Sunday, November 20, 2005

Does the body rule the mind,

Or does the mind rule the body...I Dunno. Still Ill, The Smiths

So I am in the bar the other day and a woman comes in and sidles on up to the bar, solo. 40ish, low cut blouse, big hair, potential for a nice tip in my mind. It has been my experience that anyone who shows up single in a restauarant and sits at the bar is more than looking to eat. It could be something very simple, such as conversation from the bartender or a neighbor at the bar. It could also range the gamut. Straight up propositions, hidden inuendoes and "let's take this elsewhere" happen in the bar all the time. Most often I am the silent witness to it, and I have even on occasion been a participant (though NOT anymore, obviously.) This woman appeared to be the former. Chatty, not flirty, drank a top-shelf margarita, ordered an app, and the small Filet cooked medium with a Caeser salad, and wanted Fettucini as her side. She appeared to be the perfect customer to have, patiently waiting through each course, eating nearly every bite. She finishes the top-shelf, I offer her another and she intimates that the water that she already has is plenty, and politely declines. The filet and fettucini arrive, and she begins to eat these. As she is eating, I turn my back on her and she disappears! I look around for her for a minute then half shrug it off. She appears at the side of the bar a moment later tears welling in her eyes, napkin over her mouth. She mumbles very quickly that she is heading for the bathroom, and that there is a hair in her pasta. She posts the napkin over her mouth defending the floor from the arriving vomit and runs for the ladies room apparently for a second time. I rush to inspect the pasta, but can't see anything. No problem at all in my mind, remove the pasta, take it immediately to the brightly lit kitchen for a recook/inspection. Lo and behold, mixed in with the alfredo and parsley is what appears to be upon "casual" observation a very long, semi-curled eye-lash. I am guessing that in the dining room it "could" have appeared to have been a pubic hair. It was very thick and full, but too short in my estimation to be a pube. It looked very much like an eyelash, and this lady had some long ones. Regardless of what was there, it was what she "thought" that would be important. The manager and I sat back and awaited her arrival, fresh bowl of pasta being prepared. She never showed back up. Eventually the manager (a female) went to the restroom to look for her, and found that she had "un-assed the AO" (in Army infantry terms) a while ago. This begs the question...Where the fuck did she think that she was? We ARE a restaurant, and to a very limited extent, you are putting your life in my hands if you eat with me. Do you truust that the saute chef has washed his frying pans before cooking your shrimp? Are you sure that the fresh veggies that you are consuming on your salad weren't cut on the same cutting board as the raw chicken? (We have several diffreent colored cutting boards, one for each meat/veggie.) There has to be a certain amount of trust involved in order for you to eat in a restaurant. Recently I was making a trip to my sisters house in Ft. Lauderdale and on a whim decided to use I-75 and stop in Fort Myers, Fla, for the dumbest of reasons (unless you are from Boston/New Englan): The Red Sox had their spring training there. We stopped for a "snack" in a bar just off the main road. Get some chicken wings, drink a few sodas, head on the last leg of our long drive. I entered the bar, we were seated, and as I looked around, it was a very nice welcome to Fort Myers, Shamrocks and Red Sox pennants, and World Series posters, memorabilia were all over. I breathed in a nice slice of Red Sox heaven, imagining buying Big Papi a beer in a bar like that. Then I went to the bathroom. I will spare you the gory details, but someone had the severe "trots' and weren't neat. After attempting to use the bathroom, I was desperate to wash my hands, but as I turned on the faucet, I noticed that it wasn't attatched to the sink, and the water rinsing my soapy hands was just running onto the floor/my feet. Now a normal sane person would have left the bar running. Honestly, the last time I saw a toilet in that kind of condition, I was at a gas station in Dhahab, Egypt. As I went back into the atmosphere and saw Teddy Ballgame's picture, a picture of Yaz with his 1967 MVP award, Luis Tiant, and Johnny Damon, I decided to roll the dice. Hell, how can you ruin chicken wings. Lucky for me, the baseball dieties were smiling, and we safely consumed a snack as we continued our voyage. Thing is, what do we know about food-borne illness?

Salmonella? Listeria? The simplest facts that you can say is something like this:

In the United States
In the United States, for 76 million foodborne illnesses (26,000 cases for 100,000 inhab.):
325,000 were hospitalized (111 per 100,000 inhab.);
5,000 people died (1.7 per 100,000 inhab.).
Food safety and foodborne illness, WHO

In France
In France, for 750,000 cases (1,210 per 100,000 inhab.):
70,000 people consulted in the emergency department of an hospital (113 per 100,000 inhab.);
113,000 people were hospitalized (24 per 100,000 inhab.);
400 people died (0.1 per 100,000 inhab.).

One thing that they never show is guess where most of these illnesses started? That's right, in the home. Of course I am not saying that restaurants don't keep that chicken an extra day than the policy allows, or that fish special that seems so cheap probably is cheap for a reason, and only those with a strong constitution should order it. I will say, though, that we have lime greem cutting boards that only veggies are chopped on, white for beef, pink for chicken, and all of that. There is one side of the prep kitchen that is used for cold prep, another for cooking, and another area to butcher the meat (all done in house.) We follow the industry standard of HACCP and do it with a vengance. The only item that that isn't directly to the trash can at the end of the night that was anywhere near to being cooked is the prime rib. The prime rib that was cooked rare today is tomorrows well-done. Take that as a warning if you may, but meat that is cooked to 160 degrees can't carry any bacteria that could harm us anyways.

I just wonder if this lady was trying to get out of paying her bill? Was she really that genuinely sick at the sight of what was very likely her own eyelash? I can't imagine that reaction.

Then again, I can remember being at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, CA and having to "eat tactically" and getting a hot meal that wasn't a tray ration or MRE for the first time in over a week. We would approach the mermite cans one soldier at a time, which were spaced 20 meters apart with our tray, and the KP slug would give us some veggies, and then at the next can a big lump of steaming Army mashed potatoes, and then at the next can, out came the chicken leg and thigh, oven roasted, juice dripping, and onto my tray it went. We walked our hot meals and desserts into the trench line that we were defending (we were playing OPFOR) and began hungrily consuming the hot meal. Somewhere around the second bite, I dropped my whole chicken leg into the sand. Now, should I walk back over there and see if there just happened to be an extra? Should I bust out my canteen with potable water and just rinse it off? What is the S.O.P.? Guess what I did? Yup.

Funny thing was that after Index (the end of the "tactical situation") and all the AAR's, I found out that it happened to quite a few people! Their cake, their chicken all sorts of stuff found themselves rinsed or brushed off and consumed. Damn Army, teasing us with hot meals and flimsy ass recycled cardbard trays that disintegrated when the first milliliter of moisture hits it!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Si me voy - va a ser peligro

Si me quedo es doble
So you gotta let me know
Me tienes que decir
Should I stay or should I go?
"Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" The Clash

I know that I have mentioned it before, but I have always been crushingly shy. I had to wear a patch over my eye in much of elementary school, along with these glasses, and that always makes youstand out. I was the total 6'1" 139 lb dork with glasses for three years who finally senior year after the years of abuse suddenly figured out I could see without the glasses, gained 30 lbs of muscle and grew into his own person. Even then I bore the scars of one who went through three years of torture at the hands of the popular clique of girls. They were just much nicer about it is all.

So I went from this:

Into this awkward teen.

BTW, that is the QuestingCat, my baby bro and I in 1984 (the year of the Los Angeles Olympics, hence the USA Tee-shirt.) When he was in Kindergarten a few years later I joined the Army, started lifting weights and running nearly extreme amounts, I turned into this:

When this photo was taken, I scored over a 290 on my PT test every time (NEVER maxed sit-ups, but always maxed push ups and run!) could run 10k in less than 35 minutes, and was nearly an E-6 after about 5 years in. Needless to say, things got easier for me in the ladies department. Not much, but easier though. I was stationed in Fayetteville, N.C. and there were more GI's chasing after the women than you could imagine. (The picture was taken in Jerusalem, where Christ was held before his Crucifixion.)

Regardless, I still carried that tormented, shy soul of the second grader who was picked on for wearing glasses. The High School Freshman, shy but from San Diego moving into the small rural town and was too uncomfortable to meet people on his own. Those scars were deep. It wasn't until I was in the Army that I developed the persona that could bartend and entertain people, and actually expect people to hear me.

Here I am today, in all of my fat and happy Dad and married joy! Content where I am, just wondering where I have been. Life is funny sometimes.

If you ever see me behind the bar in Destin, Florida, say hi please. Better yet, say it in Spanish!

In my restaurant, the back of the house, like most restaurants in the USA is basically "en Espanol." They understand you, but not really. They wouldn't be on the line if they couldn't understand what 86 onion meant, but ask them what they do after work and there is a barrier. So because of my crushing shyness noone has known that I can speak Spanish until very recently

Too often, I am still that scarred little boy, scared to talk to anyone that doesn't need to talk to me, regardless of being 35 years old, married, and happy in my station. Then one night we had a dishwasher named Jorge with ZERO English come out and hook up the front of the house during the Homecoming weekend for most of the busboys, all high school seniors. He realized quickly that I spoke Spanish. Jorge and I have talked ever since. I nearly made him piss his pants when I finally told him a few of my Spanish jokes! I speak Spanish pretty well, though would be hard pressed to call myself fluent. I spent 4th to 8th grade in the Southern California School System, learning so many basics to Spanish. When it came time to learn a language other than English for real, I chose Spanish. DUH! I spent four years learning the language in high school, and then spent two more in college, reading literature and stories and novellas. I unfortunately speak Spanish properly better than most of the Mexicans that wash dishes. On the flip side, they LOVE that. They LOVE having a gringo on THEIR side of an issue, who to them sounds educated. When a prep cook was shorted on their pay, who did they come to? ME! When they have a problem with a shit-head waiter who won't scrape food off of plates, who do they ask for help? ME. I once told them that I USED to be a soldier in the Army, and their nickname for me ever since has been Soldado. I told them that it has been TEN YEARS since I was un soldado, but they told me that to them, I would always be Soldado... I am happy with this arrangement, and amazingly enough, so is management.

One of the jokes that I told these guys that has ALWAYS worked for me is as follows: It ONLY works in Spanish, but that is the part that astonishes most people who ten minutes before had no IDEA that I spoke their language....

Que es la differencia entre el Presidente de Columbia, and el Presidente de los Estados Unidos Clinton?

(What is the differenece between the President of Columbia, and President Clinton of the USA?)

they always answer "No se." (I Don't know.)

That is when I say (watch for the near-rhyme here!) Uno esta buscando for coca, y el otro para cuca! (which roughly and in slang Spanish translates into "One is looking for coke(drugs), and the other for pussy!" and the Latinos nearly piss their pants laughing. Every Mexican/Latino to date that I have told that joke to for almost eight years has known what a horn-dog Billy-bob is!? Isn't that amazing?)

It has brought me near celebrity status these days in our little restaurant. I have been so successful they are going to have me become the "head trainer for the new waitstaff." I have been there about six weeks. NOW they hear me talk to the back of the house just like the front? Why didn't they know that before? That shy little kid is why. They love that I speak Spanish, they love my food and beverage knowledge, and I am smoking the rest of the staff in sales...FUCK!! Pretty soon they are going to make me a manager, and then I will have to take a pay cut!

In the meantime, i hope that you enjoyed the pics...

Friday, November 18, 2005

The weight of the world ridin on my shoulders

Cause I'm a soldier, I thought I told ya! Just another Victim, Helmet; House of Pain

I guess that I could file this under the Boogie Nights, captain obvious things...

[Colonel's lady friend lying on ground, bleeding from nose]
Young Stud: I, I think she did too much coke.
Colonel James: Oh you think so doctor?!
Young Stud:[sobbing] This is twice in two days that a girl's OD'd on me.
Colonel James: Well, did you ever think about maybe getting some better shit?

That is how I feel about taking quizzes like this one! I loved doing the job, but was looking for something more. The best times that I ever had, and the worst times that I ever had were in the Army. Such highs and lows I have been trying to achieve ever since!

You scored as Special Ops. Special ops. Your sneaky, tactful, and a loner. You prefer to do your jobs alone, working where you don't come into contact with people. But everyonce in a while you hit it big and are noticed and given fame. Your given the more sensitive problems. You get things done, and do what has to be done.
"VULCAN NECK PINCH!!!""owww.......(slump)"



Combat Infantry


Special Ops




Support Gunner








Which soldier type are you?
created with

I guess that I was surprised by the three way tie...medic??

DAMN! The HTML Code totally isn't working! You can take the quiz yourself and see if the HTML works for you.

He thought he was the King of America

Where they pour Coca Cola just like vintage wine Brilliant Mistake, Elvis Costello and the Attractions

I knew that this was about where I stood. It makes me wonder though, why the thought of most "liberals" makes me shudder and only when the right goes all religious on me do I ever feel a pang of guilt for my ability to get along with them...I guess that I like a "laissez-faire" economy rather than letting the bunch of Fidelitos in the democratic party spend us into oblivion chasing after some pipe dream of "Social and Economic Justice."

You are a

Social Liberal
(65% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(75% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

"Now I try hard not to be become hysterical But I'm not sure if I am laughing or crying"

Both sides seem infinitely fucked...I have to give credit to Army Girl for linking to the quiz...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I hear the train a comin'; it's rollin' 'round the bend,

And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when. Folsom Prison Blues, by the Immortal Johnny Cash.

No, I didn'to go to jail, I was just at work, from open to close, and it felt like jail at times. I am now off for two whole days, and man am I tired. These extended periods of time where there isn't any time to be off, the time that you do have off, you tend to sleep. The creative juices just don't flow. My single day off in the past two weeks had been requested off weeks ago, to use it watching the Patriots defense get spanked last Monday. I guess that I fared it pretty well, though. The good things about working this hard is that there is always a pocket bulging with cash every night, so the rewards are immediate. We have been a bad combination for most restaurants, and that is busy and short-staffed. We are so short-staffed that I have become a trainer already! I have been working there less than two months and am already training new employees. That doesn't really bode very well for the place. I am good at this sort of thing, but still find myself asking questions and being corrected by the cooks about my ordering procedures. I guess that since much of the staff is either burnt out or otherwise scatter-brained, I was a logical choice. So, I am not dead or in jail, just busy as hell and tired.

Since a lot of my business these days has been retirees, I will dedicate this post to them. I will tell you about a few of our elderly people that were regulars. All of these people are absolutely real people that I knew tons about, but I am just telling you the basics. I am sure that a few must be dead right now, and others may still very well be doing what they have been doing for years...

I guess that I will start with Ken. Ken had a "condition." He was very well kept and groomed, even though he was likely 80 years old. He always dined alone, ate the same thing and drank the same thing every time. Noah and I loved the guy dearly, and he loved us. He had the fried oysters with a Grey Goose martini with olives. Noah and I poured that thing to absolutely near overflowing, and charged him for the "Skol" house vodka martini. His hands trembled and shook as he tried to drink or eat anything. He always seemed to be wearing medical bracelets and often had fresh IV type scars/cuts on his arms and hands. He LOVED it when we were dead and we had time to chat, but he also loved the "scene" when we were busy. We would absolutely fall over each other to find him a seat at the bar if he came out on a Friday or Saturday, pushing aside people to find him three feet of open space and a stool. He loved to chat with us and loved to sit near the "well." When the oysters came, he would drink a small lite beer (which we never charged him for,) and then pay his check and tip us $10. This went on for nearly two years, and we watched him waste away to almost nothing. We figured him for gay and dying of AIDS, but any inquiries were shot down immediately by him and considered rude, not that it mattered to us the way that he tipped. One day the place had a female bartender fill in for one of us and poor Ken nearly flipped out! The next time we saw him he was pretty upset. He felt that bartenders should be men, and the waitresses should be women. He was very adamant about this, going so far as to say that only the DAY bartender should be a woman, and that the night barstaff should all be men, with attractive females waiting tables in the lounge, and that was the successful formula. We saw him two to three times a week for nearly two years, and then one day he stopped coming in. We were sad, and figured that he was likely not going to come in ever again. He was the best type of regular to have.

Jean was another type. Another "regular" who always had the same drink. Jean was a retired Air Force officer, and was a ladies man. He was likely 70, drove a massive Caddilac Escalade, and was usually loaded 24/7. He always had a massive grin, like this was his preferred life that he expressly wanted to live. His white hair was so white that it was silver and was always well groomed. His clothes were purchased at Brooks Brothers in the casual section, his watch was Tag/Heuer, and his shoes were Ferragamo. The women who would accompany him were usually dripping with jewelry and in their 40's or 50's. In his bizarro alcoholic retiree world, here is how Jean spent his day. He had a condo there in Alexandria, VA next to the Shirley Highway. He would drive down Duke street, into Old Town and start his day. Southside 815, Bombay Bicycle club, even Bennigans. He stopped at them all. Anyplace along Duke Street. Every Day. ONE drink at each place, always charged for his drink, always left $2 as a tip, and then on to the next place. He was known at each place by all of the regualrs, used first names only, remembering everyone after the first introduction. He always had a giant grin, always made people laugh, and left after one drink in his Caddy. Eventually he would be back to his "home base" (his condo) and his "sortie" was over.

Mary and Barry, in their late 60's and still spry were another story. How we hated these people. They would arrive around 3 every Sunday, rain or shine. Mary would order a diet coke and then not drink a drop. The ice in that thing wouldn't even melt she was so cold. Barry would drink Mirassou Chardonnay, and lots of it. We never knew how much that he would drink, and for some reason or another we would just pour it and pour it and when it was all over would charge for either one bottle or two. They NEVER tipped very well, and Barry would get more and more belligerent as he read the Sunday NY Times, The Nation, or The New Republic. This was all during the Clinton years, and even then he would harrumph about the sad state of our Nation, and otherwise gripe about how high the literacy rate in North Korea was, or about the "free" medical care in Cuba. Then Barry would go to sleep, (literally pass out and sleep on the bar) and Mary would not shut the fuck up. Everything was all about web design, and about how hard her job was keeping up with a nutrtional information website, and how good she was at her job, how many pages there were, what info the Gobm't keeps from us peons, etc. Now when Noah and I started this gig, we inherited these regulars. We hated them. If they ever ate something (never happened,) we would have spit in it. If I was married to a shrew like that, I would be a drunk too. There were many other regulars there too, and they all tolerated her for some reason. Around 7pm, the football games would be over (Barry was a Bronco's fanatic, and I will NEVER forget how drunk he got when Elway lost to the Jaguars in the second round of the playoffs in 1997!) and they would walk to their million dollar condo around the corner. This happened every Sunday that I ever worked there. After I left, like two years later I heard through the grapevine that Barry went to rehab and Mary came in many times by herself and then when he got out they stopped coming in altogether.

One of my favorite regulars that wasn't mine was this tiny little old lady. She would come in every weekday (where she was on the weekends I have no idea) and request the same waitress. This waitress was a TOTAL grouch/biatch named Susan, ready to quit the business altogether after having been working in it for almost 15 years. The hours were too much, she didn't want to work at night anymore, she hated waiting on people, blah, blah, blah. She sucked, and she had pissed off management horribly with all of her complaining, etc. and then she and the little old lady "clicked" together like a frickin' lego. Who was this lady? I have no idea, but she had MONEY. She looked oh so sophisticated, and would show up with a different lady EVERY weekday at lunch, request Susan to wait on her and would order the same thing every time. She would usually have another little old lady with her that would sit and order the tea service (there was an extensive fine dining tea service there, complete with a dozen choices of fresh ground tea and a heated iron kettle to pour your own) and something meager off of the menu. Every once in a while, the lady accompanying the regular would have a lobster, but never more than the 1 1/2 lb one. Susan's regular on the other hand would always order a bottle of Dom Pergignon, and then the Arctic Char, lightly cajuned with the light lemon butter sauce (a staff favorite, and Susan's connection. She told the little old lady that the staff loved their Char, and how we ate it. The lady tried it and freaked, and ate it every weekday after. In her defense, have you ever eaten Artic Char with a light cajun seasoning and a lemon butter sauce? It is incredible. To eat it every day I imagine that she is dead of a heart attack by now, but still. For a treat, I rate it up there with a Ruth's Chris N.Y. Strip served mid-rare"Pittsburgh" Style with a Caesar Salad and some mashed potatoes. [Here is a Homer Simpson "Doughnuts!" drooooollll...]) and then she ate the profiteroles for dessert. She would tip Susan $50. Every weekday. We had a VERY brisk lunch business anyways, with most servers making between $50 and $80 for working from 10:30 to 2:30 and then working again at 5 for the dinner shift. Susan would stay on as the "mid" with another server that changed every day, but since the little old lady Dom gravy train wouldn't be waited on by anyone else except Susan, she was one of the "automatic" mid servers of the weekdays. Mid servers would make between $125 and $150. Susan made that plus the $50 from her little old lady. $800-1000 bucks a week on 10:30 to 5pm schedule, totally chilled out times. All of a sudden, Susan loved her job again, started to have other regualrs, and would actually smile....Funny how it works...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

So smile for a while and let's be jolly love shouldn't be so melancholy

Come along and share the good times while we can. I never Promised you a Rose Garden, The Suicide Machines Done by many artists, I know, but especially good when sang by punks rather than country-western singers!

People suck...what more do you want? We have this little tiny 18 year old chick who has started waiting tables with us. She has been at our restaurant for almost a year now and has worked as hostess, food runner, and even busser. She has applied herself, worked many positions in the restaurant, and tonight made quite a good night for herself waiting tables on her first Saturday night. She deserved to have a great Saturday, and she was practically dancing out of happiness, but had one observation to make right away. People suck. The general public really has no idea how demanding that they are. Extra cheese, half of the meal spicy...the other mild... seperate checks (with 12 people!)... sit at a table for an hour after you have paid out to chat with the friends that you hadn't seen in months or whatever... split meals... too rich...under/over cooked...Does it matter? We all have needs, and if you are paying $25 for a steak and salad, you have a right to voice your concern, but damn! At some point you have to have some trust in your waiter and establishment. Why would we charge $25 for a steak and expect you to tip me a significant amount if we didn't think that you would be anything other than ecstatic? If you don't trust us, go on over to Ruby Tuesday's and have their steak. Our little chick in today's story expereinced much of these things tonight. We were very busy, and I had huge numbers, made great cash, but also wore myself pretty thin. Nothing major to report from tonight, but to catch you up on my week, we had some new people training here. The four training were our little hostess/busser/food-runner (who did great), the beach bum, the skanky chick, and the old dude. I have already told you about the little girl, so onto the beach bum. 21 years old, been working at Applebees for a while. Ready to "get out of the low-end chains." Good for you, buddy. Welcome, the water is warm, the break is a perfect right-hand roll about 150m out, ride all the way till you get to the pier. Try and tube it of you can. The skanky chick is also about 21, but looks totally garish when you see her in "Civvies" but is otherwise normal wait-staff looking when you see her waiting on you. Her boyfriend works the grill at another neighbor restaurant, but felt she would make better money at our place. She seems pretty prepared for the work, and holds promise. The old dude. 40, but never worked in a restaurant in his life. He had the perfect attitude in the interviews, talked endlessly about his patience, his desire to try something new (he had been a DJ for some years) and his "love" of food. Well he worked about half a shift with a chick that I will call Teresa, a Southern belle now defamed, but still a belle (think Blanche DuBois) through and through. She is OK, a little bit what you would think, but otherwise OK. At some point in their FIRST night, he realized just how much organization was needed, how much energy was appropriate, and how non-stop the business was. At one point, I shared a very large party with Teresa and old dude. It was very disorganized (as far as we were concerend, the people couldn't have cared less!) and with the two of us experienced people, the folks were totally hooked up and happy as can be. Well after apps, saldas and meals were down, the dude looked totally panicked. He turned to Teresa and said "Look, I don't want to waste any of your time, or any more of my time. I don't think that I can do this!! I am leaving, OK?" What does Teresa do? Laughs her haughty southern laugh, and tells him "baby, you are doing great! Don't worry about a thing, you're doing fantastic!" His job on the first training shift is to follow. Observe. Watch. See the proccess of greeting the guest. Watch the server suggestively sell things. Watch the pro do their job. DO NOTHING OTHER THAN WATCH. He couldn't handle that, and after their little exchange, he walked straight out the door, much to everyones amazement and amusement!! We are still laughing at him and entertaining ourselves over it today... Just what did he expect? We all wonder. We also wonder if it will change his attitude in tipping a server or bartender. He made it through 40+ years in life and had no clue/none/zero clue what went on in a restaurant. Was the action too much for him?? There is tons, to be sure. The average person would be shocked to see the kitchen during a rush for 5 minutes, let alone 60 seconds. Would they ever come back? To watch the kitchen for five minutes would stun nearly everyone who has never worked outside the business. Do you want to see? Check it out if you dare....

One of your tables is waiting for their salads, and another has complained that their steak is under-cooked. There is a healthy line of pink (not red) in their filet mignon, and the customer complains that the steak was still moo-ing. Your other table is having the glasses left behind by the last guest being bussed right now.

Enter the kitchen on one side, the dishwash side. You are immediately 30 degrees hotter than in the dining room, and have an overwhelming stench of grease, heat and activity. The dish area is occupied by an 18 year old busser, literally tossing out pounds of trash bussed off of tables, scraping plates, throwing out stuff noone wanted to drink or eat, racking glasses into their respective wash racks and otherwise making lots of dish type noise, sorting plates, glasses and silverware into appropriate piles. The latino non-english speaking dishwasher begins a rant in Spanish when the ramekin full of aus jus the busser has thrown and missed it's appropriate bus tub splashes on him. There is a server there who also has to check immediately if she is now covered in aus jus, and the busser has to apologize in two languages (a skill acquired pretty quickly.) Then we get to the Micros station, and since it is Saturday, there is a line of servers there two to four deep all night to ring in orders, run credit cards, and print checks. Then the soda staion, again two or three deep. There is a girl who rolls silverware into linen napkins and fills the ice-tub and right now she is pouring ice into the bin, so watch out. Another server is doing the "running sidework" and is rolling a dishwasher rack of glasses stacked eight racks deep of fresh glasses into the place next to the soda fountain and ice bin. You are nearly run over. In the meantime, you collide with another server trying to get out of the way of the food-runner coming through with a large tray for HIS table, so he is trying ultra-hard to get out of the food runners way, ignoring you. You go to the salad station where you grab two caesars, turn to the bread station to get some fresh warm bread. You are immediately informed that there isn't any warm bread, it will be ready in two minutes. There are literally a dozen salads in the salad window, many tickets, many dressings, and RIGHT next to that is the appetizer window, also loaded with soup, appetizer shrimp, all with tickets dangling, begging for someone to run them before they burn under the heat lamps. In the meantime, people are SHOUTING!! "I need this salad without croutons and cheese!" "Will someone run these shrimp, they have been here for too long!" "Can I get a cup of the bisque to sell?!" Move over a couple of feet and there is the manager (tonight, the owner) expediting food. He hired us, and signs our paychecks. He HATES it when we run our own food. He feels like to promote a true team environment, we should NEVER deliver our own food, but should write our tickets in such a way that ANY server should be able to take our food to the table and NOT auction it off a la "Who had the prime rib with mashed potatoes?" We have a SPECIFIC order that we use to write every order, so that when the server without ANY knowledge about my table can come out and deliver the prime rib to the lady, and the filet mignon to the gentleman with out asking who had what. He, at this point is screaming for a food runner. Another server, Frank is yelling at the saute (between salads/apps and the main grill/expediter) that their table had requested that there be no mushrooms in their pasta, and that there were lots of mushrooms in there. The saute is shouting that the other server that ran the food grabbed the wrong order of pasta, and that right now someone was eating a pasta without mushrooms that belonged on Frank's table. "Go complain to Richard (while I slowly remake the pasta without mushrooms again!") The manager/owner gets someone to run the tray of food, points out the "position one" spot and then must track down "Pam" since she has turned in a order that the grill is reluctant to cook since she forgot the temperature to her guests steak salad. In the meantime, 12 servers have crossed paths trying to get to one of these places, to the dish area, the micros spot, the salads, the apps, the saute, the grill the expo line. One of the servers collides heavily with you, and you practically knock wach other over. You have been in the kitchen for 30 seconds, walked 20 feet and have done NOTHING. Your steak that is to be cooked up from medium to mid-well is next. Now you have to handwrite a ticket, tell the grill cook that you have a "cook-up" (common enough, so don't ever worry about it!) and hope not to get screamed at. The grill has cooked a perfect medium, but the know-it-all guest has "schooled" you and told you that a "medium" filet will be hot all the way through and have only a sliver of pink. Rather than offer to sell them your belt for half price, you acquiesce, and deal with the angry grill chef.
I didn't even mention the 15 other side stories inside for each of the other waiters that were overheard. There was Matt, randomly plucking a fry off of a diners dinner, (I mean come on! Ordering a burger and fries in a place like ours invites the possibility that a hungry server will pluck a fresh idaho russet steak cut fry off of your plate!) and here is Traci complaining that that cheap couple left her less than 15% after they ran her to death and she refilled their spawns Dr. Pepper like 25 times! Grace is dancing and singing, arms loaded to the Nth degree to "Blister in the Sun" by The Violent Femmes, which is blasting over the "back of house" muzak while she carries in a table of fours dirty dishes to the dish area. Quite impressive, really. All of this happens in a swath of real estate that is about six feet wide and maybe 30 feet long.
Exit the kitchen on the other side and to see what? Meanwhile, you are sat again at another table with an anxious looking four top, scanning for their server over the horizon, your drinks still aren't prepared for your other table since the bar is totally weeded from all the people on the wait list, and your other table is happily grazing looking suspiciously at you like you are dragging their steak around behind you. This is where you realize that your margarita has been taken by another server that EVERYONE (even the owner calls her "stoner") knows is high as a kite and took your rocks/no salt margarita and mistaken it for her frozen with salt marg.

All of this happens, food is run out of there, you get your fresh food, you pay the check and leave and it happens all over again. And again. And Again.

If I had stayed an infantryman, I am sure that things would get more hectic (these days more than when I was in), but come-on! Where else could I see more action in 30 seconds?!

6-8 hours straight of this, and people wonder why we think that 15% is no longer sufficient!!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Stop your messing around...

Better think of your future! A Message To You Rudy, The Specials

So I went and saw that movie Waiting. It made me think of that song with lines like "It's time you straightened right out" and all. Rob McKittrick had written quite the screenplay, which he showed to the right people where it was bought and sold I forget how many times before it was actually a movie. Which he then directed himself, good for him. Rob worked in a Bennigans restaurant, which I used to know very well. For years, I lived by myself in a large apartment building that was DIRECTLY across the street from a Bennigans. Now I HAVE worked in places that were as "corporate" as say Bennigans. Rob worked in one in Orlando, Florida from what I have heard. I read his blog and a few others that he is linked to quite extensively. I will be adding most to my list of links, but only as a reference to the crappy job that they do. My MAJOR problem with this movie was that it was so negative to the restaurant industry. I happen to love restaurants. I don't care about waiting on people seeming "demeaning." I have the ability to assuage even the biggest dickhead, and the smarts and knowledge to mind-fuck and turn the tables on the dim-wits who start/try to start shit. I have been around. To me, people who are sitting in your section/bar have the money (thank God that we live in America, the land of the market economy, and vibrant enough to have like 50 thousand places to eat out anytime you want to!) and they USUALLY have the disposition to have someone serve them in a timely fashion, and pay them to do it. In places like Bennigans, TGIFridays, Ruby Tuesdays, and their ilk, that isn't always the case. Those places take almost anyone applying to serve and hire them based on their willingness to work and learn. Where I work, no matter what age, without experience, you are not hired or at the very least hired as a busser (which in this movie were played hilariously by Andy Milonakis and Max Kasch) if you show up there. Even as a busser, you are then expected to do things to help you "learn" like food-runner and expediter. You can work your way to server after learning the ropes and menu in a process that is likely six months long. At a Ruby Tuesdays, tell them that you can only work odd Thurday evenings, and Sunday afternoons and you likely have a new part-time job. Ok, maybe it's not quite that bad, but you get the picture. The often-trashy clientele (obviously not all of the people who dine there are trashy, just a much higher percentage than you care to know) lead to bad attitudes in the already sub-par staff. It all leads to the general experience that one can expect from the chain restaurant you choose to dine in. For anyone who cares, go eat lunch at Bennigans, and then dinner at Ruth's Chris. Or Vice-Versa. Have a lunch at Legal SeaFoods/McCormick &Schmick's, and then have dinner at Red Lobster. Which experience cost more? Which did you enjoy more? Where would you rather dine? Which place had better food? Service? These are all corporate places, all have strict rules and guidelines for their employees, and all are huge money-makers. One was the basis of this movie. All of these places are very busy (usually) and their owners are ultra rich people. This begs the question, though. Where would you rather spend your money? The last time that Alli and I stopped off at a Chili's, my burger was woefully over-cooked, Alli ended up with horrible gastro-intestinal malfunctions, and I wrote a viscious e-mail, detailing our sub-par food, crappy unknowlegable waitstaff, (I asked "How big is the big beer?" and this is no exaggeration, [waiter holding his hand up over the table] "It's about this big as compared to this big" [now lowering his hand.]) and overall terrible experience. There was never even the slightest response from their corporate HQ. At Legal SeaFoods, we had to re-order the appetizer because we had a hard time comprehending just how fucking good that Ipswich whole bellied clams were. NO SHIT, we needed two orders of fried clams, possibly the worst freaking app ever to realize what gold we had just bitten into and discovered. If you ever go to a Legal SeaFoods, you have to try them. If you have ever eaten New England fried clams and loved them, these are the best. There can be and is a difference. First of all, does the chain serve fresh or frozen? THIS makes such a huge difference. Eat at Ruby Tuesday's, and the at an Outback. (Outback is hardly in the league of Ruth's Chris, but just better than Ruby's and much pricier is all.) Which steak was better? Can't tell because you get your steak well done? Stay in Tuesday's, it costs a hell of a lot less. Whose salad was better? Apps? Let me tell you! Outback's were fresh (and hence cost more) and Ruby's came from the freezer, were defrosted and arrived "fresh" after sitting in plastic bags and micro-waved. Or worse yet, try a Chi-Chi's[basically down to their last few franchises, I wonder why?] and a Chevy's. OH Mama! What a difference in Tex-Mex chain food!! The point is, eat in the chains that are low-end only if you are starving. They sometimes do a decent burger and have ok junk food, but don't, don't, don't go there looking for exceptional service, exceptional food, or worse yet, an experience to remember. I always go there expecting the worst, and am OFTEN surprised to find myself enjoying the experience. I always respect my (often brand new and fresh to the business) server, never really ask for anything weird (my only request off of a menu is to exclude mayonaise. I was sickened by it as a child and have never cared for it.)

What I am trying to say is, that I found the movie cartoonish in most ways. Each person in the film was really just a caricature of a real person, (waiter, cook or guest) but also very real. I give the movie my hearty approval since it is about my job, and was also pretty funny. The people in the movie can be found at literally every corporate restaurant. I never played the "meat gazer" game, but amazingly enough had heard of it. I often hung out with Bennigans servers/bartenders, so I ain't trying to poo-poo on the chains at all! I am just trying to say, "it's time you straightened right out!" and moved on to the upscale places. There should be no "Naomi" in your restaurant, because if you want to work in a restaurant, you should move out of chains or get to the really good ones. That is part of the problem, though. So many people who work in restaurants think of it as an in between job, and not as a career. They stay put at crappy restaurants because this isn't a "real" job to them. So if they don't move up, then they should expect the "redneck" often, and the "total biatch" all the time. At least in the "upscale" ones, their checks are usually so much more that they discourage the crappy/ignorant diners to the extent that they realize they can't afford to eat there, or that the two-top that never tips over ten percent must divvy up $10 on the $100 tab that they created. I have seen tables of people get seated where I am working now, look over the menu for a few minutes and then head straight for the door. Why order a filet mignon well done and pay $25 for it? I will just sell you my belt for half of that price. The prices at my restaurant often eliminate about half of the riff-raff that come into a low-end chain.

On a slightly different subject, I read Rob's blog extensively, and it so reminded me of Hollywood Animal by Joe Esterhas. For all of us out there who want an insiders/insiders view of Hollywood, I would have to WHOLEHEARTEDLY suggest that you read Rob's blog, and if you are still interested, then read Hollywood Animal... What a fickle-ass bitch Hollywood can be!
To all of those people's blogs that I will in the near future link to that complain about stupid shit customers, I say grow the hell up and get another career, or move up in the world. The water feels really good at upscale places. Try to learn cool shit about food, wine and liquor, and this job really ain't so bad!! Will there be ignorant assholes in your section, even at the "good" places? Sadly the answer is yes, BUT the best part of it is there is a way to feel better about things. TONIGHT, I heard a waitress say to the line cooks, "If this fucking bitches shit ended up picked up off of the fucking floor, I wouldn't say anything about it!" Well guess what?! I'll bet that their steak was picked up off of the fucking floor. So we do get the idiots at every level, JUST DON'T FUCK WITH US!! Most of us don''t mind serving, and most of us love to make money off of serving you HONORABLY! You keep reading stories and watching movies about crappy servers from these chains that have to deal with SERIOUSLY, the dregs of human waste. You should expect what you pay for.
Also, if you tip 10%, please expect really bad service when you go back. If you tip less, you should PROBABLY not go back to that restaurant. I assure you, your food and drinks have been "doctored." If you do go to these chain places, converse with your waiters and tell them how hard and how much you apprecaite their service, and watch out for how good a time you can get. Tip 15% if everything was OK, 20% if you had a good time. That is all that they ask for. Better yet, tip well someplace and get known as a good tipper and watch them fall all over as they serve you. Almost noone, and that even means celebrities gets better service than another waiter/bartender. When I worked in DC there was a time where I could eat and drink for hours without having a tab. Massive tips ensued.
This movie wouldn't be as interesting if it weren't for asshole negelcting motherfuckers...It is just interesting enough to show how funny it is sometimes. Nearly every waiter has waited on these people. SO think about it next time you need to send your food back. Have a pleasant disposition, never get hostile, go ahead and send it back and expect it cooked correctly, just do it smiling and things will go your way. Twice a night I get re-cooked/cooked-up food and nothing ever happens to it. Every once in a while, though along comes the idiot who thinks themselves so vastly superior, and I so small...BuHWAhahahaaa!!