Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Molten Chocolate Cake, and How I Lost My Job

While this is a very good recipe for a dessert that was at one time incredibly popular (almost annoyingly so), from now on, to me, it is a symbol of dishonesty. Why? It was the warning sign, the canary in the coal mine, if you will, the screaming siren that alerted me to the fact that I was about to lose my job.

Molten Chocolate Cake
Recipe makes 35-40 individual 4-ounce cakes

3 pounds of butter
2 pounds of bittersweet chocolate
16 whole eggs
11 oz. egg yolks
1 pound and 12 oz. granulated sugar
8 oz. all purpose flour, sifted
1 ½ teaspoons salt

4 ounce molds, buttered or sprayed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter and chocolate together over a bain marie. In a very large bowl, mix eggs and yolks together well, add sugar, flour and salt to them. Add melted chocolate and butter mixture to the egg and flour, combine well. Fill each mold almost to the top, bake for 10 minutes. The cake should rise and pull away from the sides, but should be raw in the middle. Serve warm.

It was Good Friday, around noon. No customers on the books, I had spent the day stocking up the freezer with dough. I made a candied ginger cookie, some scone batter, perhaps even some chocolates for the petit fours plates. Details are unimportant. The sous-chef was off, the chef spent all day in her office, things were as normal as they could be in a place that was falling apart. Rumors had been flying for the past month that the Club could be shut down any day, that the contract wouldn’t be renewed, the executives didn’t have the budget anymore for their high class dining room. By 2:00 pm, I had nothing left to do, and was helping Yasmine measure out dry ingredients for tempura batter kits, bags and bags of white powder spread out across the stainless steel island in the middle of the kitchen. I had noticed the chef poking around on my station earlier, but thought nothing of it. She had my recipe binder open, and was leafing through it, but slammed it shut immediately when she realized I was watching, and scurried out of the kitchen again. Strange, but then again, she was not particularly normal, and really, who of us are in this profession? Concentrating on trying to remember which bag I had already measured salt into, suddenly there she was again, asking me if I wouldn’t mind letting her look at my recipes. “Why?” I asked, not quite rudely, but not that nicely either. She stammered “Well, I have a recipe for molten chocolate cake but yours is different and I wanted to look at them and see how they compare, or what the difference is, or if they’re the same”. “O..K..” I said, thinking how ridiculous that sounded. She grabbed my book, and began searching. “It has a tab on the..” I began to say, “I know where it is!” she snapped back. Well, she knows where everything is in my recipe book, interesting. I had a tablespoon of baking powder about to go into the last bag, when, from across the island, I saw her hand scribbling away, copying down my recipe. “Yasmi,” I whispered, “I think I’m getting fired today.” “What are you talking about?” she said. An hour later, Chef asked if we could talk for a minute, I nodded, followed, and she led me into a private party room where a woman from HR was sitting at a shiny wooden table with a stack of papers in front of her. The manager of the club was sitting to her left, and the chef sat down to her right. Neither of them looked at me as the woman began. She shook my hand, asked me to sign something, apologized. The economy, money, part-time workers, job listings, I saw her mouth moving, something about being escorted to my locker, and it was over, I darted out of there, ran to my locker, tore my apron off, was changed and packed in under a minute. I walked back into the kitchen to get my knives, my cutters, my recipes, a year’s worth of work. Did I have time to throw out all of the chocolates that I had made? Suddenly she was at my side. “I suppose you need a bag?’ “That would be nice.” I looked up, she had disappeared, Family meal was almost up. “I’m leaving” I said to Yaz. “What, you’re not eating lunch?” “I mean I’m leaving forever, I got laid off.” “No way, I’ll call you during family.” I left, my bag heavy, the last elevator ride down from the 35th floor. Chocolate, butter, flour, sugar, eggs. A week later she used my recipe to make the dessert for a big party. They didn’t come out right, but she served them anyway.

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