Review, The Office at The Aviary part one.
I did a stage at The Aviary at the end of last year cruising Craigslist for jobs. I did not know what a stage was, nor the hierarchy of a french kitchen, nor why a smoke break was so valuable, why one hides one’s towels, or anything else one should know working in a “real” kitchen. The one thing I did learn was why the Aviary was so unique. I am a kitchen plebian; I have worked prep in a bakery, a seafood place and have tended bar. This is just a forewarning for anyone who has worked in a kitchen, I really haven’t.
I staged with two guys, the first of which walked out after an hour, the second stayed for about four hours just sampling things and not doing any work. I worked, I worked my ass off because every chef in the place was operating at near perfect 100% speed. Nobody was sitting around thinking. If something was being done wrong someone was getting dressed down for it within seconds and the prep work was redone by the offender. I worked a fifteen and then a sixteen hour day with a brief staff lunch featuring milkshakes from Potbelly’s, interrupted only the second day by that massive flood that filled our basement kitchens with floodwater, which were bailed out by hand using every available tub and container in a very quick efficient hand to hand factory line.
I turned down the job because I was a huge scaredy-pants; notat the idea of working 14 hours five days a week for 10$/hour 52 weeks a year with no days off, but at the idea of working as hard as everyone else there that long. Its funny that when we sat down there and dined, not a drop of that sweat and blood was showing. It was a very relaxed environment where the hustle was totally screened off by the giant metal screen that splits the chef’s table from the general seating. 99% of the patrons wouldn’t even walk past the alley that is routinely full of Alinea, Aviary and Office chefs and servers taking smoke breaks (or more commonly doing trash runs).
You hear none of the “YES CHEF” and “SHARP” echo down the concrete cavern and see none of the feeble minded stagiaires (just me) running around looking for where a particular freezer is with a look of “OH SHIT, CHEF IS GOING TO TOTALLY CRUSH ME IF I DON’T FIND THIS THREE SECONDS AGO.”
This is why I wanted to eat here so bad. Not because its Grant Achatz, not because its foodie porn, but because I saw more people working harder in one tiny cramped place to make absolute perfection for their customer base than I’d ever seen in my life. They worked as a unit. I will forgo hardcore band references- they worked better and closer than anyone you could think of. Yes, people hated each other, people knew who was going to get fired, people stole each others towels or used each others knives. It happened, but not for long. People either got served or dropped. They didn’t need to like the customers, they weren’t concerned with who they were (except when Ross from Friends was there, then the servers had a fit), they just knew if they made a perfect product it would be well received. If it wasn’t, even if it was perfect, they’d take it back gratis and replace it with another. Who else does that?
My friend texted me that the Skarhead show he wanted to go to was canceled, so we should get our informal meat club together and finally go to the Aviary. One of the meat club is actually a straight up vegan, to be honest, he usually gets the salad bar no matter what steakhouse we go to.
I figured we needed to see if we could do the chef’s table for sure, and see if we can get into the Office, so I emailed the Aviary reservation address with less than 24 hours notice that I wanted the chef’s table or the Office for four at 10pm. The next afternoon I was confirmed and they prompted me which one I’d prefer, which was absolutely wonderful of them, and I picked the Office. Reservations set.
I reported back to the troops and was met with questions of “can I wear my Skarhead basketball jersey to this place?” I knew fully well one of the things I would be hearing belted out by a large insane Irish Catholic was “man this Brioche is even better than swallowing a giant load!”