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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Diary of a Line Cook

A Winter Hunger for Brussels Sprouts Has Its Bounds

Diary of a Line Cook

The first few nights I was really excited. It was a great dish, a winter favorite. Tight little green gems, layers furled into themselves, tiny perfect vegetables.

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Diary of a Line Cook

Never Step Out of the Rhythm and Into Your Head

What's More Distracting: Steak or Ego?

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

I was overconfident. Maybe even showing off a little. There was a new guy in the kitchen, and perhaps I was a little anxious to prove that I knew something about sauté. My sous-chef had left me in her spot: expediting, plating, buffering between the front of house and the cooks. She had faith in me; I wanted to do it right! I was sure I could! So when the order for the big steak came in, I puffed out my chest a little, no sweat! I could lead the line through one big, very expensive steak! It was a slow night; I’d give that steak my full attention. If I needed back up, my sous-chef was downstairs, within earshot... Read more >

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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

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.

Related: Once Cynical, Bourdain Now Embraces Holidays
The Evolution of a Restaurant: Mission Chinese Food

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.