I tendered my resignation today at Jean-Georges. Wednesday will be my last day.
Maybe you noticed that I haven’t been posting much about my job. Well, that’s because I really didn’t have a lot of good things to post. I have struggled to meet my employer’s expectations, unfortunately. I have learned so much from this job and I know that I have improved quite a bit but unfortunately it hasn’t been enough for my chef and I have run out of chances. The final straw was an incident that happened two Saturdays ago. A ticket came in for two dessert tastings but with a note that there could be no alcohol in the dessert. I immediately thought of Jean-Georges’ Famous Cherry Berry Soup, which is fully loaded with alcohol. I ran back to the kitchen and asked me sous, Emily, what I should do in place of the soup. She told me to use the Strawberry Soda from one of the Jean-Georges desserts. Great! I ran back to the station, called upstairs for the strawberry soda, finished plating the dessert, and sent it out with the runner with instructions to pick up the soda on the way to the table (they have to pass by the JG pastry station on their way upstairs). Not too long later the server stopped by my station and told me that I had screwed up. I had forgotten to substitute out the chartreuse ice cream. Chartreuse is a liqueur. DAMN!! I was so upset with myself.
The ice cream was part of a new dessert and it was the first night that it was included on the tasting menu. It didn’t even cross my mind when the ticket said “no alcohol.” The guest is a Muslim and abstains from alcohol. Of course, he’s a regular customer and supposedly “spends a lot of money with us.” I later found out that he was accidentally served alcohol in something the last time he was in the restaurant. He was quite upset that it had happened again and apparently stormed out vowing never to return. I also later found out that there is now a note on his account that, should he miraculously return sometime in the future, that all of his food must be given to him by his server, not a runner. Presumably, the waiter would be in a better position to stop any alcohol from being given. This served as a very good lesson for me. From now on I will thoroughly consider every component of a dessert whenever there is some sort of restriction on what can be served. I mean, what if it was something he was allergic to? I could have put somebody in the hospital because I wasn’t careful. Well, never again.
Never again at Jean-Georges because I won’t be there anymore. Like I said, I had been having some difficulty meeting expectations and this seemed to be the last straw. There is a weekly “corporate” meeting on Tuesdays (last week’s didn’t happen) where they were supposedly going to discuss my future with the company. I decided it was better not to wait for that to happen and so I tendered my resignation today. Johnny, my chef, has been understandably upset with me, but he is also being supportive in my decision to leave. He has offered to help find me a new position somewhere else. The way we both see it is that I tried to jump to the top too fast. I’m just not quite ready for the demands of a four-star restaurant. Granted, I was working the cafe/bar, Nougatine, but Johnny still demands very high performance levels. Everyone else in the kitchen has at least a year or more experience working somewhere else before they came to Jean-Georges. So all of those “just out of school” mistakes were already out of the way. For me, I needed to make those mistakes and learn from them, but there just wasn’t a lot of room for that. Don’t get me wrong, Johnny gave me a lot of support, but I just ran out of rope. Even if they would have decided to keep me after this last incident, I knew that I would be skating on razor thin ice from then on and I just did not want to try to perform where there was no more room left for error.
So now what? Good question. Johnny and I discussed some options today and he made some suggestions. What I’m leaning towards is using the remaining nine months we have left in NYC (before we move back to Seattle) to work as a stagiere in as many of the top restaurants as I can. A stagiere, or stage, is a person who works for free just for the opportunity and experience. It usually lasts a few months at most and it doesn’t have the same commitment as being employed by the restaurant. It is a great opportunity to absorb a lot of ideas and inspirations in a short amount of time. Unfortunately, it is unpaid work. So I might try to pick up some catering work a couple times a week to at least provide some income. Thankfully, Lisa’s salary is enough for us to live on and anything I make has been going to paying down my culinary school loan as quickly as possible.
My theory is that everything happens for a reason. I’ll make the best out of this situation and I’m sure I’ll be better off in the end.