by Jari Vesivalo 08/04/2016
My day always begins long before I arrive to my workplace at Restaurant Olo. In the past, I used to commute to the Helsinki city center by bus while reading food-related books and planning my day of work. The night before at work I had already checked what was needed and done the preparations.
I love to be in the kitchen and concentrate on the food. My perfect morning would be to start the kitchen work right away instead of having to do paperwork and attend to meetings.
Nowadays my work days don’t start as early as I would like since I take one daughter to school and the other to pre-school.
It is super to be able to see my children in the morning, so they still know who the man is who pokes around at home every now and then. In the evenings I have to be a lot at work, which means that I can’t be present during the evening chores.
Good planning is the top priority in this job. After that you get a lot done. There aren’t many jobs where you would like to turn the time back several times during the day.
The rush is intense and continuous in the work of a chef; all needs to be ready before the customers come. In the morning we rush towards lunch time, in the evenings before serving the dinner.
Most of the dishes served at Olo are done from scratch every day. Preparation is of course a vital part of our work. It can last from seven o’clock in the morning to six in the evening until the guests arrive.
So we use the whole day for a few hours of serving lunch and dinner.
Our day is guided by a kitchen manual that tells you what to do and when. But it’s always just a guideline. You need to be prepared for the fact that things rarely go according to the plan. If the fish delivery comes in the last minute, then you need to leave all the other stuff.
I have previously spoken about the fact how the job of the chef isn’t glamorous, but instead it is constant cleaning. We clean the kitchen, at least three times a day, because cleanliness is absolutely essential. You cannot expect that the chef would make successful food, if your own workstation or any other premises are dirty or in disorder.
The most important moment of the day is at 15.30 each day. This is when all the staff eats together our staff meal that we put a lot of effort in. If a cook doesn’t eat good food how could he make it to others. Today the circulating staff food chef made sweet and sour chicken.
Too much coffee is consumed during the day. It is an awesome benefit to get unlimited amounts of good coffee! During a regular day also surprisingly many meters of film, cleaning cloths and a hand towels are needed.
Before the dinner we do even more preparations. Everyone is busy and the music is loud. But during the actual serving it is best when the kitchen is as quiet as possible.
Shouting and slamming is not the modern way to work in the kitchen. The open kitchen also limits the amount of sound.
But during the preparations we really talk a lot of crap. It is important as we look at the same faces from dawn to dusk. We have a really good gang. Deep friendships are created in the kitchen, because you learn to know your colleagues better than other close people. We spend more time together than with anybody else. I see a glimpse of my wife in the mornings, but my colleagues I see often all day long. We usually spend 12-16 hours together.
When we have finished the preparations, we clean up once again, we hold a short kitchen meeting, then we might make small adjustments to the menu and after that we clean up yet again before the guests arrive.
The atmosphere is electrified, when the guests arrive, and the serving begins. It is the h-hour, it’s what the whole day is aimed at. All talking is paused when we all just focus on our mission. Then starts four hours of meditation, during that everything else in the world is forgotten.
Everything is ready and in its own place, no need to do anything else than cook and not to worry about other things.
During an ideal evening is just suitably busy without running. We do even better food when we do not have to stress. When the business is on a good level it feels relaxing, when you cope with all kinds of situations. Even though you first feel like you lost it.
The evening meal has always been the thing I love the most. If I had to give it up, I would just as well give up the whole work.