An early Sunday morning in November the two of us along with Jose “Pepe” Talavera took the bus to neighbourhood restaurant Smalhans at St. Hanshaugen. The mission: To take over the intensive two hour daily lunch/dinner service between 4pm and 6pm.
The main dish was Ají de Gallina. A creamy hot dish with shredded chicken and yellow Peruvian chili (aji). Served with rice, potatoes (much carb love), eggs and black olives. In addition we decided to decorate it somewhat untraditional with Blue Congo potatoe chips. We kindly asked our assistant chef to go to Gutta på Haugen and buy some potatoes for us. Meanwhile we started prepping. We thought we were prepared for the amount of work that lay ahead of us, but in hindsight we had no idea. Making this dish for eight people is easy, but we had to prepare for more than a hundred just in case. Anders was finely chopping 80 cloves of garlic, and Andrea was shredding almost 100 chicken filets and that took an immense amount of time.
Pepe did an amazing job peeling nearly 150 potatoes. He probably valued his experience from the time as a marine commander, sometimes cooking for his staff of several hundred people. Chef Pepe was calm.
We had been prepping all day when suddenly it was less than an hour to service started. We brought everything upstairs from the prepping kitchen into the main kitchen. The big pot of Aji de Gallina was simmering and getting ready, but with just ten minutes to go, and the first orders already ticking in, our fellow Smalhans chefs suddenly noticed that the rice had not been boiled properly in the rice cooker. Thankfully Captain Hipstakokken entered at this moment and took control over his ship. Rice was put to boil everywhere. In the steam oven. In pots. High and low rice was being cooked. Service began at 16.05.
Meanwhile, downstairs in the prepping kitchen still, Andrea was facing her own race against time with the dessert. The damn dulce de leche cream just refused to thicken! However, the biggest problem was that it still had to be cooled before we could put Italian meringue on top of it. At one point it almost looked like we would have to cancel the already heavily marketed dessert. Andrea has worked as a chef before too so she kept her cool, though.
To Anders and Pepe’s surprise, desserts arrived in time for the first guest to finish their main course. Our assistant chef had given Andrea a great tip to put the Suspiros in the instant freezer. One lesson we learned this day is that chefs help each other a lot, and we would not have managed half as well without the great help of our coworkers.
More than 50 people ordered Suspiro a la Limeña (“the sigh of the Lima woman) this afternoon. Which turned out to be a new record! As for the main course we didn’t sell enough to break Hipstakokken’s own record of 103, but we landed a nice fourth place with 88 pax.
Cooking at Smalhans was such a great experience for us, and we know a lot of our friends that came to eat had a good time as well. Thanks to Smalhans for inviting us and giving us this opportunity. We hope to return for another take over at some point. Until then we have learned that the chef life is even harder and more stressful than we think about, and that you should eat and drink something during eight hours of work or else you get a headache.
To our great surprise Smalhans decided to donate 5000 kroner of the profits this day to the Movember movement in support of prostate cancer research. Thanks!