Wednesday, November 7, 2007
After culinary school, I went out into the world to find a job. Being a woman in a field of mostly men, I wanted to act as tough as I could. At my first interview, I walked into a Spanish speaking, male dominated kitchen, where the majority of the staff was at least 15 years older than I was. I knew that I had to prove myself to everyone because this was (and is still) one of the best restaurants in LA. Landing this job would be a dream come true.
I tried desperately to fit in. And then I was given one of the biggest challenges of my life. The chef (who was actually a woman) looked at me with no sympathy and calmly asked me if I had ever cleaned a soft-shell crab. I tried hard not to panic, because the truth was that I hadn't. But I held it together and looked her in the eye and said, "Yes!" Then she narrowed her eyes and said, "Did you bring your scissors?"
I grabbed my scissors, wondering what on earth I could possibly need them for as she led me to the back table. There, in all their glory, were bushels of crabs squirming around. Each bushel is equal to 13 crabs, so there were quite a few. I observed as a very tough gentleman carefully cut off their faces and gills and then tossed them back into the lot. All I could think was, "OH MY GOD!" But then, my tough side jumped in. This was a test to see if I could hack it with the big boys. I wasn't backing down.
So, as quickly as I could, I cleaned them all, all the while listening to their whistles and feeling them crawling against my skin. Never in my life will I do that again. BUT I won that day. I got that job and was finally on my way to becoming a chef. And I now know how to clean soft-shell crabs. It's quite a party trick.
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