Thanks Full

Lots to tell, yet no time to tell it…Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration but this series was intended to be one of those day by day (or at least a week to week or every now and then) journal, giving you the inside scoop of life from within the coop- that is Truett’s Grill by Chic-fil-A- through the eyes of a culinarian. Somehow, I’ve convinced myself that I am busy and exhausted and my blog posts have subsequently suffered. So, for now, we’ll jump into the here and now, encountering details here and there that will offer explanation for how we’ve arrived where we are.

This season of thanksgiving has provided me a cornucopia of opportunity. Since the end of April, I’ve been cooking and “cooking” at Truett’s Grill, a diner concept produced by Chic-fil-A Inc. in tandem with the standard quick-service Chic-fli-A restaurant. I’ve rotated through nearly every back-of-house position, ranging from fry station to prep, breading, screens, tickets, grill, and even off loading the truck. I long for the day I will play the role of server. I’ve been told that the replacements must first be secured.

Until then, I’ve been recognized elsewhere, entrusted with the privilege of preparing what is known within the greater part of the industry as staff of family meal. Management gave me and a coworker the uncommon freedom to unfold a Thanksgiving spread. The menu featured fried turkey, baked ham, baked mac’n’ cheese, roasted garlic and Parmesan crusted mashed potatoes, glazed beets and sauteed beet greens, green beans, cornbread dressing, and cranberry sauce followed by a Bailey’s Irish Creme splashed bread pudding and, what we seemed most grateful for, apple pie cheesecake- smooth creamy, nestled in a gingersnap crust, and sliced by a layer of caramelized cinnamon apples and overcome by a walnut crumb topping.

It felt good to once again prepare a meal from start to finish. Speed continues to prove a thorn in my side. With, or without, the food service experience I’ve had so far, I knew that trying to prepare an entire Thanksgiving meal for 80 on the same day of service was not much more than foolish.But in the days approaching, my day to day duties at work didn’t allow much time to bite away at the prep list. The evening before, I did get to chop the potatoes and cook the macaroni noodles. I gathered the ingredients for the cheesecake and headed to the home kitchen to bake…I thought.

After delays, I arrived to begin work after 10 that evening exhausted. Nothing happened till about 11. Ginger snap crumbs, melted butter, baked into a crust. Ten packs of cream cheese slit and ripped open, creamed with sugar via a whisk. (Who know;s where the hand mixer is?). In go my eggs, cream, and flavorings. My arms were whipped, dying of fatigue. Then I noticed stubborn clumps of cream cheese, refusing to homogenize. On to my 2 speed blender. Two cups at a time I loaded the batter in the blender, working it with my wooden spoon., until it was mostly smooth. The white velvet flowed into the coffee brown crust, flowing halfway up the sides of the pan. Apples sliced and spiced, layered carefully over the first layer of batter, blanketed by the next.  Cake baked halfway. Streusel evolved and was then scattered over the cake. Out of the oven golden brown.  I was dragging around the kitchen, sleep hanging on my tail. In between steps I collapsed and dozed off.  The cake did more than survive though, until intrigued eyes, gave way to tantalized tongues during lunch and dinner service.

I made my way to work in the morning,  wading through the crowd of employee’s ready to go on break. I felt the pressure, yet there was still quite a bit to be done. My partner had already begun by the time I arrived. Things happened, and things came together as we too gathered. Before the buffet was assembled, understandably, spoons were digging. We were better prepared for the evening shift, however. Most people seemed to enjoy it and I was grateful for the expression of their appreciation. Every now and then, the validation of the diners approval provides a confirming comfort that this is what I was made for. We can sometimes create what we consider the most spectacular dishes, but what does it matter if there is no one who can enjoy it’s consumption?

I think I’ve said enough. We’ll save room for dessert. Apple pie cheesecake recipe to come!

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