Monday, December 14, 2009

My Internship...

Last Tuesday I stared my internship at Perbacco. It is a anagogical space, which reminds me a little bit of what the Rabbit Hole must have been like. A long, tall narrow space with an open exhibition kitchen and off to the right a door opens to the back hallways and stairs that lead down to the salumeria and prep space. Winding concrete spaces lead to offices, storage, bathrooms, lockers... and other businesses. The shiny newness of Perbacco's lovely muted space giving way to the hodge podge of of a layered city built during Victorian times.

We go up and down the stairs many times a day... winding our way through the Rabbit Hole. Out the employee entrance is a McDonalds that reminds me, in a direct and stark way, that McDonalds are owned by individuals, Franchisees. This one looks like it's been owned for at least 60 years, by the same guy... who has not updated in anyway the decor. The harsh light and mumbling bag people mix innocuously with the business people on lunch break. I can see the prep chefs and The Boys smoking just outside Perbacco's employee entrance. They look at me dumbfounded when I come out of McDonalds... why didn't I just ask them to make me something!? WHO in the name of Lilith and Thor would eat at Mickey D's when they can eat at Perbacco? They are totally right. I really like The Boys.

My first day I worry I will be the only girl. I see so few of them in chef's scrubs. But I am relieved to find the Chef de Cuisine for the soon to be opened Barbacco is the tall and lovely Sarah and her tiny (but mighty) Sous Chef... Kathryn. Sarah has been the Salumi-Queen of Perbacco and we spend three glorious days down in the salumeria making all manner of things... duck mortadella with spanish olives, pork salumi with red wine and peppers... old time Italian ones with Spices that would have been found in Scappi... mace, cloves, nutmeg...

The Boys, Carl and Jaime, are the Sous Chefs for Perbacco. Young and much pierced, wise and gentle. I love the smart energy of the space. Even the youngest prep chef, speaking only a handful of English, grins incredulously at me while I tie up Cow Middles (yes, the large part of a Cow's intestines). I can tell he wishes he could say, "DO YOU KNOW WHAT THOSE ARE!?" and I only wish I could tell him, "Yes, I do! And This is what I do for FUN on my days OFF!" I am secretly glad I get to do this work, since he probably get stuck doing most of the time and obviously thinks it is freakishly special... and not in a good way.

My first week went well, but I can't help but wonder what do they see when they see me? The chefs d partie are almost all hispanic, but the executives are 4/5 Caucasian, with the Chef d Cuisine of Perbacco, Benjamin, being the only one who is not. The dynamic is not the rarefied Caucasial Fields of my Jr. College. No one my age is still a prep chef. In fact... no one my age is a Sous Chef. So there I am, blond, a woman and really really old. I sometimes feel like an alien in a strange world. I have my first serious self doubts about what I am doing. I feel like I should probably pare down to living in my car before I actually endeavor to live on what a Chef makes. It doesn't bother me that I am not going to strike it rich being a chef... it bothers me that trying to live on $10 an hour in the Bay Area means I will be homeless. Thank goodness work for Brion is going well!

So I will have to write up my goals for my internship after the semester starts. Three of them. I think these will be "the goals"

1. Learn how to make amazing Salumi
2. Learn some kitchen Spanish
3. Cook something

I know #3 seems weird, but the salumeria downstairs does not even have a range/oven/stove in the whole room. If I stay down there and don't come out, I won't do anything but prep. If I want to open my own restaurant, where I might be able to avoid being homeless, I need to learn so much more. And at (almost) 40, I feel like time is of the greatest importance.

Tomorrow is day #4 of my internship. I have also decided to do a personal project. The Ferry building is a couple of blocks from Perbacco and I have decided during my internship to eat at every eatery there and blog and photograph them all. I love to write. And I love to eat! I will do my first installation of the Ferry Building Eating Project This week :)