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Pomegranate seeds and a pastry chef's lesson in patience

In the heat of the kitchen, a trainee pastry chef finds release from the pressure to compete.

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A few years back, when I was a beginner in the food world, I took a pastry job in a very busy restaurant. My job included making and plating desserts during dinner service. When serving between 500 and 600 people a night, this is a daunting task. My inner planner never felt fully prepared.

Loud, hot, and fast-paced, a restaurant's kitchen is a place where people yell and scream at each other. You get used to it. The keys: Don't take all the criticism to heart, and stay sharp at all times.

One night, I was tasked with seeding pomegranates for a pastry garnish, and also with running the pantry station that would use the many remaining seeds in a salad.

I was a bit put out at the request, as I had mounds of mise en place (prep work for the chef) that I needed to get through and it took me a long time to seed just one pomegranate – cutting it open, banging it with a spoon to get the seeds to fall out, then setting to the task of dislodging the little pink seeds that didn't want to leave their cozy cobweblike membrane.

A soft-spoken guy with rectangular glasses who was working farther down the line came over and said to me, "You should do that under water."

"What?" I was frazzled and annoyed at his intrusion. I was the only girl on the line and all the guys saw it as their personal duty to school me with their sage advice.

"Pomegranates," he said with a smile. "It's easier under water."


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