Food - Behind the scenes: Brunch

One Midtown Kitchen chef Nick Oltarsh chronicles a typical brunch shift

5:45 a.m.: Enter kitchen through back door and enjoy a few moments of empty, silent, and comfortably cool restaurant.

6 a.m.: Dishwasher raps on same back door — I let him in. He's disheveled, looks cansado and pissed off to be here. Or am I just looking at myself in the mirror?

6:01 a.m.: No sign of omelet guy, burger guy, or poached egg guy? Good God, without them I am screwed. Panic churns, heart flutters, stomach ferments. Me and sudsy dishwasher will be running the kitchen line solo today ...

6:02 a.m.: Cooks shuffle in. Everyone accounted for! Hysteria subsides. Blood pressure returns to chef normal (which is high because I like bacon too much and exercise too little).

6:10 a.m.: Turn on stoves, griddles, heat lamps, ovens, steamer, kettles, etc.

6:15 a.m.: Pastry chef begins muffin, Danish and biscuit production. Nuclear bomb of flour, buttermilk, and butter detonates in pastry kitchen. Scoop, press, punch. Cut, knead, pull. Sift, twist, roll. Go, go, go.

6:30 a.m.: Sample warm biscuits slathered with fresh butter. My job is so cruel. How I hate taste-testing warm muffins bursting with fresh blueberries; woe is me that I must sample raspberry Danishes, soft and plump like cherub cheeks.

6:32 a.m.: Instant weight gain from biscuit abuse.

6:40 a.m.: Start poaching 600 eggs. Watch as 300 burst in poaching water. I'm doomed.

6:45 a.m.: Separate a gazillion egg yolks from egg whites. Whisk in oodles of hot clarified butter. Squeeze in lemon juice. Tap in spicy cayenne. Scatter kosher salt. Et voila, a barrel of hollandaise is ready for breakfast blitz. Please Almighty One — don't let it break. I have been a good boy.

6:50 a.m.: Hollandaise breaks — FUCK.

7 a.m.: Make enough hominy grits to fill a Jacuzzi bathtub. Maybe this time I will take a bath in it. Just kidding. That's gross.

7:05 a.m.: Fireball of boiling steel-cut oatmeal erupts onto my arm creating permanent oatmeal scar. Saves me trouble of getting obligatory chef tattoo.

7:08 a.m.: Scrambled egg cook goes to employee bathroom, locks door, and falls asleep on floor of the bathroom. I eye him through crack between door base and floor and poke him vigorously with a broom handle. He continues to slumber peacefully, the bastard. I give up and hope he wakes up in time for breakfast so I can kill him before we start service.

7:16 a.m.: Heady bouquet emanates from 30 trays of cooked smoked bacon. Ahhhh, baconnnnn. Hard to focus as electrifying scent wafts through kitchen and takes over pleasure center of my brain. I am now a bacon zombie.

7:20 a.m.: Eat nutella, toast, and bananas for my own breakfast. How cool am I?

7:30 a.m.: Cooks make corn tortilla chilaquiles with fried eggs, homemade salsa verde, sliced avocados, and queso blanco for their breakfast. Their meal is much better than mine, which bums me out. I guess I am not that cool after all.

7:33 a.m.: Daydream about full English breakfast: fried eggs, black pudding, baked beans, bubble and squeak, kippers, fried trout, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, bacon rashers, fries. P.S. Black pudding is blood sausage: yummy, yummy!

7:41 a.m.: Scrambled egg cook emerges from bathroom fully rested after his little respite in el baño. I give him a tongue-lashing and squirm at the grossness of him falling asleep on the floor of the latrine. I make him scrub soap ruthlessly up and down his arms before returning to the line. The fact is, my heart goes out to him. He is a young lad; he works two full-time jobs and I love the little guy.

7:43 a.m.: Startling and delightful realization that maple butter tastes good on everything! Shoe laces, a backscratcher, fabric swatches — all scrumptious with maple butter.

7:45 a.m.: All is well and we are ready! Fifteen minutes to enjoy the calm before the storm. Everyone loves brunch in Atlanta!

8 a.m.: Storm begins. Marauding hordes descend on restaurant.

10:46 a.m.: Ordering: one eggs Benedict, sub egg whites, double ham, butter on English muffin, extra hollandaise. Irony is not lost on me.

1:14 p.m.: Order tickets everywhere! C'est la guerre! Surely there is somewhere I can hide where no one will find me for a couple of hours?

2:25 p.m.: Ordering: eggs, burger, burger, burger, chicken, burger, eggs, burger, eggs, chicken, burger, eggs, burger, burger, burger, burger, *100, ad infinitum.

3 p.m.: Holy crap, we sold a lot of eggs. Excuse me, do I have hollandaise crusted in my hair? Is that a ham omelet splattered on my right shoe? Hardened grits decorate every plate, dirty and clean. I reek of turkey sausage. I hate biscuits. I wish everyone would just go home. Game over, man.

3:05 p.m.: Escape to walk-in refrigerator to cool off and hide. Consider career as veterinarian. I don't know how many more Sundays I can take.

3:59 p.m.: Last order arrives and we are all still alive, albeit sheathed in a gummy paste of biscuit crumbs and pancake batter. Another successful brunch done. I guess I will stick with this job. It wasn't that bad after all!

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