Today was a rather encouraging day, where I had the chance to see where I need to improve, and received some reassurance about my decision to follow the cheese path.
First came an e-mail response from one of my favorite professors after I told him about this blog and my new work. Not only did he send some meaningful encouragement, he sent me a video of the Monty Python Cheese shop sketch as a cautionary note (you’ll see what I mean). I love the sketch; it’s the first time anyone’s shown it to me, a little surprisingly. It felt good to tell one of my professors about being a cheesemonger! I had been feeling a little bit guilty, sometimes second-guessing myself, when speaking with former colleagues and classmates about being a cheesemonger. Even during school, I knew the field I was studying was not ideal for me. Then fortune stepped in, and I found this opportunity. While I had only dreamed of a job like this before, it’s a far cry from what my education prepared me for. In any case, thanks to this e-mail, I felt less like a prodigal son and more like someone who just happened to choose a different life path. I feel a little bit like a camembert you’ve cut and then let sit out all day in the sun. There’s no more tension. I’ll get around to telling my other colleagues and professors soon enough. Just this one e-mail was already extremely heartening.
As for improvement, there is still plenty of room. I am learning new things every day, and today was particularly enlightening. As a cheesemonger in this store, I have to learn to switch caps from cheesemonger to sommelier to server quickly and without warning. I’ve got the cheesemonger part more or less down. However, my feeble efforts as a server leave me in awe of everyone else around me. They are just so at ease with the waves of clients, and their little caprices. I will get there eventually, right? It is coming little by little, and now I realize that it is all about proper organization and preparation. At least I can pour the beer on tap, which I couldn’t do before. I am still running around like a crazy person when people start to trickle in around 4pm wanting all sorts of things. I had started making cheese plates to prepare for the rush, but that’s not enough. I need to take some cues from all of my colleagues. Carlos provided some particularly good advice, and really helped me view the process on a global level. I should probably prepare plates, silverware, and start the glass washing system to get ready very early. Otherwise, I know the bartender hates seeing a bunch of dirty glasses around, and I hate leaving them there. I also hate rushing around trying to find everything.
I need to prepare the cheese better as well. It is supposed to be my specialty, right? While I love researching the history and story behind each cheese, what I ultimately need to be able to do is pair them with those colorful, flavorful chutneys and create some beautiful plate presentations. That means that cheese plate preparation needs to begin much earlier in the day than what I am doing now. Currently, I prepare a few plates starting at 3pm, but with all of the other things that come up between then and 4pm, I don’t have time for much at all.
I think I am going to implement a new schedule, so just after opening the store, I can do the following:
*prepare about 10-12 small plates with napkins and silverware
*choose 5-6 cheeses for the day
*pair the cheeses with the chutneys
I should probably select and pair just after opening because people meander into the store at all hours asking for cheese plates. I shouldn’t be caught unprepared anymore. It is a bit stressful and unnecessary, and I really didn’t have a game plan on how to minimize the fuss until now. I guess it took me a week of running around like a crazy person to realize what I need to do. Soooo, with that, tomorrow I am going to work with a plan, and we’ll see if I come out any better.
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