Anyway, this morning, as I pulled into the parking lot, with my car windows up, I smelled the grill-burning-off smell and immediately knew that Oscar was inside and working, remembered that it's Sunday, and thought that the vent fan must be doing it's job pretty well for me to smell that all the way out here.
That momentary thought process, where I smelled something and drew a number of conclusions about what was going on in my kitchen is a perfect embodiment of what the job of cooking and running a restaurant is all about.
People think cooking is about following recipes well, but it's not. It's about being in touch with your senses and then understanding the signs they're telling you. I am constantly in touch with the sounds, sights, smells, and feels of everything in the restaurant.
I don't notice the ice machine above the fountain machine running, but if it stops running, things seem too quiet and I'll go investigate. I can tell from the sound when all the liquid has evaporated from a pan of sauteing onions or mushrooms and they go from stewing to frying. And I can hear it from across the room. While I'm talking to someone.
Not only have I learned to smell something burning, but I can usually tell *what* in particular is burning, just by the specific smell. Burning toast, or marshmallows, or grill-grease-burnoff have decidedly different burning smells.
This is the stuff that cooking and running restaurants is all about. Being very in touch with your senses and then being able to figure out what they're telling you before it turns into a problem (or shortly after).