Monday, September 18, 2006

Kaiseki Chronicles #5

To tell you the truth, we’ve gone through some changes in the past couple of months at the small kaiseki place where I work. In August, one of the chefs quit in the middle of the month. For the rest of the month, we had a chef who came as a temporary help in the kitchen. It was kind of hilarious. He was undoubtedly a good-hearted, fun person, but obviously not a very meticulous type. Me and this helper chef did make “brave” decisions once in a while when the kitchen was terribly busy. (Don’t tell that to our head chef, please.) :P

A new, younger chef joined us in September, and now the head chef is thinking about some nabe dishes for fall-winter season.

BTW, I don’t think I wrote about this before, but I’m allergic to some (not all) perfumes. So far, I have identified 3 perfumes that cause me allergic reactions: Lolita Lempicka, Britney Spears Curious and Woman in rose. These give me headache, nausea, and strange sensation around molars that makes me feel as if the molars are coming loose. A tragedy happens when a customer at the counter table or one of the waitresses wore any of these perfumes.

If it is a customer, it is not terribly unbearable, because the counter table is a little far from the kitchen and I only come close to the customer when I bring washed plates to the shelf near there. But when it is one of the waitresses who come right in front of me every time they bring in dirty dishes/glasses to the kitchen, it is devastating to me. This happened last week when we had one of the busiest nights, and I was almost dying in front of the electric dishwasher. I guess it was pretty surprising for the new chef.

Last night, a big typhoon hit the southern part of Japan. It didn’t hit our prefecture directly but we had occasional heavy rainfall with strong wind. It was my day off so I was at home cooking my supper when my cell phone rang around 7: 20 pm. It was the head chef. He said that there came unexpectedly many customers when only the minimum number of staff were at work, so they needed help in the kitchen.

I learned something: a raincoat does not help much when riding a bicycle in a typhoon-like storm.

When I arrived at the kitchen, it was like a battlefield. I immediately forgot about my wet jeans and T-shirts, and they were almost dry when the last group of customers left around 11:00 pm. It was a tough night, but the chefs packed some food for me to take-home. I had a nice late-night supper with my favorite sake, so I guess I didn’t work for nothing.



Anonymous said...

That's awful about your reaction to the perfume. Did you mention anything? I think a waitress (and anyobdy else working in a restaurant) has no business wearing perfume. Seems to be just common sense, and I'm surprised your restaurant doesn't have rules against it.

Anonymous said...

I have the same allergic reactions to the new "mass market" perfumes. I don't think they are created with the same care or attention to the pairing of scents as the older, more established perfume houses.
A light sprinkling of perfume is pleasant, esp for a waiter that is near clients and running in and out of steamy kitchens. Over-dousing is not!

obachan said...

Thanks for your concern. Yeah, I always tell the waitress whenever I have a trouble with her perfume, and so far no one took it personally or anything. And I ask the name of the perfume and add it to my list of “killer perfumes.” I guess the list will only grow longer, never shorter.

No, our small kaiseki place does not have rules against wearing perfume, I guess, and personally, when I’m a customer, I like waiters/waitresses wearing just a little bit of cologne or something that I like, rather than smelling sweaty. And when I work in the kitchen, I consider a deodorant as a lifesaver, especially in summer. I’m a heavy user of 8x4 myself. So... I don’t know... Do restaurants outside Japan usually have rules like, “Deodorants OK, but no perfume” for the employees?

REALLY?! I never ever expected to hear from someone who has the same problem! And especially someone in Paris! I know this is a stupid stereotype -- maybe as stupid as “All Japanese love natto” -- but I thought everyone in France is used to wearing lots of perfume and never has allergic reactions to it. Thanks, lpc. Here no one understands my problem and that made me feel so lonely. Now I feel much better because I know I’m not the only one. :D

ghanima said...

Thought I'd report in from Canada to say that perfumes are an issue here too. I used to work with a lady (I've since moved on from there) who you could smell from 5' outside the office. Whenever she was close to me, it was clear that she was trying to hide bad body odour, but I think I would have preferred it to the bathing in perfume she was doing. My former roommate gets terrible migraines any time anyone wears a musk perfume near her too.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the restaurant I worked for in Toronto had a rule against perfumes and strongly scented lotions and the like (of course deodorant was OK!). This was becuase scents, even light ones, can interfere with a customer's appreciation of the wine and food.

A local sushi place doesn't allow the employees to even wear make-up for fear it will affect the flavour of the sushi!

obachan said...

Thanks ghanima for letting us know how it is over there. So sounds like it’s not just me or just Japanese who have allergic reactions to certain perfumes. For me musk was perfectly OK, but not the ones I listed in the post… I often wonder exactly which ingredient is affecting me (but knowing it probably wouldn’t help much.)

Yeah, I think the way they do is an ideal. To me, no-make up sounds a bit too strict, though. At least, I shouldn’t work as a waitress at that sushi shop, because my face without a make-up would affect the customers’ appetite more negatively than the smell of my make-up could. ;P