Friday, January 29, 2010

Cowboy Breakfast

The San Antonio Rodeo is kicking off this week, beginning with the 32nd Annual Cowboy Breakfast.  The event holds the Guinness World Records for Largest Free Breakfast and Largest Coffee Event.  Only in San Antonio will thousands of people brave cold and rain for free tacos.

St. Phillip's College Culinary Arts program receives a $20,000 scholarship from the event.  In return, our Chef-Professors encourage volunteering to help prepare the food.  Since my day job doesn't involve wearing a hairnet, I took the opportunity to get more experience in food service.

Long post guys, courtesy of lots of pictures from my iPhone, mySA, and WOAI.  

My day at the Cowboy Breakfast started at 2am at one of the grills used to warm up some of the 150,000 tortillas. I worked with a family of a father, three daughters (Mariah, Erica, and Mandy, left to right), and one boyfriend (Jeremy) there.  The girls were really cute and had a great relationship with each other.  They reminded me of me and my sisters, which started my day off on a really good note.

We received logo bandanas for volunteering and Jeremy took the opportunity to transform to "The Tortilla Bandido."

Unfortunately, about two hours into it, Erica got really bad burns on her hands after a stack of tortillas fell on her.  This job is dangerous, folks! So they all left to take her to the hospital.  I love the way they all banded together to see to her safety and I know I would have done the same thing. I don't know how she's doing, but I hope for the best.

When the family left, the grill was taken over by culinary students.  On my half of the grill was Genado, who was awesome to work with.  Really efficient and had a good humor.  The other half was very disorganzied and had a bunch of people who obviously didn't care about being there and it showed in their work ethic.  I'm glad none of them are in my classes right now.

Intermittently, the sky would open up and we would have a downpour for a little while. There was a leak in the tent in a place perfect to drip on my shoulder.  It didn't take much to start a river underneath our feet.  When we happened to drop a tortilla, it almost immediately floated away to somewhere else in the tent. 

One of the guys at that end of the grill was interviewed by a couple different reporters and I might have ended up on WOAI this morning.   I'm the face in the very top left corner in this WOAI picture.  Does this count towards my two seconds of fame? 

After that, my Chef pulled me off tortillas to work the filling for the chorizo and egg tacos.  There were a few other guys at that grill that were hilarious.  One was making up his own theme song.  They were really fun to work with.  But, I am ashamed to say, the old cowboys working the grill next to us showed us up.  They worked like they had been doing this for thirty years.  Who knows, they probably have.

There were a couple guys there that were very interesting characters.  The first was Herb who sported an eye patch handsomely.  He was kind of our supervisor at the tortilla station.  He reminded me a lot of some of my uncles.  Then there was Dickie who was responsible for keeping the fire going and providing all the grills with hot coals.  I love this picture of him from  The best part is the reflection of the bonfire in his glasses.  Both he and Herb had the weathered leather-looking skin that comes from years of long days working outside. They were perfect caricatures of a classic cowboy, but still uniquely themselves.

I had a blast. I a lot of expectations and hopes for the event, but I wasn't disappointed.  I haven't done much volunteer work like this since college, and I'm really glad I did.  A lot of the guys took breaks to chow down tacos, but I kept going.  Even after being there for five hours on my feet I was pumped.  It might have something to do with the two Red Bulls I had, but I think the adrenaline of it all was the real reason.  Even now, reliving it, I feel like jumping around or dancing.  Or doing it all over again.

I love being in my chef's coat.  Similar to putting on a uniform or costume, it changes my persona.  I love how easily I can direct people and how most people respond positively to my direction.  Even a week into my kitchen class, the other students look to me for instruction, and I'm a newbie just like them!  It's a leadership style works better in this format than it does at my day job.  My classes and experiences like this are great outlets for me, and I gain so much from them.

This was a great way to start the day.


Amanda said...

This is awesome! One of these years I want to make it down to the breakfast. Did you ever get anything to eat? I'm going to watch for you on WOAI tonight!

Ann said...

It was in an area of town you don't like driving to, but a lot of the patrons were enjoying themselves.

I'm not big on meat in the morning or breakfast tacos, so it wasn't my thing. The guys who did break to eat weren't very complimentary of the food. But for free, most people don't complain. Usually I find free food isn't worth it.

Amanda said...

Aw that's too bad. I like breakfast tacos a lot if they're made well. I always heard the food at the cowboy breakfast was supposed to be real good.