Lost in the back of the house, I follow the friendly faces behind the scenes at the Pfister to the main kitchen. It is almost 8:30 am and time to make chai. In between pinching myself and asking how it is that I get to be here in the kitchen of the Pfister, one of the most iconic hotels in the midwest, I am nervous about making chai for so many people. To date, I have made 5, maybe 6, cups at once. For today, for the Pfister, I will be making 25.
Janie in the pastry kitchen and Juan on the line, greet me with a smile. They make room for me and help me find what I need. A large cooking pot and stirring spoon. Measuring cups and a strainer. A cutting board and knife. And a mortar and pestle.
Stephanie, the conductor and the orchestra, is busy gathering everything else we will need— coffee cups, napkins, stirring sticks, sugar and the list goes on.
Travis, the pastry chef, has homemade vanilla shortbread cookies waiting for us. And Brian, the executive chef, is here to provide the final touches.
Together, we hunt and gather for all of the right things. And at a little bit past 9:00 am, I begin.
45 minutes, 25 cups of water, 30 black tea bags, 4 cups of fresh ginger, 6 cups of milk, and 120 cardamom pods later. After the sugar and cookies have been placed just so on the Indian serving trays. And the ingredients have been added to the water and left to boil. We are ready.
And as I serve my first cup of chai in the majesty of the lobby, I travel back in time to just moments earlier in the kitchen with Juan and remember his words:
“Everything you do with love, the way that you are doing it now; it will always turn out good.”