We run 2 shifts: an AM and a PM team. Each shift is 7 hours work with 1 hour break. We don’t want zombies walking around doing nothing, we want ninjas with lots going on. This is the story of how an average day goes by if you are one of these wonderful souls.
Kitchen doors open and the game begins. Hood fans, ovens and stoves are turned on, stations are set with cutting boards and knives, pots and pans are gathered for cooking, piles of raw ingredients migrate from the fridges to start the day’s preparations. All cooks now race against the clock to complete the long list of tasks making absolutely everything from scratch within the next 3 action packed hours.
Daily deliveries arrive: beautiful healthy looking vegetables, ripe strawberries still warm from being cut in the early morning sun, bright orange organic pumpkin, fresh soft cheese and shiny fish chilling out under small cubes of ice. Each item must be checked by the expert in its area and either rejected for any imperfection or stored in the fridge waiting processing. Items arriving late create nervous tension as lunch is fast approaching.
Station fridges are bulging with shimmering metal inserts containing perfectly cut, blanched, roasted, marinated or braised ingredients all nicely wrapped and labeled, ready in neat little rows like soldiers waiting to be deployed. The kitchen gets a good clean and staff by now rightfully feel hungry and take a short break to eat.
The entire team as a family enjoys an early lunch. They have one hour to eat and catch up on today’s and yesterday’s gossip. Socializing is a very important part of a Balinese life and seeing their huge beautiful smiles and hearing their witty comments, it is easy to understand why everyone loves Bali. 11:59… back to work!
Lunch service begins and guests trickle in from the hot sun to enjoy a cold drink and a light lunch. The team is separated with half the crew continuing to prepare for dinner and the other half to produce the food now needed for the first customers. We clean more than we cook and regardless of how busy the restaurant is, everything must always be impeccable. We preach these basics non-stop and they are our foundation for everything else to be learned in Cuca.
The PM staff starts to arrive in batches like bees to a hive. They all travel like Motor GP riders through the densely populated and humid streets of Bali. When they get to Cuca they sit outside, have a coffee and get ready to rock. At 3:50 they refresh themselves, quickly change into their uniforms and stand in the kitchen ready for battle at 3:55.
Kitchen preparation counters are quickly transformed into improvised dining tables and all staff sit down for dinner: either mom’s cooking nicely packed or rice, meat and veggies well spiced with chili bought from a road side “warung” on their way to work. Fuel for the fight ahead.
Over the next 3 hours, dinner service is full on. Each staff is trying desperately to keep up with making damn near perfect food while keeping track of all the different items they have on order. Cooking, plating and running as fast as possible without making the punishable sacrifice on quality. There is nothing that matters about the outside world: girlfriends disappear, aches and pains are gone, SMS don’t matter as the most important animal instinct of survival kicks in and everyone tries to make it through!
Exhaustion. Beginning to break down and deep clean every square inch of the shining stainless steel open kitchen. By now you are either a hero or a villain, a champion or merely a participant. Service determines who you are, it is without words the clearest example of can or cannot. Good cooks will fail as they learn the new skills but pick themselves up for tomorrow in hopes of new found success. Lesser ones just never show up in fear of repeating the traumatic nightmare. The greatest thrive on the adrenaline rush, the thrill of the action and the incomparable satisfaction of knowing they have provided a truly great meal to our guests.