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Diary of a Line Cook

In a Basement Kitchen, There’s No Difference Between Juice and Wine

Chefs on the Line

From Sketching Kitchens. © Jeff Martin

New Yorker Alfia Muzio, a former lawyer, currently works as a line cook at Marlow & Sons in Brooklyn.

I turn my neck away from the stove. The GM is running down the stairs to the kitchen. I’ve got a sauté pan in each hand, my oven timer is blaring at me and I can smell my sweet potatoes begging to be flipped before the bacon fat scorches them. “Juice!” I yell at him. “I need some juice right now!” We’re closing in on the last two hours of Friday night dinner service. I haven’t eaten anything since early afternoon, and I can feel my blood sugar dipping. I’m losing steam and I can’t afford to. The board is full, tickets still pouring in, new tables are still being seated upstairs. While I certainly don’t have time to chew and swallow, I think I can rehydrate with a few sugary mouthfuls of juice and keep it together until the end.

Before my begged-for juice arrives, one of the servers shows up with an almost-full bottle of red wine and a few paper coffee cups. She’s bounding back up the stairs before I can thank her. I don’t even have to stop what I’m doing because my sous-chef has already poured each of us a full cup and he’s halfway finished with his, and shoving mine at me. I’m seasoning the next trout fillet with one hand and tipping that cup into my mouth with the other. It’s not quite late enough to get a little tipsy, but my body doesn’t care about the difference between wine and juice at this point. Energy is energy! I try to make it last, but there’s no point. I swallow it down and throw that fish on the fire.

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