Hi my name is Shawn Timmerman and I’m the chef at the Isle Casino Hotel Bettendorf and the Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center (QCWCC).
Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of a chef is like? Let me tell you about a recent Saturday.
My day probably started out a lot like yours — I woke up, poured myself a cup of coffee, sat down, turned on the news and got ready for the day. As I took a shower, I went through how I thought the day and night would unfold. I threw on my “whites” (kitchen slang for my chef coat and chef pants) and walked out the door.
And that’s when it got crazy!
On this particular Saturday, I had two weddings in two different locations – one for around 250 people and the other for around 280.
As I walked into the QCWCC kitchen it began. “Chef! Our zucchini came in bad, all six cases, what do you want me to do?”
“I’ll call Derek, my purchaser, and get some here,” I said.
“Derek, it’s Shawn,” I said. “I had six cases of zucchini walk in bad, what’s up with that!?”
Derek asked what I needed.
“Six cases of fresh zucchini in one hour that’s what I need!”
He said he’d make it happen.
I hung up the kitchen phone as my cell phone rang…it was one of my cooks in the Isle kitchen, asking if I’d seen a dishwasher who hadn’t been seen in an hour. I hadn’t seen him but offered to keep my eyes open for him. As I said that, a server dropped a tray full of glasses.
Just then, the dishwasher in question walked through the door and handed me his resignation, effective immediately….as in, that very minute. He needed to move out-of-state for family reasons.
As I worked with him, my office phone rang. The staff in the Isle kitchen didn’t have enough chicken for that night’s wedding. I offered to check our kitchen at the QCWCC. I hung up the phone just as the server who dropped the glasses walked in my office to ask if I had a bandage.
“Why what happened,” I asked. But before she even said anything, I had already figured out the story…she cut herself cleaning up the glass. I got her taken care, got the dishwasher to sign his paper work, and sent him on his way.
Now what was I supposed to do? The chicken! I headed into my walk-in cooler and grabbed about five cases and headed over to the Isle, where I walked into a whole different set of problems.
Once I put out all those fires, I started to focus on the food. I adjusted sauces with a little salt and pepper, splash of vinegar here and there. Made a vinaigrette for the salad and made sure everyone had a task so that no one is standing around. I checked my list for the wedding to make sure I had not missed a thing, and then re-checked it. So far so good. It was time to start plating up salads. We formed an assembly line and passed plates until the salad was complete. We stacked them on to a large cart, and then formed a new assembly line to plate the entrees. We work together well so the line ran smoothly so far…so far! Just then a cook loading all the plated entrees into a hot box dropped one because he was moving too fast. The whole line stopped like a traffic on the interstate to look at the pile of food and plate that used to be an entrée.
“Let’s go guys, back at it!” I shouted. We plated 250 entrees in 20 minutes. There was a collective sigh of relief for my cooks once we were done, but not for me. I had to run over to the QCWCC and do it all over again.
The servers started coming in to get the entrees they need for each table. The guests have name cards in front of them with letters indicating what they ordered. A server called out to me “I need three fish, two chicken, and a pasta.”
“Pasta? What pasta,” I said. “We don’t have pasta on this menu.”
“Oh, well, whatever ‘P’ means then,” he replied. I then let him know that “P” stood for pork.
Another server ran back and shouted, “I need a vegetarian!!”
Great…something we weren’t prepared for. But no problem, I can handle this. I ran to the walk-in and started looking around to see what I had available. I grabbed some vegetables and herbs, and yelled for a sauté pan as I started chopping away. I got the pan hot, threw in my veggies with some oil and with a flash of fire, the entrée is done. A beautiful vegetable napoleon with cilantro pesto and dusted with chili pecans — and in record time if I might add.
The night is done for my cooks when they pack up their knives and head home. Not quite finished myself, I still had to head to my office to check my emails, do some paper work and try to figure out what I’m doing for this week’s schedule since I am now short two dishwashers.
There you have it folks, an inside look at an average Saturday night for me. Crazy, yes…stressful, sometimes…but it’s what I love to do.