Sunday, December 23, 2007

Breakfast Merry-Go-Round

The Holiday period brings a slowing down in our business. In a business hotel like ours, the guest count declines steadily in the week leading up to Christmas and does not start to build up again until Jan. 2nd. The level of occupancy is at such a low ebb that we open for breakfast only during the 10 days from Dec. 22nd to Jan. 1st. Regrettably, closing completely on Christmas Day or New Year's Day is not an option: our parent corporation demands breakfast 365 days a year.

My 3 cooks (2 of them brothers and all 3 Mexican) requested the Holiday period off. Since we weren't open for dinner for 10 days, it was no problem to give Miguel, my dinner cook, the time off. But as for my 2 breakfast cooks, one full-time and one weekend, if I gave them the time off, who would cook breakfast? You already know the answer.

In an attempt to create some goodwill in my attempt to turn this ragtag group, with their varying levels of experience and commitment, into something approaching a professional team, I decided to give all 3 the 10 days off. Given that I worked the week before this Holiday period began, and will work the several days after until the weekend blessedly rolls around, I've denied myself a day off for the best part of 3 weeks straight. The saving grace is that breakfast only requires my presence for about 6 hours a day, but that day begins when I roll out of bed at 5:30. I'm a quick mover in the morning, so after a 15 minute drive, I'm in my kitchen by 6:00

Turn on the lights, the ovens, the flat-top grill, the deep-fryer, the steamtable, the heat lamp and the hot well for the oatmeal. Start the oatmeal cooking (I don't believe in quick oats: even the 5-minute variety cook for 30 minutes in my kitchen, and I make it with half water, half milk for a rich, creamy, fully-cooked oatmeal that needs no additions, though we surround it with raisins, brown sugar and walnuts). Put the bacon and sausage in the oven, quiche if it's on the mneu that day, set the timer. The timer is critical: without it, something will burn, guaranteed. Toss a few pounds of cooked, diced potatoes on the now-hot oiled flat-top, leave them undisturbed to brown. Set out the bowls of fruit on ice; canteloupe, honeydew, watermelon, pineapple, sliced peaches, mandarin oranges and, oh yes, prunes. Fill the juice dispensers; orange, apple and grapefruit. Turn the bacon and sausage in the oven, re-set the timer. Put the scones and muffins in the oven, set the second timer. Make a small amount of pancake and waffle batters. Don't forget to stir the oatmeal.

Remove the browned potatoes from the grill, put them in the steamtable. Clean off the grill, grease it with fresh oil, dip the French toast in batter and lay it on the grill. Take the bacon and sausage out of the oven and put in the steamtable, saving the bacon grease (still one of the world's great seasonings). Flip the French Toast. Breathe. take the muffins and scones out of the oven, set them on a rack to cool. Grab the day's first cup of coffee (the opening server made that, one thing you didn't have to). Remember something you forgot. Put the oatmeal in a bain-marie and set it in the hot well. Take off the French Toast, slice it, dust with powdered sugar, set in steamtable. Clean of grill one more time,oil it and pour on a healthy quantity of beaten eggs, scramble quickly and set in steamtable. Set the scones and muffins in a basket in the serving area. Grab the container of serving utensils, do a quick dash around the stations, setting out tongs and spoons. Set out quiche, if it's a quiche day. Or maybe biscuits and gravy, or breakfast burritos, or......! Set up mini-pitchers of pancake syrup in the steamtable. Check supplies of omelette ingredients. Check the clock. 6:55. Just made it. Pause for another breath. Dash to the bathroom. Make it back just in time for the first customer.

I'm now into my 8th day on this breakfast go-around and one day blends into the next, especially over the Holiday season, so that I have a hard time remembering what day it is, which is a bit of a problem because I have particular obligations on certain days in terms of ordering from particular vendors. Christmas Day came and went without much fanfare on my part. I worked 7 hours, drove over to our other house which we're remodelling, spent 3 hours or so there, working on the landscaping and went home. The rest of the family was at my wife's mother's house, which I find dreadfully dull, so I pleaded exhaustion and spent a pleasant evening in my own company. Tomorrow is my birthday and yes, I'm cooking on my birthday too so that will pass without fanfare. Who needs to be reminded after 50? New Year's Eve? Yes. New Year's Day? Yes. My breakfast stint finally ends on Jan. 2nd, but after that I go back to my regular routine. I finally get a day off on the 5th. Time to go fishing!

1 comment:

dubaibilly said...


I'm a fellow expatriate Bolton Wanderers supporter - I thought I'd look at some of the blogs by people who list BWFC as an interest. Got to say that was very altruistic of you to give your staff the holiday whilst working yourself - a boss like you deserves to have very good staff.

Have a great 2008.

Cheers, Dubaibilly