Randall Burns

4 years ago · 3 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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"Zen and the Art of "Bomber" Cleaning"


   I leave “the line”, and although the peak of service is over, "The Crunch", it will still continue at a fast pace for a couple of more hours. The adrenaline is still coursing through my veins, heightened by the activity around me. It is loud, the “hum” of the kitchen, pans hitting the stove, oven doors opening and closing, buzzers and timers chiming away, the fryers loud “sizzling”, the constant roar of the dish machine in the “pit” belching steam out continually, plates being stacked, loaded and unloaded, communications being 'barked" throughout, the ever-present extractor fans creating a “white noise” backdrop for the cacophony of sounds that are bombarding the ears, but to me it is a symphony.

   I turn the corner and proceed down the back line, the “steam line”, shut down now as the prep for the day is done. A dishwasher is diligently dismantling the heavy duty pressure steamers and cleaning them inside and out. He’s sweating, he’s busy. We look at each other; don’t say a word but I see a glint in his eye, a sparkle as I see him taking pride in his work, I see his concentration on the job at hand. He knows I’m still in “service mode” and although I’ve left the line the focus and intensity still have my mind in their grip, it’s the beginning of another “decompression”, every Cook/Chef deals with it after a busy night. 

   My mind is racing, it is at a heightened activity, I need to finish my order for the morning, a few schedule changes, prepare for a catering meeting the following day, etc. but foremost in my mind is tonight’s service; the high points, the low points, overall a good night but there’s always issues that have to be rectified, streamlining to be implemented, congratulations and praises to be issued. I’m analyzing the night, minute by minute, point by point; At the moment it feels a little overwhelming.



   I walk past the steamers, past the tall combi-ovens, absolutely incredible machines; large and ominous, and such power! I pass the “tilt-skillet”/”tilt-brazier”/”brat-pan” and I arrive at my “Bombers”, behemoth soup/stock kettles, 80 gal and 100 gal side by side. A smile breaks out on my face. The 100 gal was not used today so it is clean but the veal stock was emptied earlier this evening from the 80 gal kettle, everything removed, but it has not been cleaned yet, my heart leaps with joy and anticipation. I find a cart and proceed to get a bucket with surface cleaner, another with sanitizer, rags, green scotchrite scrubber, etc.

   I spray down the bomber with a hose to remove any loose particles, I fill the bottom of the bomber with a couple of gallons of hot water and cleaner and I begin. I start at the top lip, the meticulously curled stainless steel rim around the top of the kettle, my hand with the scrub pad naturally fits easily over it and I effortlessly slide the pad around the circumference of the top. The circle is complete; there is no beginning, no ending. With every pass around the top my mind is beginning to settle, the feel of the solid steel under my touch is grounding the haphazard maelstrom that is raging in my head.

   The bomber is solid, immovable, like the Rock of Gibraltar; it is constant and never changing, unique in our very “fluid” and volatile lives. This bomber was here before I was here, and will still be here long after I’m gone. This is comforting as I push against it, try to budge it; I can lean on it. The act of me cleaning it is also cleansing me, with every stroke that I push that pad, with every brighter glimmer of stainless steel that shines through is one less “distraction” pulling at my mind, it is “the day” falling off of me.

   I work my way down inside the cavernous bowl, my arms and shoulders enjoying the stretching, the physical therapy of working in a circular motion, non-stop, never ending, my hands effortlessly gliding across the hard steel surface, the harder I push, the better it feels, the steel beginning to shine as I can begin to see some reflections. My body, shoulders, arms and hands improving as they’re moving around the never ending bowl, moving lower towards the bottom then higher towards the top meticulously covering every spot. My mind is following the motion, relaxing and unwinding with every stroke, the “service mode” mentality is loosening its grip on me. I’m scrubbing my mind and spirit.

   My mind is entering a mantra as I watch my arms and hands work. My focus and attention are now concentrating on the shining stainless steel. I am digesting the day and releasing it, point by point, minute by minute. As each thought is liberated, my mind gets lighter and I can feel my spirit beginning to shine, beginning to shine like the bomber in front of me.

   I can feel now a direct correlation to the state of the bomber and my being, as the bomber is getting cleaner, free of debris, so am I.

   I’ve arrived; I’m at a state of “no mind”, Nirvana. My mind is blank, it is clear, I’m calm and settled. Without even realizing it, without comprehension I’m finishing up the Bomber. A final wipe around the base, I step back and it is shining, it is reflecting, it is clean; as is my mind and spirit.

   My head is clear, my thoughts are organized, and I’m at peace. I look to the dishwasher and ask if he would mind finishing up the floor and wall around the area to which he responds, “Of course Chef, and Thank You”, he was happy and appreciative that he didn't have to clean the Bomber that night. I look at him, smile and reply, “It’s my pleasure Buddy, definitely my pleasure”.

      Happy Cooking Everyone!

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Randall Burns

3 years ago #8

Yes indeed Jim Murray I will take that as a compliment. Thank You Sir!

Jim Murray

3 years ago #7

LOL. Great minds clean alike Randall Burns

Randall Burns

3 years ago #6

Thank You Savvy Raj What a great idea! "Little Jar of Calm". I'm going to make one and put it on my desk, as you say such a simple idea but I can see the effectiveness of it, (it is the simplest things that are the most profound, and you can't get much simpler than "no mind"). You should incorporate and share this idea in your series, I think that everyone could benefit from it.

Dean Owen

4 years ago #5

I met him once at a dinner during the Singapore Food Festival. He really loves Singapore street food. Have a signed copy of the book somewhere...

Randall Burns

4 years ago #4

LMAO! Dean Owen , well I am working on something, actually have quite a bit written. I love the title that you propose and will credit you if I use it. I will have something coming up soon in the same vein as Bourdain's writing, will let you know when I post it. Here's a very short read that will give you an insight as to my perspective of Anthony Bourdain; https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/acknowledgement-appreciation-chef-anthony-bourdain-randy-burns Thanks for stopping in and commenting, I appreciate it

Dean Owen

4 years ago #3

When are we going to read your version of Kitchen Confidential? You could call it Kitchen Burns! Confessions of a Line Cook!

Ian Weinberg

4 years ago #2

Fascinating Randall Burns Lived every moment of that with you!

Ken Boddie

4 years ago #1

After-service wash and scrub, uniquely described as an enlightening experience. Scouring, rubbing and wiping down those Behemoth Bombers sounds like the Battle of the Somme is replayed every night, Randall. Never will I again complain about doing the washing up ..... until next time I leave my wallet at home, that is. 👨🏻‍🍳

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