Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Restaurant Biz

While I have been keeping busy volunteering at the think tank, where website updates, news releases and contact list building can get a little hectic, I have also been working part-time, training as a cook.

The restaurant in question is a upscale café with renaissance prints of paintings on the wall and the intentionally cracked stone look. It serves a wide variety of flavoured coffees and liquors, ice cream, espressos, teas,cheesecakes and fruit desserts but I don't deal with such things. Instead, I make the pizzas, pastas, wraps, salads, hamburgers, steaks, fried fish, sweet and regular fries. It is a glorious and intimate thing I engage in with the food.

My job as chef debonair however is in limbo.

You see, just yesterday when I called in for my hours, I asked to speak to little K
(a pseudonym), who is my training chef. It went like this:

"Hello, this is [me], may I speak to little K please?"


"He said he was going to call me because I was scheduled to work at 5 on Wednesday."

"You cannot speak to him."

Considering the tom-foolery that sometimes occurs when dealing with kitchen-folk, I assumed the person was just being intentionally gruff and yanking my chain, so I thought biblically, seek (a little bit harder) and you shall find:

"Can I please speak with him," I begged.

"No. You cannot speak with him because he is a bad person. He just quit!"

Uh oh. Sensitive territory. Kitchen folk are also often emotionally fragile. I now reappropriated the tone of the person's voice and particular sense of unhelpfulness to be deep-seated anger that he was venting at me.

I cautiously resumed the topic:

"Well, do you need me to come in on Wednesday to work?"

"I don't know! I don't know if we need you to work!"


*CLICK* (the phone hang up, or rather, WAS hung up...BY SOMEONE. Everyone knows phones don't just hang themselves up. That's about as likely as a cat declawing itself.)

So, I let the situation simmer (having learned a thing or two about the cookery of tense situations). Today I haven't been able to get a hold of Homer, who, as it turns out, was the prickly voice on the receiver on whom my job now depends.

Anyway, so that's that. I'm sure things will resume like normal, I just don't know when. In the meantime, let us reminisce about fun kitchen times and I will introduce you to the usual suspects:

Little K is a scrawny kid who's been cooking in the kitchen since he could walk. He expects us to be quick but he's laid back and likes to joke around, often singing "Sitting on the Cock of some Gay" to the tune of "Sitting on the Dock of a Bay." I don't think he really has any particular feelings towards the homosexual community. He just like to rhyme. One cool thing that was neat was how one day when he cut his hand open, he didn't want to bleed all over, so he just cauterized it on the hot grill.

Jailmaster is an old alcoholic who likes to swear at everyone inGreekk. He will encourage us to suck a certain limb of his and when we politely refuse he'll mutter to himself. He was apparently charged for attempted murder after he threatened the use of a hockey skate blade on his opponent's neck. He swears his wife's "thing" is larger than "that thing you call a penis" (not that anyone tries to compare by displaying their member). Once when a waitress left her cell phone unattended, him and Little K took a quick snap and replaced her background image with a picture of his hairyGreekk arse.

Shazeem is a little Turkish man who will happily cut dough for portioning or do whatever is needed in the kitchen, jumping at the opportunity to work, saying "I will do it for you, my friend." What he doesn't do however is take up the Jailmaster's offer when he asks him for fellacio. Instead, he politely says "no, thank you. There is no way I could do that." Then, sarcastically, but with so much seeming sincerity, he tells Jailmaster: "It will be so sad when you are gone." This gets Jailmaster fired up and Jailmaster will claim: "When I die it will be like Jesus Christ! You won't be able to stop worshipping me!" Shazeem takes it all in. He could remain calm throughout an earthquake. He comes into work, sighs and says "God Bless America!" To which I quickly add: "And no one else," which he confirms: "Right! No one else. Only America." Often he sings eastern melodies which are quite beautiful and talks about making love to Jailmaster's daughter in his fantasy, outlining how this would last for days and days and how he would treat her as a princess.

The other trainee, Unfortunate, has a son named Barrett. (That is not why he's "Unfortunate"). What are the chances? He turned back to hospitality services after he got sued by his business partner who he opened up a rollerblade and skateboard equipment company with. He hasn't cooked since the eighties but he's good. He will be a sane addition to the force. His house has been robbed twice in the last year, (most likely by his ex wife, he suspects) and now he just wants something steady to keep going so that he can pay the bills.

The waitresses are typical: not bad-looking, overworked, chain-smoking wenches that are full of complaints. I'm exaggerating. They are generally nice and friendly. One is really nice. Her name is Unpronounceable. I saw her on the street today so I snuck up and surprised her. She didn't recognize me because I was wearing a suit (I had just been in the think tank) instead of my raggy kitchen clothes. I explained what was going on with the lack of employee support and she said she'd do something for me. I thought that was sweet.

Anyway, so now that this job uncertainty thing lingers and don't know if I'll even be paid because I was anticipating making it through the training process first, I seemingly would have a reason to be glum. Knowing that the last source of cash I'll get for who-knows-how-long was last night's babysitting stint, I would conclude that I am a financially ruined and worthless derelict (except that I still have a home).

The highlight though, the volta, if you will, is that while I wasn't thinking of all the good karma I saved up from last year's serfdom as a jack-hammering slave/underling to the tyrannical Howard, my dashed hopes were suddenly restored by my income tax return!! Huzzah!

So now I have new fire in my bones and some Taschengeld. I should make sure my recipes are memorized so that I can pass my certification, IF I still have a job. Here's one delightful dish I'll share with you:

Penne Alla Checka

Eggplant sautéd in olive and garlic oil mixed in a cream alfredo sauce with zucchini, tomatoes, kalamata olives, basil and white wine served with penne noodles and topped with feta and mozzarella cheese, sprinkled with parsley.

Personal Diegesis


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still have to meet the first chef who isn't nuts.

It's because they spend so much time between four white walls. You just go crazy. It's a fact. I've been there myself.

3:41 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ttell those fuckers you want to be paid and STAT and you just walk right in there on shift and gear up....time to play the piper!!!

jk...i'm a shit disturber, so do NOT listen to

income tax returns ROCK if you get money back. HUZZAH!

12:59 p.m.  
Blogger Jason said...

like the recipe if you take out the olives.

3:14 p.m.  
Blogger transience said...

this little ditty made my day! i was encouraging my already kooky sister to go pursue a culinary career. bad advice, i guess. cookery. kookery. same difference.

10:04 p.m.  
Blogger iamnasra said...

Had wonderful time to read this bits on your day as cook and the ins of it. I did avoid reading about the policy of the USA it really put me down

7:49 a.m.  
Blogger Katherine said...

This was really fun to read.

I recently met someone named Unpronouceable as well.

11:04 a.m.  

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