I am very excited to announce that today begins the launch of my “delicious project” which is something I have been working on for a few months. As someone who has grown up in the restaurant industry, I have an immense amount of respect for the kitchen. As a young girl, my father owned a few restaurants and often brought me to work with him. I was always captivated by what went on behind the scenes. His love of food was a big part of my life as he loved to cook and never hesitated to put me to work. I loved being his kitchen assistant and learned so much at a very young age. Making fresh pasta was my favorite because I got to spend one-on-one time with him. Since he worked a lot of late hours, I only really saw him on his days off and I cherished the time I spent with him in the kitchen.
My dad and I making pasta circa 1980
When I turned 16 I got my first job in the food service industry at Little Caesar’s Pizza. Now, I must confess, the only reason I took this job was to escape the annual family vacation to Utah. I was a freshman at an all girls Catholic school and having house parties was the big thing back then. I applied at places all over town and the first place to offer me a job was Little Caesar’s as, are you ready for this? A dishwasher! The manager laughed when I told him that I would be the best darn dishwasher he ever had so finally I had to beg him for the job. He said ok and had me start the next day. I ran home and told my parents that I had just gotten a job and would have to skip the family vacation. They were reluctant, but they let me stay home. Let’s just say I was the most popular girl that week! Parties every night with lots of pizza. 🙂 My stint as a dishwasher lasted two days as they came to realize I was really good at making pizzas. The main “pizza maker” was extremely lazy and let me do all his work. Apparently I was better than him and even received phone calls from customers saying how much they likes my pizzas. I was promoted to head pizza maker and really enjoyed it.
I left Little Caesar’s after two months due to accepting a job at a place called Fresh Choice which was a soup and salad bar. I was with the company for about four years and did very well with them. Because I spoke Spanish fluently, I became a corporate trainer and assisted with translating all the recipes into Spanish for the kitchen hand book. It was during this time that I got my first real look at the blood, sweat and tears that goes on in the kitchen. I will never forget one of the kitchen employees named Salvador. He did not speak English but we got along great since I spoke Spanish. He took me under his wing and taught me how to work more efficiently in the kitchen. After one particularly busy and stressful day, we sat in the break area talking about the shift. He said to me, “La cocina es el corazón del restaurante,” which translates to “the kitchen is the heart of the restaurant.” I have never forgotten his words and every time I go to a restaurant to eat, I think about the hard work that goes into each and every dish.
“La cocina es el corazón del restaurante.”
So, here I am twenty-two years after my first restaurant job and I am still in the industry. What can I say, it is in my blood. Since I was sixteen, I have only taken one break from working in restaurants which was during the time I was pregnant with my son. I even waited tables at an Italian restaurant the entire time I was pregnant with my daughter and my last shift was three days before she was born. After a six month break, I went back to bartending and have not stopped. My love and appreciation for the kitchen is so strong that I decided to embark on my “delicious project” in which I will be spending time with chefs and their staff and have them put me to work. Each month will be dedicated to a restaurant and I will be featuring the chefs as well as my experience working with them. I want to celebrate the passion of cooking and all of the hard work and passion that is behind each plate. From pastries and desserts to burgers and foie gras, I am going to do it all. I have an exciting line up coming and I am proud to announce that April is dedicated to Dough, which is Datz’s sister bakery that is slated to open April 8th. Datz holds a very special place in my heart, as they are one of the biggest reasons I started my blog. They have truly made my quest to fall in love with Florida a lot easier. Last week I spent time with pastry chef, Alex Flannery and his amazing staff. I spent a morning making lattes, decorating cupcakes and learning all about what goes on behind the scenes. It was such a thrill for me, as I spent a little over a year as a barista back in 1996. I was a little rusty, but it was like riding a bike and it all came back to me after my third latte.
This week I have a special feature on Chef Alex as well as my day at Dough. Was I able to rise to the occasion? Check back and see! Be sure to follow me on twitter @tracyguida and follow #deliciousproject to see where I will be all month. April is going to be a great month and I am going to try some of the techniques I learned at Dough at home with my kids. Let me just say that using a pastry bag is not that easy and I am determined to master it!
Have a delicious week everyone![?]