Well didn't really save a life but... While I was waiting tables on Thursday a girl forgot her iPhone on the table when she left the restaurant. I ran out to her, and fortunately was able to catch her as she was about to drive away. What would a person do without their iPhone? Most people are helpless without their devices. Anyways, back on topic... I did get a job though.
Monday was off because of memorial day, so I started work on Tuesday.
This week I did a variety of jobs around the restaurant (Tomo Sushi) and was able to help wherever they needed me. I got to make and eat more sushi, which was really fun, and also got to meet the new waitress, Eunji. On Wednesday I made myself a Vegas Roll, which is cucumber, cream cheese, salmon, and avocado packed into a roll, deep fried.
I have seen the preparation, cooking, presentation, serving, and cleaning up of food, but this week on Thursday I got to go along with Sam (the owner and manager) to buy the ingredients for the wonderful food Tomo Sushi makes. Sam goes every morning around 8:00AM to visit a variety of stores across the Portland Metro area that sell several fresh ingredients. Sam could be like one of those other restaurant owners that has food delivered every morning in bulk to their doorstep, but he says he wants to see the food that he is purchasing with his own eyes. Sam also likes getting the best deals, that means going a bit out of the way, but it's worth it.
I met Sam at 8:00 on Thursday at Tomo Sushi, where he picked me up in his Prius and we had some Starbucks. We then went all the way across town to Restaurant Depot (pictured below) in North Portland, where Sam picked up some fresh vegetables. Sam said that Restaurant Depot is a place where many small restaurants go to shop for their ingredients. The place was huge, and it had a giant freezer. In the freezer there were whole lambs in a bag, which I thought was kind of gruesome. We also bought a spiky thing to punch receipts with. The next place we visited was Cash and Carry (pictured below), right across the street from Restaurant Depot. I knew there was a Cash and Carry in Beaverton, which is closer to Tomo Sushi, because my grandparents shop there so I asked Sam why he went so far for food. He said that the rates there were much lower than the Cash and Carry in Beaverton. Interesting. At Cash and Carry, we bought some more frying oil, which was super expensive surprisingly: 25$ a bottle. We then went to Columbia Distribution, which is some kind of beverage distribution company. At first I thought he was talking about the Columbia Sportswear Store (they don't sell food!), but we were going there to buy some more alcohol from Columbia. I haven't really talked much about the alcohol sales in my blog, because I'm not really allowed to handle it. Whenever someone orders it, I ask one of the other wait staff to serve it. Most of the alcohol Tomo sells is Asian in origin like Sake or Asahi. Sam called ahead, so they had the order waiting for us, some Japanese alcohol, Asahi. The trunk of Sam's little Prius was starting to get pretty full so we started moving things around to fit more stuff in. We still had two more stops. I can't believe that Sam does that almost every day. We then stopped at a Chinese food distributor in South Beaverton where we picked up tempura batter and noodles for udon. We then went on our way to G-Mart, a Korean store / restaurant in Beaverton. I got to practice some of my Korean saying goodbye, however, the lady and Sam laughed jokingly at me. Chinese is better haha. I couldn't believe that Sam made that journey every morning and still worked most of the day at the restaurant. It seems really crazy to me. He has invested himself in this restaurant.
When we got back to Tomo's, Sam found out that Cassandra, the waitress on duty, couldn't make it to work because her car broke down, so Sam asked me to cover the position for the lunch hour. I didn't expect it would be too much problem for me, but the lunch hour was busier than I expected. I got a bit stressed out and dropped some dishes I was cleaning off the tables. That was probably the low point of my week. But working with customers was really fun, and I enjoyed making sure that each customer was properly taken care of. Serving people yummy food, and seeing them satisfied makes me really happy. I went home and fell asleep on the couch. That had been a pretty crazy day.
On Friday I worked both the morning and evening shift at Tomo's. In the lunch hour, Ramon had me help him make some sushi. I made some sushi for Evan and my mom when they came to eat. The dinner hour was pretty busy, so I helped wait tables. we had four wait staff including me so it was a bit of overkill. Last Friday we had quite a few customers, so Sam expected there to be more customers this Friday but there was not. Sam like to call this phenomenon "Murphy's Law." I had a little surprise visit from the Junn family as well that night. They came and ordered some sushi and yakisoba. It is really fun serving people you know. After things started dying down I had some tasty sushi for dinner. I am certainly not tired of sushi yet. I then spoke with Sam and he offered me a job as a waiter for the summer I will probably start in two weeks after graduation. I left Friday night feeling extremely satisfied, my senior project had been a major success. I have learned so much about the restaurant industry as well as myself
My third week of working at Tomo Sushi I got to work with Ramon in the sushi bar. Other times in the week Sam had me help wait tables when it got busy. Ramon has been making sushi since 1996, and is really fast at making the rolls. It was pretty cool to learn from someone so skilled in the art. I had such a great time this week and I really appreciate all the people who came and visited while I was working.
On Monday, I came in at 10:30 and started helping Ramon in the sushi bar. He had me slicing avocados, which are a core ingredient in most rolls. First you cut the avocado in half, then remove the large seed with your knife, cut it again, then remove the skin from the four pieces. Using your hand to hold the avocado pieces, you slice the avocado piece lengthwise into several strips. Ramon stressed that everything needed to be clean as much as possible, because people are looking all the time over the sushi bar and won't like it if it's a mess. He then showed me where all the ingredients were: Salmon, Tuna, Albacore, Yellowtail, Bluefin, Eel,Tamago (egg), Asparagus, Cream Cheese, Octopus, Crab, Real Crab, and Inari, just some of the ingredients in the sushi bar. Ramon had me kana, seaweed nori topped with rice, the first step in making a sushi roll. I then put some ingredients in the kana after I flipped it over (Japanese sushi does not flip it over). The California roll, which Ramon said all sushi rolls typically derived from, is made up of kana topped with avocado, crab, and cucumber. I then roll up the roll, pressing in the ingredients as I do so. After that, I took the bamboo roller to compress the entire roll, pressing in the sides, sprinkling sesame seeds over the top. Then I cut the roll, wetting the knife each time before I do so, into eight pieces (other rolls like the crunchy roll come in different numbers of pieces but they typically come in eight). The ends of the roll always look ugly so we try to hide them. I usually put them upside down or try to squeeze them between other rolls. Ramon had me make several Cali rolls because they are quite popular and you can derive other rolls from them. When you put a rolls on a dish, you always have to make sure to put plenty of ginger and wasabi as well on them, of course in a decorative fashion. When I was done with the day, I made myself for lunch a delicious plate of sushi rolls topped with salmon and tuna.
I started out Tuesday at the zoo hanging out with Lauren and my first grade buddy. It was really good to see Catlin people again and I hadn't seen my little buddy in a while and missed him. That night I worked at Tomo Sushi. I initially helped Ramon out in the bar. I got a chance to help make some sushi rice. It's basically normal rice that is stirred around in a giant wooden tub mixed with vinegar. Also to dry it out faster, you can fan it. You also have to mix it around in a special way, slicing the rice with the spoon. We then took this rice to the sushi bar and began making some sushi. Ramon taught me how to make some other rolls. Some rolls like the Bethany Roll, have a unique process, a lot more complicated than the California Roll. You start out with a large California, adding tempura shrimp. After you roll it up and everything you put three thin slices of raw salmon on top, and on top of that spicy crab. Then, taking plastic wrap and placing it over the crab, you press down with the sushi bamboo roller and cut it with the plastic wrap still on the roll. Then, with that roll, you put it on tin foil and put it in the oven to cook for a little while. The Bethany Roll is so big, I don't see how people can fit it into their mouth. A new waitress was on duty Tuesday night and it was her second day working at Tomo's so I had to step in and help out a bit. Fortunately it didn't get too busy, so we could manage. My brother and grandma came in and had dinner that I partially made, which made me really happy. Making sushi that people actually got to eat felt really good. Haha.... but I did fail a few times when I made rolls with too little rice and too few ingredients. I got to eat those rolls so it wasn't too bad for me.
Wednesday morning I worked at Portland Golf Club from 7:00 to 9:00, then I came into work at Tomo around 11:00. I worked the lunch hour at the sushi bar, learning more about the sushi making process. Someone ordered a chirashi, which is rice topped with a variety of assorted sashimi. Ramon said that it was really annoying to make because you have to get a slice of every kind of fish in the sushi bar. Ramon then had me separate tuna meat from the muscle. Most people would think that this is really gross, but not me! I actually really like the smell of the tuna, well you get kind of tired of it after you're spooning it for over twenty minutes but whatever. To separate the muscle from the meat, you have to scrape it out with a spoon. The muscle is composed of tiny thread-like filaments, which don't taste good at all. We then take that mushy tuna and put it into bags for later use in spicy tuna (spicy tuna is just tuna mixed with sriracha sauce). It was also a really cool day because Blythe came in to visit me while I was working. She ordered the assorted tempura bento with a spicy tuna roll, which I ringed up in the cash register for her. I didn't get to make the tempura for her, but I did get to make the spicy tuna rolls. When someone orders a bento, you give them half a rolls. You basically make them half a kana. I was really glad that Blythe came and visited, especially on such a slow day. I didn't work the evening shift that night because I was having dinner at my grandparents house.
Thursday I came in and started to help set up tables and get the restaurant ready for customers. Ramon then told me that Ashley wouldn't be coming in for the lunch hour, so I would have to wait tables for a while until Sam made it in. A lady came in before the restaurant was closed while we were setting up the tables. It was a bit awkward setting up a table around a customer. Fortunately, Sam then came in and was able to help out with customers and I could again help with the sushi bar. The day was pretty uneventful, so when Ginia came in to do her site visit, she was pretty much the only customer in the restaurant, which was good because I could show her my sushi making mastery. She had accidently came in on Tuesday while I was at the zoo, thinking that I working, fortunately she could spare the time to come again. She ordered an Oregon Roll, which has avocado, cucumber, and eel, topped with spicy tuna and eel sauce. It's sometimes difficult to make this roll because tuna is extremely squishy, but I employed the same methods that I used to make the Bethany Roll earlier and it was fine. It was really nice seeing Ginia. Her, Sam and I had a nice talk about the restaurant. I came in again in the afternoon to make some sushi for my mock trial party. I just threw in a variety of different rolls, put them on a platter and called it good (picture below). It was so rainy and the traffic was terrible going to Lake Oswego. Chris and I got there thirty minutes late too, but people liked the sushi I think.
On Friday I decided to work both the morning and evening shift at Tomo's. Once again for lunch, I got to work in the sushi bar and this time more people came to visit me. Lauren and Kate came and had some sushi while I was working at the bar. It was pretty busy during lunch time so they had to wait a while, but I got to make their rolls. I forgot to add some sauce on their rolls and had to quickly retrieve it back to add it... pretty bad right? Some of my friends from Westview came to visit too, but I wasn't able to make their rolls for them because Sam had me help out with waiting tables because it was extremely busy. The room was filled with kids because the Beaverton School District had a day off for something. All the moms with their crying children drove me a little crazy, especially when people decided to leave a massive disaster in their wake. I then took a little break and came back for the dinner hour where I found Jamie and Ashley already waiting tables and it was extremely busy. Jamie asked if I could exclusively handle all the to-go orders of the night and I said "sure," but I kind of ended up doing many different things that night. I started helping out customers with their orders, passing out food, and delivering water like I had the first week I had been at Tomo Sushi. Then Ramon called me back into the sushi bar to have me slice up some avocados for him. Then my aunt, uncle, and my cousin, Katie, who I haven't seen in a while, came in to dine. I felt bad I couldn't make them sushi, but it was so busy that they needed me to wait tables. On busy nights like that, they have a guy who works part time, help with the sushi. My friends Lianne and Elizabeth also came in and had some sushi. It was really nice conversate about how each of our senior projects were going. It was a little less busy when they came in around 7:20, but it was still packed. This guy started complaining that his rice tasted / smelled funny, so I offered him a new scoop of rice. Nothing smelled wrong with the old rice. When I gave it to him, he put it up to his nose and smelled it saying that this rice was better. I didn't notice any difference. Some people are very particular about their rice smells... I don't know. Anyways the flow of customers never really died down that night. By the time we had "closed" at 9:00, half of the tables were still occupied and some customers hadn't received their order. People were still calling in, and we had to refuse them. When I left around 9:30, there were still two groups that were sitting in. Crazy. Sam must have been very happy about that day.
It is crazy, but I have learned every job at Tomo Sushi (except the manager / owner position). From waiting tables, to working in the kitchen, to making sushi at the bar, I have done everything. Everything I've learned at Tomo Sushi has been building up to this point, and now I feel like I am a versatile member of the group. I am certainly not as experienced as everyone who works in their jobs, but I know how everything works.
Gilberto (pictured below) taught me how to make the ingredients for Miso soup. The first ingredient is tofu. I had to cut up the tofu into little edible bits. I then diced the green onion. Then we made the Miso soup broth, which had some Japanese soup stock in it.
Other things I did: cut up different ingredients, prepare salads, etc.
I also got to make some food that people actually ate! I made a ton of teriyaki chicken... it seems to be very popular, also the orange chicken (which I don't believe is asian at all). Also, there are to go orders and dining in orders that each have different requirements. Dine in orders from the kitchen for teriyaki come with salad, while to go orders come with steamed vegetables.
Another thing I had to make: Bentos. A bento has two meal items like sushi and grilled salmon, with rice, two gyoza (dumplings), and salad.
I learned how to make tempura! Cooking it consists of coating food items in flour and this thick white paste then dropping them into vat of oil and waiting for it to cook. You can cook all sorts of things that way... broccoli, carrots, tofu, shrimp, even sushi.... I made some shrimp tempura (pictured below)
Washing the dishes wasn't actually that bad. There is this giant washing machine in the back of the kitchen that loads a bunch dishes at a time and washes them in a quick few minutes. We soak the dishes first then load them into the washer. I just have to say, after washing dishes for a week, it astonishes me how much food goes to waste. People waste tons of good, edible, tasty food, which makes me really sad. We just throw away the food people leave on their plates, but what else can we do?
Other times I had to help out the wait staff when they were preoccupied, with things like answering phones and taking orders. One thing that stirred my curiosity this week was that we don't have a table 4. I initially thought that it was because 4 is a bad luck number in Asian culture, but when I asked Ashley about it, she said that it was just a coincidence. Crazy stuff.
People have been asking me if I am getting tired of sushi… the answer is NO. Smelling the fresh ingredients in the kitchen and having to wait to eat makes me want it even more. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of sushi.
So on Monday I learned most of this stuff, working the lunch shift. On Tuesday, I worked a busier lunch, helping a lot with dishes, and made myself a delicious lunch with yakisoba, gyoza, and steamed vegs. Afterwards I worked my job at the golf course till around 9PM. On Wednesday, I worked the lunch shift and helped some more with the cooking and packaging of orders. It was actually really busy on Wednesday and it got a bit hectic back in the kitchen when the to go orders of teriyaki chicken started piling up. I took Thursday off to take my AP World History exam, which wasn't that bad. I got to come and visit Catlin and say hi to a few people, which was nice because I hadn't seen Catlin people in a while. On Friday I worked the night shift for dinner. Dinner was suprisingly slow, with very few customers compared to the Friday night I had worked before, and many people were ordering spicy seafood soup, which was odd. I also got to meet Jamie (below), another waitress who I hadn't met before.
Overall it was great week and I am looking forward to next week when I can start making the sushi in the sushi bar.
On Wednesday I worked with Ashley again for the afternoon shift, which was again another slow day. Every time Ashley is in, she writes an inspirational quote on the board that sits outside the restaurant. I think those quotes are pretty cool. Her quote was, "Don't ever mistake my silence for ignorance, my calmness for acceptance and my kindness for weakness." I had pork yakisoba for lunch, which was fantastic!
I planned to work both the afternoon and night shift on Thursday, so it was a very busy day. I started working with Cassandra in the afternoon. It was a little bit busier than the previous days, but nothing probably compared to the night. After work I had lunch with Sam, who talked to me more about the sushi business. He said it might be good idea for me to go with him one morning to buy the fish he uses for the sushi. That would give me the complete picture of how seafood goes from fish tank (or ocean) to plate. I then said goodbye to him because I had to go off and run some errands before I came back to work. My parents bought me a car for the summer (woot!) so I had to take it to the DEQ in Hillsboro to get its emissions tested, then had to take it to the Toyota dealership in Beaverton. It was really warm that day, my car doesn't have air conditioning, and the dress code for Tomo's is black so I was sizzling in the heat. I came back to Tomo at 5 and things still hadn't picked up yet. I was working that shift with both Taylor and Cassandra. At the end, I had some delicious sushi to take to-go. It wasn't that busy, probably nothing compared to Friday night...
For Friday, I planned to only work the night shift. I had a pretty relaxing morning and spent some time studying for my AP exam. I got to Tomo at 4 and started setting up tables. Unfortunately, one of the waitresses was unable to work, so Sam's wife, Sarah, had to fill in for her. Everything about that night was crazy, from the constant ringing phone to the little children climbing all over the tables. I often had to multitask, answering a phone call for a take-out order while ringing up someone's check. I had to constantly deliver water, and clean up tables, there was always something to do, contrasting the slow afternoon shifts I had been working over the week. I had been working towards this night- the whole week had been preparation for this night. As things started dying down, I had a chance to claim my reward, a Tiger Roll and a Ninja Roll.
It was a good experience working this week to familiarize myself with the restaurant. Next week I will be working in the kitchen, making food and cleaning dishes. I am extremely excited for the weeks ahead, and hope more people will come and visit me while I'm working.