I Belong in the Kitchen

Hanalei Souza
16 min readSep 26, 2019

By Hanalei Souza

Cooking a steak to perfect medium-rare is a simple task, once learned. I think anyone is capable of doing it. Now let’s throw a few more things into the mix. Not only do I have to nail one perfect medium-rare rib-eye, but two more rib-eyes, four filet mignons, three New York steaks, eight burgers, two salmon filets, and 15 chicken skewers, all while running two deep fryers, and listening to a waitress cuss out the expediter and two other cooks argue over which plate had the sauce on the side. Of course all these aren’t put on the grill at once, but at different times, so I have to remember which ones were put on when, what temp (“temps” referring to rare, medium, etc.) they were ordered, and if the burgers were beef patties or bison (they look exactly the same by the way). Oh, and also different sections on the grill run hotter than others, so I have to take that into account too. And the ticket printer, letting off new orders with a robotic screeching type of sound, won’t. Stop. Printing.

Earlier that summer, I decided I wanted to go to the busiest restaurant in town, get a job there, and find out if I really wanted to cook for a living. So here I found myself, behind the grill, on Saturday at 7:19 pm, wondering how I got here, and why I EVER thought that would be a good idea. Like an adrenaline junkie looking for the next cliff to BASE jump off of, I had surveyed the streets of my little mountain town, trying to find a place where I could get my ass handed to me every day and truly push my own limits. There was one place, a casual-but-not-too-casual American restaurant, on the corner of the main intersection in town, which fit the bill.

I walked in with my resume, then bugged them with phone calls for almost a month to get an interview. Finally, I got one with the chef, and I was able to talk about my year (well, one summer full-time and very part time during Winter) of experience at my previous (and only) kitchen job at the local “lobster shack”, saying I would love to learn everything I could at this place. I told him about my experience on the “line” — where the meals are cooked-to-order and sent straight to the customer.

“Yeah, I can handle the line. I can totally handle the line. I thrive off the rush. I was born ready for it. Molded by it. I am the Zen master. That’s why I want to work here. It’s always busy.”

“Well you’ll definitely get that here,” he said, “and you need to be able to stay on top.”

Hanalei Souza

Jesus Lady, professional cooker, writer, wife, snowboarder from Tahoe, CA. Personal blog: www.riderwriter.co.uk