Memories of a professional Chef.
I have been working in restaurants for 20 years and have seen and heard some really fucked up shit. I am currently working in a restaurant that is literally a stones throw from Lake Superior. I would like to share with you some of things that have happened in the last 20 years.
For those of you who have read the book Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain you will know what kinds of things I am going to talk about. For those of you who havent, I highly suggest picking it up. It is a great and funny read for those of us in the industry and those of you who arent. While I dont know any of the people in the book by name I DO know the types of people in it. While reading I have said to myself thats Tom, or Fred, or Steve exactly.
For obvious reasons I wont be using real names of people or some of the restaurants I have worked at. I have been working for the same company for over 15 years and have worked at a few of their different concepts. Ill just call it The Company so I can continue working there. The first restaurant I worked at in The Company I was at for 10 years. Ill call it First Base.
At First Base I started as a broiler/grill man. I would cook burgers, steaks, chicken etc. for the thousands of tourists who came through our doors. I eventually worked my way up to supervisor and then Sous-Chef (A Chef that reports directly to the Executive Chef, the top dog.) After being a Sous Chef for a couple of years I was asked to be Executive Chef of one of The Companys troubled restaurants (We call them stores.)
Most of the debauchery happened at First Base during my time as a line cook and supervisor. While there I met or trained over a thousand people. It was a big operation in the summer. We had three full size kitchens running in one building.
When I first started at First Base it was a fun and loose time. The Company is a privately owned (And still is.) company. We didnt have a Human Resources person. We were given free drinks after work (Sometimes during for special events.) and had little to no restrictions on behavior. The Company hadnt grown up yet.
One of earliest memories from First Base happened in the first week of training. I was training with Jim, a line cook. He had been with the company for a few years when I got there and he would go on to be an Executive Chef at 3 or 4 of The Companys stores. At the end of the grill station and sauté station we had large pots sitting on the floor filled with hot water and soap. These were called pan buckets. When we were done with the sauté pans or sizzlers we used on grill we would dump them in the buckets. When they were full we would call for Pan pickup! to the dish room. The dish washers would come in and hall them away to be cleaned, sanitized and replace them with clean pots filled with soapy water.
Jim was the type of guy who would not get visibly upset about anything. He was atypical in the industry. Most people in professional kitchens, me included in the beginning anyway, when getting upset will yell, swear, throw shit and call in to question someone elses sexuality, heritage, and lineage. Not Jim. His upset voice and demeanor was the same voice and demeanor he showed when asking about how your days off went.
When I showed up to work that morning Jim was already there setting up the line. The pan buckets were already there. I punched into the time clock and started setting up with Jim. About an hour into it he turns to me and say he has to pee. He then turns towards, away from me, the pan bucket on the grill station and hikes up his apron, unzips his fly and proceeds to piss into the bucket. I can hear and see the stream. He finishes, shakes twice, washes his hands in the hand sink, and continues to set up the grill station.
At this point I am just dumbfounded and staring at him. This isnt the first kitchen I have worked in so I know line cooks are a little off, sometimes twisted, but this was the most fucked up thing I have seen until now. Jim sensed I was looking at him and turned to me.
He gets a questioning look on his face and asks; What?
I say; What the fuck did you just do?
He says; I took a piss. What did it look like to you?
I continue staring at him while thinking twelve different things: do I tell someone?, I fucking ate here, that is sick, holy shit!
He starts laughing and pulls a squirt bottle half filled with water out from underneath his apron. He had it hidden before I came in. When it was time he just pointed it at the pot just like his dick and squeezed to get the same effect. Genius.
I have since followed in his footsteps with the practical jokes.
First Base has a top level with a large patio looking at Lake Superior. Here are some of the things people (And some not to bright employees.) have said while eating there:
A guy with a concentrated look on his face flags down his waitress. Thinking something is wrong with the food she asks Is there something wrong?
I was wondering if you could answer a question for me. The guy asks.
Sure. Says the server, What is it?
Pointing to Lake Superior he asks What ocean is that?
A gentleman walks up to one of the servers waiting at the end of the bar for her drink orders.
He asks How do I get down stairs?
She replies How did you get up here?
A lady waves for her server. The server comes over and he asks Yes? Can I get you something?
The lady replies There is something wrong with these onion rings. They dont taste right.
The server says I am so sorry. Whats wrong with them?
The lady says They taste too oniony.
And now the employees:
Alicia the server walks up to the bartender with an empty pitcher of beer in one hand and a serious look on her face.
Hey, do we give free refills on the pitchers of beer?
No. The customers would never leave. The bartender replies.
Asking the bartender Do we put ice in the iced tea?
Yup. Thus the name. says the bartender.
Another one involving Alicia:
Alicia calls Adam, another server, over to one of her tables with three guys.
Adam, these guys need directions to Mukeegee (The next town over). Can you tell them?
Sure. Says Adam. He explains how to get there and walks away. As he is walking away he stops, looks back at the guys, looks at Alicia and walks up to her as she is sitting at the end of the bar.
Alicia? Dont you live in Muskeegee and drive here every day?
Yes. She replies. But I dont know how to give directions there!
Funny footnote about Alicia: several years after working at First Base she was in the paper for receiving some kind of prestigious academic scholarship to college. Book smart, street dumb.
(More memories to come)