I have recently had the good fortune to be allowed by R. to take my first holiday of the year. It was booked in from early this year, and the excuse I had was that good friends of mine were to be married in upstate New York. Only it turned out Smoke & Salt were set to have their busiest week to date while I was gone...
I had been looking forward to this date for pretty much the whole of the year - I had flights booked in to revisit a city that I fell in love with two years previously; and with a week of rest and respite with the company of good friends both old and new, all I had to do was to get this Wednesday night service over with. Me and R. had deep-cleaned the kitchen Sunday, we allowed ourselves Monday to relax and get paperwork done, Tuesday we had come in for a few hours to 'get ahead'. 'Getting ahead' is chef lingo for getting stuff that perhaps takes longer to prepare, or has to be made further in advance, done usually before ‘prep’ commences and thus usually means doing these jobs in your free-time. So we were looking good for Wednesday, Wednesday was the last shift I had to put in before I flew out on Thursday morning.
We had 5 on the books when we came in on Wednesday morning. It was going to be a usual, quiet Wednesday evening. No-one really goes out on a Wednesday evening. Perfect chance to get R. ahead - there's that phrase again - we have limited vocabulary in a kitchen you'll come to understand. The list was about the length of an A4 piece of paper and then some extra, I start to scribble extra jobs to the right of the main list much to R.'s dismay - my leftie writing is illegible.
So we're in early, the meat is not yet arrived but the vegetables are. R. has forgotten to order something in the plethora of different orders and lists we have knocking around, it's a usual occurrence and happens to either of us more regularly that you can imagine. We add 'buy x ingredient from the shop' to the list for later. If you haven't eaten at Smoke & Salt let me tell you it is our most ambitious menu to date - there are currently five different snack options, four different starters, four main courses and three choices of dessert. Wednesday is mine and R.'s day to get the 'prep' for all of these dishes done. We are basically at ground zero when we get in on a Wednesday; we have run down our proteins during the last weekend services, the vegetables all have to be prepped anew as well as fish, desserts, sauces, gels and snacks.
We head into Wednesday dinner service feeling pretty good, there has been time to make family meal for the staff in the restaurant (usually pasta or risotto - remnants from the previous restaurant) and although we'd love to sit down and eat, I wolf mine down as I am sponging down the pass for service and R. has barely touched his - checking the fryer, final herb prep, lighting burners and moving his service mise-en-place to the small three-drawer service fridge are all priorities to him (he told me only yesterday that he has lost 6 kilos since we opened our residency - I might endeavour to publish a kitchen diet plan book!).
We usually have a lull between 6 and 7pm, it is early in the evening and early in the week, the first checks will be coming on soon though. We don't have a K.P. this evening, it will be too quiet and we can wash the dishes ourselves. C. (owner) comes down, there are only two of them on the floor upstairs tonight - 'Lads, we've just seated a table of 5, okay?’ Nice, we're ready to go. The evening passes smoothly, quickly and sweaty. We have hit 25 covers - it's a small operation and you may think this is not many, but for two of us, it is the busiest Wednesday we've ever done.
I check the time on my phone - 11.20pm. I'd usually be home at this time on a Wednesday - I had even banked on it, my case was open in my small, dim room in Brixton - my suit was unfolded and god knows what I was going to forget to pack. What we'd give for that K.P. at this time, I took over from C. in the sink, and R. was cleaning the garde-manger and pastry sections down before sweeping. I was yet to clean the pass down and write up the orders for the next day. We got out at around midnight, I didn't envy R.'s day tomorrow, I had prepped out what I thought suitable but it was still going to be a two-man operation for the coming week, J. who works from Thursday to Sunday and R. and that was it.
I was in bed at 3am and up at 5.30am but it was no issue – holidays here I come! I have many things I want to share with you guys about adventures and attractions in New York but first I'd like to apologize to R. and also*thank him on the record, personally for the last week. Smoke & Salt did 42 covers (guests) on the Friday I was gone - more than we've done at any event before Platform 1 or since having opened at Platform 1. I think it was the busiest week on record and I missed it.
For more information about what are up to and to check out the space we are cooking in, please visit www.smokeandsalt.com or www.platform1.london.