something, you get an order for it. There’s the reverse, too … grill off extra steaks and you won’t sell any.
So that’s what I do, Meg. Thanks for asking.