The greeter at the door had the phone glued to his ear and was too busy taking names to seat us.
The dining room was littered with bits of food.
The tables were crowded together and chairs were in short supply.
No Prada in sight.
My Saturday afternoon volunteer shift at Bouley Bakery this weekend was the best experience I've ever had at a four-star restaurant.
As you may know, Bouley Bakery is serving as a kitchen for the WTC rescue effort. They are producing thousands of meals for the workers and they are working 24 hours a day. They have set up a volunteer effort for people who want to help - you sign up for a 6-hour shift and you do whatever you can to help the chefs with this huge undertaking.
In the course of my shift, I spent 3-4 hours chopping onions and carrots at a long table in the main dining room. I lugged in dozens of pumpkins from the delivery truck. I worked with one of the chefs to season hundreds of chicken breasts that were about to go in the oven. There was much work to be done. It is remarkably well-organized, but you do have to be a bit pro-active and ask for work when you are at a stopping point - there will always be something to do!
There was a wide cross-section of people: young, old, men, women...it's a great opportunity to meet new people.
They do provide snacks for the volunteers - we had tasty meatloaf and pancakes and the brownies came out just as the shift was ending...mmm...
The Bouley staff are extremely professional and gracious. They have great responsibilities, but they are very patient with the volunteers and all of our kitchen-novice questions. The volunteer coordinators are very efficient and Alfred (the phone guy) is working SO hard to get things organized - if you hit a busy signal when you call or he seems curt when you talk to him, don't take it personally!
Anyone who likes to cook or likes to eat will love Bouley these days - but make your reservations soon!