Disclaimer: None of these stories reflect the restaurants I'm currently associated with....
When you see an elected official take office, a movie premier, or even the grand opening of a new building...you can be assured...there's more to the story than meets the eye.
I've been there.
Every large scale project is riddled with someone's blood, sweat, tears...and multiple compromises.
The restaurant business is no different.
In fact, in all my years working in restaurants, I never stopped thinking that restaurants were more like theater....the show MUST go on.
And there's plenty of blood, sweat, and tears.
But no matter what happened before, during, or after your shift, if well orchestrated, the customer never knew what happened.
That's the goal.
Seasoned pros make it look flawless.
Ah, but if you ever gather restaurant folks together over drinks...and start swapping restaurant tales, things digress in a hurry. It doesn't get any better! Inevitably I laugh so hard, serious injury might occur...or at least loss of bladder control.
I've been reading a fabulous blog...written by an American woman working in a French 3 star kitchen. The working conditions are brutal...the shifts are long...and the chef is a tyrant. Her experience brings back a flood of memories for me.
No, I didn't work in the kitchen of a 3 star restaurant, but I've been out front, dealing with the public in plenty of restaurants.
Tyrannical chef vs. general public.
I couldn't tell you which is worse.
All I know is, when you work front of the house, you have to deal with BOTH!
So when I'm sitting down with the restaurant folk, laughing in our beers....what stories do I tell?
Well, for starters...several years ago, I worked for a restaurant out in the 'burbs. During that time, there was a ton of condo development. Every scrap of land was being built on....and it stirred up the local rat population. Rats would run for cover...and find new homes.
Almost daily the prep crew would come in and find a rat trapped in the stainless steel sinks (once the rats fell in the sink, they couldn't get out). The kitchen guys maintained a BB gun for "rat removal." This went on for months...
It got to the point where, eventually, the guys got a little jaded about it. I mean they killed a lot of rats during those days....And boys, being boys, they'd start being creative about the bodies. We'd find dead rats hidden in our purses, or punt kicked back by the dumpster, or some rats purposely wouldn't get thrown away...so the guys could study the decomposition.
It wasn't long before I transferred to our other location.
Inevitabley, when we're swappin' restaurant tales...there are a hundred stories about:
* reoccurring "waitressing nightmares"
* the days you work double shifts and your legs are so fatigued they don't stop shaking long enough for you to sleep
* how you pop Advil like it was candy just to mask the pain at the end of your shift....then you realize it's even better if you load up before your shift....
* the owner who wouldn't fire his worst employee...because the 17 year old snowboarding punk was actually his drug dealer.
* the bartender who claimed his eyes were red because he went swimming before his shift. Truth is, he was really smokin' pot out in the parking lot!
* traveling salesmen with expense accounts...who treat waitresses like prostitutes, "Hey honey, wanna have a drink after work?" It's always the young servers who are flattered by the pursuit of a Vice President from Some-Company-You've-Never-Heard-Of.
If we ever meet over drinks, I could tell you about the time we called the police on my customers.
Grandma's birthday party...and three squad cars!
Needless to say, I didn't get tipped from that table....but whatever money I lost that night, paid for the doozy of a story I can tell today!
In Kitchen Confidential, Tony Bourdain revealed the restaurants' underbelly to the masses. The reality is, if you've worked in the business long enough, we all have stories like Tony's.