Originally, I was assigned to do my internship at the Cimarron in Mission, TX. On my first day, I was told that the restaurant was closed for the day and to call back tomorrow. On the next day, I was unable to work, because the manager wanted to fix the schedule. The third day was when I got to meet Chef Danny. I was there for thirty minutes meeting some of the workers while the manager was looking over the paperwork. I was excited to be at such an exclusive place, but due to a change in their policy the management was not able to carry on any more interns. After the decision, I was assigned at the last minute to work in the school cafeteria with Elia and Robert. Patrick Woodin, who is in charge, was nice and is trying to keep me on a regular schedule. He gave me a time sheet to keep track of my hours. On the first day of my internship I meet the people who currently work there including: Chef Julio, Cook Anita, Fry Cook Will, Sandwich Prep Cook Olga, Salad Prep Cook Ashel, and the cashiers Angie, George and Maribel.
The first thing I learned while working with Julio was how to properly chop onions, before going straight into making baked rice. There was three parts water to every part rice. The water was flavored with chicken base before being baked. After that was done, frozen vegetables were added to the hot rice and allowed to cook in the steam given off. I also learned how to make loaded and mashed baked potatoes. After the spuds were rinsed and baked, they were drowned with a layer of ranch dressing and coby jack cheese. I made baked potato soup for the first time and had to keep in mind the salt content. Spices should always be added last. I also made small portions of Chicken Cordon Blue which was breaded chicken breast filled with cream cheese spread and black forest ham. It was fried lightly before being baked. When making lunch portions of chicken cordon blue it is very important to keep in mind the amount of filling put inside. I also got to bake chocolate chip, oatmeal and macadamia nut cookies. Using a recipe I made Chicken Guisada by myself and Fideo soup.
When working on Catering orders, it is important to think on presentation as well as giving a variety. Olga and Ashel don’t work on Fridays, so it was Elia who taught me about what she learned to make the sandwiches. I learned how to assemble sandwiches with the correct amount of portioned ingredients. Each one is made exactly alike through weight measurement and tools such a scoops and ladles. Very rare is eyeballing an ingredient allowed. We made tuna salad, chicken salad, turkey breast and black forest ham sandwiches. Each type was divided in half between wheat and white Italian bread. The same thing applies when it comes to making the salads for the lunch line. Ashel told me that every salad is weighted for 6 ounces of lettuce before portions of toppings are added into the carton. Before making the salads, prep work must be complete first. I made Caesar, Chop Salad, Garden Salad, Southwest, Greek, Apple Cranberry and some side salads as well as fruit salad cups.
One Friday, I learned how to deeply clean a fryer with Robert by the fry cook, Will. First the oil was drained out of the fryers one at a time and deposited into the designated outside container unit. It was very nerve wrecking pushing the bucket outside with fear of being burned. After that, Water was poured into the fryer and using a tool, gunk was wedged out and dumped. When Will was showing us this, he overestimated the about of water to pour for the rinse and accidently overflowed the oil. It had to be mopped up three times before we could work on it again. After that the fryer was filled with water again and a chemical solution was added. Will explained that this solution was very corrosive to human skin and that inhalation was very dangerous so we were supposed to be very carful. I have never seen Robert as tense as he was then. With the water boiling and the chemical mixed in we very carefully scrubbed the fryer walls, baskets, holders and grates with wire scrubs and tongs to not touch the solution. In total it took over three hours to clean the fryers and carefully rinse out the chemical. I hope to never have to hold my breath while cleaning again.
The week after that I was told to report to school very early in the morning to learn how to make breakfast for the masses. Having to wake up early to make breakfast was an unforgettable experience. I had to wake up at three AM in order to make it to school on time at four. Once there, Anita said that eggs were to be prepped first. In a total of twenty-two quarts of eggs were used for the breakfast line every day except for Friday. These eggs were blended with an industrial sized blender and mixed with four cups of lemon juice, garlic and salt divided in two containers. The lemon juice was added for its acidity and was used to prevent discoloring of the eggs when they were being served on the breakfast buffet line. Eight quarts were cooked separately as scrambled eggs while six were cooked with partially fried potatoes sticks. Of the eight, a third was mixed with chorizo in a separate hotel pan once they were finished being cooked on the stove. While the eggs were cooking, sausage and bacon were baked in the oven, beans were made in a boiling pot, oatmeal was simmered in warm milk on the stove, and tortillas were flipped on the grill. After everything was ready breakfast tacos were rolled and pancakes were mixed. Anita makes the pancakes by eyeballing milk, eggs and pancake mix and whisking it together. On Fridays, we made Chiliquilles with sliced corn tortillas that were sliced yesterday and baked it with cheese and salsa after lightly pan frying the strips.
For the past month, I have been left solely in charge of the breakfast and lunch buffet line. I had to learn how to correctly serve portions and roll custom tacos during the morning hours. During lunch, I had to time and figure out when to request for a certain item before it ran out. This was a long process, but I think I go the hand of it. Most of the time, it is just me unless someone else decides to come help. I have noticed there are regulars that order the same thing every time. It’s kind of weird. When I am not serving food, I am also left in charge of restocking the drinks when shipments come in. I also have to fill the fountain drinks with four buckets of ice as well as the salad bar and dressings bar with one and a half each. While on the line, I learned how to clean the Panini sandwich press and the steamers. The sandwich pressed had to be scrubbed hard to get the cooked on crude off. A wire brushed was used for this. After that it was rinsed with a moist towel, because the machine was still hot. I also learned how they brew the coffee before the morning breakfast can be served. One whole pack of coffee grounds is added into a filter and left to brew that way. Normally it is measured for the amount of people, but I guess in a store setting it is fine to use so much.
Since I am left in charge of the serving line, there are not many opportunities to cook. When I get a chance to be in the kitchen to fetch something a customer has asked for, it’s for a short time. On a few occasions I have been able to toast some tortillas for customers if Anita is not able to. On a certain day, Will showed me how to make cheese burgers if the line runs out. With this knowledge, I was able to figure out how they made Salisbury steak. First one needs to get the cooked burger patties Anita earlier made out of the warmer and place the amount needed on the grill. Than add some juice from the pan they were being held in to get a sizzle. Burgers are flipped twice while steaks are flipped three times. When making burgers, the buns should be heated on the grill too. After flipping the meat, American cheese is added on top of the patty to melt before being assembled and wrapped into a cheeseburger for the line. For Salisbury steak, the patties are arranged in a half hotel pan and premade brown mushroom gravy is poured on top.
I have spent most of my time this summer learning how to serve food in a cafeteria setting as well as getting items such as ice, salad dressings, chili, nacho cheese, chopped chicken, sliced lemon, tortilla strips and shredded coby jack cheese ready to be served. I have learned to restock drinks and chips as well as portioning syrup and tarter sauce into small cups. When I was allowed to cook, I learned as much as I could. I have been offered a job here by Patrick, but I think I am going to pass on that offer. I don’t mind serving food if I am getting paid for it, but I already do that at the Boys and Girls Club of Zapata County and am able to cook at least at What-A-Burger. All in all, this has been an interesting internship.