“Oh my god!” Jackie, the assistant pastry chef, and I both freak out at the sight. One of the other cooks, Chuy, a hulking culinary genius, is transferring boiling hot stock from one pot to another. He just missed the bowl he was holding and poured an entire ladleful over his hand. The only sound he made was a slight “Tsst” sound of annoyance.
“Doesn’t that hurt?! Are you OK?” I say, stunned. I would have lost my nerve due to my intense allergy to pain.
“No, it’s not that bad.” He laughs and pours another ladle of stock. More blazing hot liquid washes over his fist. Chuy doesn’t seem to notice.
Working in a kitchen requires an almost super-powered level of pain tolerance. I’ve gotten by so far with only minor nicks and burns, nothing major, which is surprising considering my knack for hurting myself on a regular basis in life. The worst I’ve suffered so far is accidentally picking up a red-hot spoon that had just come out of the oven (it was being used to pin down a piece of parchment paper). Lucky for me, I came out of it with a minor first-degree burn, nothing I couldn’t work right through.
“It’s not pain until you get home and have time to think about it,” notes Hillary, a cook in the banquet department. Her arms are a Smithsonian of pain, covered in scars of every color, size, shape and texture. These are proud medals of life in a place where one must exist in a sharp, slippery, and molten-hot world.
Everyone has told me that before this internship is over I’ll have my own scar. Something to look forward to, I guess.
Garrett McCord is a freelance and staff food writer. He’ll be working at Grange restaurant throughout September. You can read his work in Edible Sacramento, Sacramento News and Review and his blog, Vanilla Garlic.