Memories of a professional Chef part 3

I started my culinary journey at a Ponderosa Steakhouse. Yes, I am using the restaurants real name because 1) they have plenty of other issues to worry about and 2) I wont be working for them ever again. A high school friend of mine got me a job right after we graduated at Ponderosa as a dishwasher. I was getting $3.25 an hour and it was supposed to be temporary while I was going to college. That didnt work out so well.

Ponderosa was a low budget steakhouse chain that had an all you can eat buffet. They sold subpar steaks that were tenderized with enzymes and electricity. However, they passed the savings on to the customer so the buffet, a porterhouse and a baked potato was something like $6. Most of the food was blah but they did have the most incredible fried chicken wings on their buffet. They were nice and peppery and the longer they sat on the buffet the better they got. You could get fired for eating the leftovers from the buffet at the end of the night (I guess they thought employees might accidentally cook extra food at the end.) but we all risked it for those delicious little bastards.

The management staff was pretty much in a revolving door. Every couple of months someone fresh out of Ponderosa management school would show up with their new company rhetoric.  One guy in particular was all high and mighty on the company. It was going to be the next big thing. We were all going to own shares in the company. I think they smoked crack at the company training seminars. Ill call him Joe.

Joe was transferred from another store. Our store was larger and he was on the way up. Joe pissed off a lot of people in his climb. Remember what they say about being nice to the people on your way up. You are going to need them on your way down. During his tenure he noticed a lot of silverware was missing. He never entertained the thought that customers were stealing it for their college dorm rooms. He assumed the employees were throwing it away. As a result he instituted a policy for the dishwashers. He would randomly walk into the dish room and dump the large 65 gallon garbage can over on on the floor. If he found any silverware in it the dish guy would clean it up. If he didnt he would clean it up. He always found silverware.

I know everyone has heard about the dark side of cooking. Someone spits in your food or worse. I can honestly say something like that only happened once that I saw. Those types of people arent professional to say the least and are weeded out of the industry. I dont want them in my kitchen and neither does The Company. They pose a financial risk (And health risk) in an industry in which your reputation is everything. I certainly dont condone what I am about to tell you but he might have had it coming.

One very busy day shift I was dish washing and Tom the broiler guy was just getting his ass kicked. I think they were running a special on steaks like buy one get one half off. Tom was busting ass and sweating like a pig. After about two and a half hours it finally died. Tom finally was able to catch his breath and asked Joe if he could watch his station while he took a piss and five minutes to himself. Joe said after he ate and ordered a steak sandwich. Tom was fucking livid. He came back into the dish room swearing under his breath and saying Ill give him a fucking steak sandwich.

Over the main drain in the dish room we had a large plastic bowl with holes in it. Just like a large sieve. We would put the dishes in the dish rack up on their sides and spray all the food and debris down into this bowl.  The water would drain through and after a half hour we would pick up the bowl and dump its contents into the garbage.

Tom comes back with Joes raw steak sandwich just as I am about to dump the very full bowl into the garbage. He says wait. He walks over, drops the steak into the bowl, and dredges it through the food, paper, straws, cigarette butts and God knows what else. He smiles grabs the steak and walks back up to the grill and cooks it off for Joe. He came back later on his way to his break and said that Joe had told him it was the best steak sandwich he had ever had.

A couple of months after Joe left the company another manager told us Joe would keep a fork in his pocket when he knocked over the garbage. If he didnt find silverware in the garbage he would put the fork there.


Two things to take from this story:

 Never fuck with the people who cook your food.


 Karma is a bitch mistress.

Uploaded 09/01/2010
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