Ca Marche

Kate Punshon - Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It’s Saturday night, the stage is set. There are no rehearsals for this daily performance. The venue, menu and the cast and crew may be the same, but the show never is. The kitchen, cool room, store room, dining room and the waiter’s station are the backdrops to a series of convoluted, intense and intoxicating one act scenes. Intrinsically connected, each scene portrays the might and frailties of humanity. This play is not for the faint hearted. The cast must be skilled, disciplined and nimble to retain a role in this dramatic romantic comedy. The actors wait in the wings for curtain call. When the restaurant door opens - the performance begins.

6.00 pm. The restaurant is calm and dressed for the performance. Subtle pools of lighting wash over bold artworks. Warm timber tones are offset by tables set with crisp white linen and wineglasses that glisten and shine. As the stillness and the evocative overtones of vanilla, citrus and white peony rose permeate the room, the dining room gods enchant and transform the wait staff and tantalise and beckon the diners.

6.30 pm. The beguiled Restaurant Manager is calm and feels strong, confident and in control. The bookings are staggered, there’s a full complement of staff and the new menu has received nothing but compliments over the past four nights. As the service staff roll in, some early, some late, some loud and jovial, some quiet and sombre, the banter and the mood of the evening begins to take shape. The restaurant door opens as the first table arrives. The performance has began.

6.40 pm. The kitchen is hot, steamy and noisy from a full production schedule and the constant whirring of the extraction fans, dishwashers and clanging pots and pans. The stoves and ovens have transformed bones into rich glossy sauces, flour and water into sourdough rye and wholemeal dinner rolls and butter, eggs and flour into delicate wafer biscuits and buttery desserts. Under the masterful eye of the Chef, the kitchen stage is set.

Here the kitchen gods are tough, masculine. They breathe fire and determination and can rally failing spirits if a service collapses into chaos. The gods protect the chefs, cooks, apprentices and kitchen hands that work long hours to get the job done and scorn the lazy. The kitchen gods thrive in the heat and the noise and see beauty in the chaos of a controlled service.

6.45 pm. The Chef also appears calm, strong, confident and in control but he knows the vagaries of a well prepared service does not provide any guarantees and his anxiety mounts. A controlled sequence of table orders is the key to a great performance. The kitchen can ride a wave of table orders that gradually builds to a crescendo and can continually produce the culinary delights that diners seek and the dining room god’s promise. But a sudden and relentless  tidal wave of orders creates a chaos that can unleash a formidable power that can break the spirit of the best and ruin reputations.

At last. The first order arrives in the kitchen fifteen minutes into the performance. The kitchen receives its curtain call from the Chef - Ca Marche!

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