Memories of a professional Chef Part 2
Check out Part 1 here:
While at First Base I personally trained a couple hundred line cooks. Not all of them were able to handle the high volume, high pressure, and high jinks that a busy restaurant has to offer. Here are some notable things that people have done in and out of First Base:
One of the guys who trained me in was the type of guy that almost died at least a dozen times. The situations he got into and walked away from were legend at First Base and I had the pleasure to work with him and on occasion party with him. Ill call him Larry.
Larry was from the old guard that started at First Base when it was just First Base and a second restaurant. Basically before it was The Company. Back then employees were allowed (And encouraged.) to drink, fuck, and do drugs in the restaurant after the place had closed for the night. Sometimes they would drink inside and then finish at another bar. Sometimes they would drink all night into the morning hours and watch the sun come up over Lake Superior.
On one occasion Larry and a couple of guys got done with the day shift and decided to grab a case of beer and drive down the local cruising spot. This was a long residential road near the lake that had only a couple lazy curves. For some reason one of the guys had a recliner in the back of his truck. I dont knoow the story of how or why it got there but the after math was one of those times Larry should have died.
Of course Larry was pretty drunk by the time he climbed into the back of the truck and sat down in the recliner for the ride. Needless to say the recliner was not tied down or secured in any way. Neither was Larry. About 15 minutes into the drive they come upon an S curve. It is a very easy turn and you never lose sight of any part of the road. The driver (I was never quite sure if he was part of our company or not.) decided to gun it around the turn forgetting (or not caring) about the drunk cargo sitting in the recliner holding a beer.
As the truck came out of the first curve the recliner, with Larry in it screaming, hit the tailgate and kept going onto the street. It hit the street upright and skidded to a stop against the curb. The driver made a hasty U-turn and came back thinking Larry would be splattered all over the pavement. Upon coming up to the scene there was Larry laughing hysterically still sitting in the recliner holding his beer yelling:
I didnt spill it! I didnt spill it!
That wasnt even the worst thing that happened to Larry. After a day of drinking Larry decided to take his crotch rocket for a ride. Larry was an amazing driver when it came to motorcycles. He was one of those guys who could ride a wheelie for miles. His favorite trick was to go around corners on a wheelie.
I thought he was full of shit until I saw him do it once.
Larry took his cycle up a winding road he drove all the time. He got the bike up to sixty and put it up on one wheel. As he came up to a corner he downshifted and the bike started to wobble a little bit. He tried to slow it down and drop it back down to two wheels. He didnt quite make it. He hit a tree doing a wheelie at an estimated 30 miles per hour. He doesnt remember much after that. He kept going in and out of consciousness. An off duty cop came up to the accident scene and called it in. Larry was in the hospital for a week. He broke an arm and leg. He was very lucky.
Larry was one of the good guys. The type of guy you wanted working with you when the shit hit the fan and two busloads of tourist showed up at your front door hungry, crabby, and cheap.
Some of these guys were the type of guys you dont even want sitting next to you on the bus:
Towards the beginning of summer we would hire about 3 dozen line cooks for the three kitchens. One of those guys was named Sean.
Sean came to us from one of the bigger cities. His work history was never checked. He also told us he had two culinary degrees. That was before the internet. That was also before I could tell when people were full of shit.
In actuality no ones work history was checked unless they had worked for someone we knew or one of the other stores. It was just a fact that if they wrote down they worked at the Olive Garden we took it for granted. It was a waste of time to call someone you didnt know and ask them about an ex-employee. Most of the time management from other restaurants didnt remember them or wouldnt give you anything other than how long they worked there.
Sean was a big fucker. Well over 6 feet tall with a skinny redneck goatee and a mullet. I was the lucky son of a bitch that got to train him in on the broiler station. The fry guy called in or didnt show up so I was pulling double duty, working the fry station and training (Babysitting.) Sean.
One of the things I ask people when they first start is: Are you an alcoholic? If they say no, I say you will be. If they say yes I say you will be again. If they say what? I say didnt you see the check box on the application? I asked Sean this and he said he was a recovering alcoholic and hadnt touched a drink in 6 years. He was drinking by the end of the week.
Larry was actually the wheel man that night. His job was to call out the orders to the line cooks, time all items among the four stations (Broil, Fry, Sauté and Salads)get all the food together for the various servers ordering the food and to be the last quality control before it goes out. Seans first order came up and Larry called it out to him.
Larry called out: Sean, ordering a mushroom and Swiss burger.
Sean: Swiss? Is that the one with the holes in it?
Two culinary degrees huh? It was all downhill from there.
A few orders later Larry called to Sean: Ordering a Filet medium and a New York rare.
Sean: Is a New York the long skinny one or the short fat one?
Back then we cooked steaks and chicken on something called a sun broiler. It was a piece of equipment 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide by 5 feet deep. It was basically a broiler with no door that used open gas flames to cook the food from the top. It was called a sun broiler because it almost as hot as the sun. One time after it had just been cleaned out one of my predecessors as Sous Chef came on the line to cook his dinner and walked by it. He remarked:
Holy Shit! Its hot enough to cook a Jew in there.
He doesnt work for us anymore.
About half way through the night Sean went to piss. I finished up one of his items, put it in the window and took the ticket and threw it in the broiler to fuck with Larry. Sean came back at that time and saw the flare up in the broiler. He actually had to bend down to look into this monster and says:
Who put fire in oven?
I turned to him and asked: What are you? A fucking cave man?
Sean didn't last a month and a half.