For the second year in a row, my daughter Julia will be designing and building elaborate Lego mosaics for the Block Party, an annual Lego-palooza event scheduled for Nov. 9 at Fairfield Ludlowe High School. Hundreds of Lego structures will be there along with thousands of visitors to the fundraiser.
Julia builds these remarkable Lego portraits, and I have been chosen to help her. My job is not the glamorous job that Julia has. She is the artist, she builds these portraits, and gets to bask in the glory.
My part is the tedious part. I first make a wooden jig for the Lego "canvas." Since Julia is 13, I still have to cut the wood for the back of the project. I drive her places. I also sort many of the Legos and put them in plastic bags according to size and color. Julia is the chef. I am her helper.
Years ago my wife Laura wanted to be a chef. She went to cooking school and early in our relationship told me about being a sous chef (pronounced like my sister-in-law "Sue." Not the name I call her, but her real name.) A sous chef is an assistant chef. I decided that would be my role with my daughters as they grew up. They are the chefs of their own lives, but I was helping them.
When I told my wife about my revelation, she corrected me. "I hate to tell you this," she said, "but you are not really a sous chef. You are really a prep cook.
I was disappointed. I liked "sous chef" better. It sounds French.
"You are a prep cook. Cutting up the ingredients, getting the ingredients together for the real cook," Laura told me. "You get all the basic ingredients together, pay for braces, send them to school, but it's up to the girls to put the ingedients together for their own lives."
Laura made a lot of sense, but "prep cook" doesn't sound very glamorous. So before I accepted a demotion, I looked it up. Here are some of the highlights from the job description which popped up on www.hcareers.com:
A prep cook is an entry level kitchen position. Okay, I didn't sign on for the glory.
It is important for a prep cook to be able to accept constructive criticism, even when under pressure. I could tell stories.
Despite being at the bottom of the kitchen ladder, the prep cook is an integral member of the staff. See, I'm integral
A prep cook's role is to assist in the preparation of meals by chopping vegetables, making salads ... it provides the ideal opportunity to develop many other types of skills essential to becoming a chef. I'm developing skills
A prep cook may also be responsible for completing a large number of smaller tasks. Such tasks could include ensuring that leftover food is stored properly, performing kitchen maintenance tasks such as emptying the trash and washing dishes. I sometimes nag the chefs into doing it, but most of the time it is more work than it is worth, and late at night after the chefs are in their warm beds, the prep cook is up putting the trash out at the curb.
But what about the rewards? This is ... low pay. However, a prep cook job is an entry level position that is best viewed as a stepping stone to greater opportunities.
This year, Julia is building an Abraham Lincoln portrait that will supposedly talk. So there will be plenty of cutting of boards, sorting of blocks, driving around. This prep cook will be earning his meager pay, but hoping for a stepping stone for greater opportunities.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Friday.