We have long though that a kitchen should be a place of expansion and learning. Experimentation keeps the environment fun and helps those participating to grow in their knowledge and skills. Some of these “leaning experiences” are more successful than others. An example of such is Eileen's lesson in balloon quality.
This was not the first time Eileen had used this technique for making chocolate cups. It had worked well before: blow up a balloon, dip it in melted chocolate, and set it on parchment paper to cool. The results are a pleasing little bowl suitable for a number of delicious desserts. Breaking into a new (and cheaper) bag of balloons, Eileen set out to make the evening goodies. All went well, and the chocolate covered balloons were set aside on the bakers table to cool and harden.
As with most areas, in Central Oregon, the Deschutes county health inspectors make unannounced visits to all area restaurants twice a year. Although the relationship between the two has never been adversarial, there is always something unnerving about these inspections. Having a government official walking around our work-space with a clipboard, pen, thermometers, and test tapes, peering into corners and lifting lids in the walk-in refrigerator, tends to put all the kitchen staff on edge. One notices every little mess, and every sound, senses honed by an edge of tension. At the peak of this nervousness, the kitchen came “under fire.”
Gunshot? Hearts stop. A moment of hush comes over the kitchen. Wide eyes take inventory of the scene. The source is obvious: Chocolate is sprayed over wall and window. One of the balloons has burst, sending a spray of chocolate flying. Eileen grabs a soapy towel to assault the gooey brown mess, and tries hurriedly to clean it up.
Her white chef's jacket now has the look of a little boys Sunday suit after a mud-fight.
BANG! POW! POP!
Chocolate is flying, nobody is safe. Seretha, a server for that evening, comes in from the dining room where she has been setting tables. She laughs at the sight of the other staff, sprayed and speckled, and the inspector who is, by this time, hiding in the dish room. Somehow unaware that she, too, is susceptible to the flying goo, she ventures a little too close. Her back and leg are sprayed.
Maggie goes to battle. Donning a turned around chef's coat, with the back to the front for full protection, this backwards vision goes in for the kill, and manages to cover the chaos and end the bombing.
Fortunately, humor had not escaped the inspector, and we passed the inspection nonetheless. He did, however remind Eileen of the fray during each of his subsequent bi-annual visits. And although Eileen did use balloons again in her food preparation, she was very careful in her selection in the years to come.