Annisa Sous Mary Attea: "I'm Sort of Just Enjoying the Ride"
|Annisa via Facebook|
"FTMFB" Fire the mother f*%#ing board. This usually signifies the end of the night when the last tables are fired. I like when we fire the board.
What are your hours like?
I am fortunate to be at Annisa, which is only open for dinner service from 5:30 to 10:30. So I don't have to worry about early mornings prepping for lunch or brunch. I usually head in around 1 and am finished by 11:30. 12 on busier nights.
Did you have a mentor?
My first sous chef, Titus "Danny" Wang, when I started at Annisa made a big impression on me. I learned a lot from him that I still carry with me. And Anita has been hugely influential and supportive.
What was your relationship like?
I was definitely a little scared of both Anita and Danny at first, mostly because I was new and wanted to impress both of them. But they were both extremely supportive of me and helped me get where I am today.
What's the most important thing you've learned?
Respect. Respect all around. Treating those around you with respect, whether it be your dishwasher or FOH staff. Treating your ingredients and product with respect. Knowing that someone put time into raising a pig or cultivating a radish and it's up to you to showcase its potential. Respecting your knife, your tools, your work area.
What do people in your personal life ask you to make them?
Egg sandwiches. It's my breakfast specialty. I think I'm also pretty much expected to make Christmas Eve dinner from now on.
Do any of your sous chef skills translate to other areas?
I wish the organizational skills translated to other areas. I'm not as organized or structured in life outside the kitchen. I also like to think that my knife skills will help with a zombie apocalypse!
What do you wear in the kitchen?
Short sleeve dishwasher shirt, chef's pants, apron, head band, clogs.
What do you do about the heat?
I usually roll up my pants to my knees which helps with ventilation, but then leaves me vulnerable to leg burns, which are not pretty. We also will freeze wet towels and put them on our necks.
What about patrons that complain?
We take complaints seriously and will always investigate. If a guest feels something was salty, I taste all the components to make sure they are seasoned properly. But nothing is more frustrating than a patron who complains that something wasn't hot and then I hear from the server that they didn't touch it for 10 minutes.
What's your favorite thing to make for Annisa right now?
I love making the steak tartare because we mix it to order so I always have to taste it. It's a flavor that brings me back to my childhood.
What do you admire about Anita Lo?
Her modesty. She is one of the most talented and creative chefs around but doesn't flaunt it or deem herself more important. She puts herself on the same level as those working around her. My first day as an intern I was amazed that she, the chef and owner, took our shift drink orders and delivered them personally. She is someone who respects her staff.
It's not so much a cookbook, but I love Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen." I think every cook should own a copy. I love being able to look up anything and find out its properties and what happens on a molecular level. I think it's not only important to know a cooking technique, but to know the "why" of it. For me, it helps with comprehension. It's also easier to teach when you fully understand.
Do you socialize with other people in the kitchen?
We are a small, tight knit kitchen, so we definitely get to know each other during the work time hours. However, we are fairly tame for a kitchen crew. Most of us just head home after work. We'll go out occasionally, which is always nice to relax and catch up without the kitchen craziness.
What's your favorite drunk snack?
Chicken gyro from Sammy's halal food truck on West 4th and Sixth Avenue. Chicken wings at The Wing Bar in Brooklyn.