Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day...

I slept till noon. The best gift I could have gotten. Actually the only gift but as I am not really much of a fan of this season, don't consider it a big deal.

The treacherous weather didn't deter my large family from getting together and I was able to spend the evening with them and my darling twin daughters.

About to make my way to the grocery store for some meager eats, then back in. I'm not going anywhere other than that today.

Yawn....I know, not much of a post, just trying to be disciplined enough to write everyday.

Takes practice. Cheers.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A mercenary lifestyle...

The restaurant business has always been rather mercurial to those in it. The lure of better money, more opportunity, even the myth of a little respect, will always be the draw.

Cooks and servers; bartenders, dishwashers...we come...we ventures, new is what it is.

More like modern day gypsies and pirates...on the lookout for better hours and more cash, easily beddable waitresses, with maybe a bit of swag thrown in.

We know we can stand shoulder to shoulder and crank it out during a rush, that we can put up with the Ego's (for a while) because ultimately, whether or not we care to admit it...for some of us, it's still about the food.

We are a proud lot, sometimes too much we pack our knives and throw on a different apron and hope for a little better...maybe this place, I can land and stick...then one day the "snap" occurs...and the cook listings on Craigslist become bookmarked, resumes updated and here we go again.

Some of us have solid significant others...while the rest of us...hell, nobody can put up with us for for a love as fleeting as the search for better working conditions.

The stress of the holidays certainly don't help. More work, more unreasonable demands, and the obligation to be "happy" because it's Christmas becomes too much to bloody well take.

I just got called in to we go...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Delivery." ..."What is it?"..."Your ass, sign here."

What a freaking day.

Very busy problems until the 44 people from our sister company showed up for their Christmas Party.

Not one issue from any items coming out of my station. Not one.

Then the ridiculous pasta orders started rolling in and the roof fell in.

Our Chef, whom I have never treated with anything less than total respect, and who was attending the party, and liberally sampling adult beverages, came completely unhooked...I stepped in to the saute station (not my station tonight) to attempt to help and he literally starts screaming.

"If you can't handle it, get off my fucking line!"


Bending over backward, working 60 or so hours a week, never late, never called in sick...attempting to pull these orders together and that's what I get?

I am a grown assed man. I know I have to pay my dues, but I never have been, nor ever will be any body's punk. I am the oldest cat in the place, which normally is cause for lots of laughs from the fucking children I work with. It will not happen again. Or it may be that God's trying to tell me to move on.

I hate it when he works in mysterious ways.

We will talk...

Season's beatings...

Four more days and Christmas is over....good. Too much undo pressure financially...and I'm already pressured financially...don't need it.

A lot of hours at work...a little drama...some kitchen politics....just have to keep my head down and cook.

Was wondering yesterday if starting this career at my age was really a good idea...but hell, too late now. Have to find strength and resilience and keep going.

I get Christmas Eve and Christmas off...first two days off I've had since August...can't afford it financially...but require it physically and mentally.

Met another lady on-line...still in the texting/talking stage...but now her phone is down, so waiting to see. Will I hear from her again? I hope so...she's sweet...beautiful and lovely but I know I'm not for everybody.

Not selling myself short...just being realistic...not too many women could handle the hours I work, or the finance issues because of child support. It is what it is...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Still holding...

Not that anyone is reading this...but if so, sorry for the lag.

Very focused on work right now, getting faster, and better every day.

I still make mistakes as the hours I put in keep me close to whipped most of the time, but there is a satisfaction in keeping up when my station is slammed. (mine is the busiest on the line...I always have dishes to prepare.) Knowing I'm stocked, as I did the stocking myself, so no matter what is thrown at me, I can handle it. Nine tickets in a row, three to four items per ticket?

No problem. Just keep out of my station, let me roll, try to help and I'll run over you.

My Chef said I'm the last one to ever ask for help on the line, and that if I did, it would be OK...I get it...but I will not go under.

I am proud to do what I do.

One week till Christmas...good. First two days off I've had in a row since August.

My day off, yes, only one, is Thursday, so Thanksgiving...yeah, Christmas Eve...right again. No rest for the weary.

Don't know what I would do anyway...with no "significant other" it makes it easy.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The flow...

Going with need to struggle, downstream is just fine.

The Holiday's are slowing the restaurant down a bit, but speeding up my logistic responsibilities.

Manning the saute station as well as sandwiches and apps, occasionally doubling as garde mangere,(that's salads for the uninformed) and whipping on the fry station as necessary. Whew.

Cool...loving what I do has opened up an entire chapter of life for me. It's hard, with little thanks but the personal satisfaction and learning experiences are priceless.

And on a personal note...

I was seriously considering pulling the plug on the whole Internet dating thing when...
a lovely phone call from someone totally out of the blue on the way home...hmmm...he am working mysteriously again.

Which is cool...just don't know why my prayers can't be answered in a point A to point B fashion. It would save on gas, flowers and expectations, that's for sure.

But it wouldn't be quite as interesting, now would it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


This was originally designed for the road I would follow to pursue my dream of becoming a Chef. Still is, but I'm coming to think it may also reflect an older, deeper dream.

To find the last love of my life. (I refuse to think it's over, that she was found and lost.)

Last night at work was kicking. Unexpected busy...for a Tuesday.

Our expo was obviously suffering from a head injury of some kind...what a nightmare. But the food came out on time and well prepared. So can't complain.

Couple of new emails from new ladies...ya just never know.

You win some and you learn some...but you never, ever lose.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New day...

New day, new possibilities...on with it. I do not look back nor do I go backward for anyone, ever again. Made that mistake and paid nicely.

Received a new email from a lady that seems lovely...but they all seem lovely until the UPS guy shows up, hands me a box, and my ass is in it.

So tired last night I accidentally began "following" my own blog, and I can't get rid of it, lol.

Going in to work soon, another day...and the universe opens up....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Burned again...

No, not at work.

The one I was "taking it slow" with.

Three weeks, two dates, a visit to the restaurant with her girlfriends for food (cooked by me) and drinks. Daily texting (referring to me as sweety, signing off with hugs) phone calls, etc.

I get home tonight after whipping it hard at work again, to a freaking Dear Geoffrey email. It's not you, it's me..really...nice.


Dating sucks ass...

Paying dues...

122 hours worked during this last pay period. My schedule only reads 5p to close, six days a week.

My Chef is allowing these extra hours to "see what I'm made of" in an effort to learn all I can about the process for becoming his Sous Chef. I may be a lot of things, but lazy is not one of them. And the position is not a "given"'s still in the wait and see category. Someone could come along and snag it...and if so, OK...still have valuable experience, and a lot of hours worked, so, who's to say?

And life continues to roll. My roommate didn't check his lease when he advertised for the room for rent on Craig's list. (Who doesn't do that?) So after a surprise visit from the landlord...long story short, moving again.

Our salad gal at work is giving me a free computer and TV...nice. That helps.

Good thing I have a lot of Irish Gypsy in me...otherwise, this could be stressful.

So, Thanksgiving week, looking for place to live, working my ass off, attempting to say and do all the right things with my new "Lady of Interest" shall we say, trying to go slow...but at what point does slow turn in to "stall" ...OK, we all pretty much know I don't know shit about relationships...but at least I'm making the effort to do this the right way. And if it tanks...oh well, on with the show...but I shall remain positive.

Did I mention I'm tired...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New things...

The job is growing more "responsibility laden" by the day. And that, is a good thing.

I am ordering product; checking in product, setting up stations (not just mine) making dressings, sauces, briskets, chicken, marinating fish, and cooking, always cooking.

We have an opening for a Sous Chef and I have heard rumors I may be in line.

Hate to jinx it, it would be quite the accomplishment. But if it is it is, if it's not, it's still great experience.

I have three 14 hour days ahead of me after a wonderful second date tonight on my only day off with someone new.

We are going slowly, and that is also a good thing. I think she's worth the wait...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The dream narrows...

Did it. Quit the limping day job and was given a raise and promotion at the "real" job. Managing the prep crew during the day and cooking on the line.

Mastering the zen of the sandwich station, seriously, it's an art, while learning saute and grill.

Managing my motley band of prep monkey's during the day, two of whom are so stoned they can't be allowed near anything sharp, and organizing the weeks parred items and walk in cooler. Several 14 hour days a week and one day off. Not bad-don't need much time off, not yet at least.

The fledgling relationship I was starting just seemed to dissolve...not sure what happened...I probably did something, that's usually the case, but no harm...still putting myself out there, knowing I'm worth the effort...for the right one.

Not much to post; kids are great, job is fine, recovery strong, and heart still open...let's cook.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Changes in momentum...

It happens. Circumstances alter. The key is rollin' with it.

Or as they say, when opportunity knocks, don't be scared of the noise.

New manager at the day gig; this being my last week, pulled out all the stops trying to get me to stay. Great guy, noble intentions...wish him the best.

But I'm afraid not. If I'm not growing, I'm going.

New opportunities with my other Chef, learning how he orders, and keeping the walk in organized to his specs. Also 55-60 hours a week straight time...still cranking it out on the line, but learning other requirements for eventually being a "real" Chef. It is so much more than just cooking well...and I look forward to the opportunity.

This weekend on the line was one "Brock Samson" beat down after another, but I held...whew, it was tough.

Quite possibly the best Sunday I've had in a long time...really nice, for all the right reasons.

My twins are going through one of the hardest things one has to deal with...the loss of someone close. Their first, bless their hearts...I'd make it better if I could; but all I can do is offer to be there if they need me, all the platitudes in the world don't amount to a pinch of salted shit when the hurt is that deep.

I know, all too well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And the fifties begin...

Great day yesterday...fifty is looking promising. I can honestly say my forties blew. Hard.

Thank God I gave my notice at the day just keeps getting stranger. We have, oh for arguments sake, let's say, no customers. 'Kay?

What's the answer the owner comes up with?

Hire more staff. WTF? Seriously....? Very bizarre.

But, more hours at the other gig, starting today...time for a second wind.

Best birthday present yesterday...a bag of kitchen tools, sweet!

Best birthday present coming up...lunch and a day off on Sunday. Really looking forward to that.

It's nice to look forward to things again.

Not really much of a post, I know, but I'm sure some unsuspecting civilian will do something untoward at work soon enough and I will be able to say, "Let the Royal Rumpus begin..."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Last day of my forties...

Yep, it is. And things are looking up.

Just gave my two week notice to the day job...if they're even still open in two weeks. Damn shame...the illness the place contracted looks terminal. The GM that started two weeks ago left her key and a note this morning.

The writing has been on the wall, and I learned to read at a very early age...I have to take care of my my kids and to my dreams, so adios m.f.

I stopped learning, and stopped really cooking...if I wanted to put out fires I'd be a freakin' fireman.

The owner thanked me for the two weeks. I'd like to think I have integrity, even when no one is looking, so it was simply the right thing to do.

The night gig is opening up into 55-60 hours a week straight time, so maybe two gigs just aren't necessary anymore.

A little time off would be good for the soul.

Speaking of..I may have met someone who, well, honestly gets me. I think she's wonderful...sarcastic, pretty, open and honest...and she seems to like me just the way I am...faults and all.

Wow, unexpected...but it's made my days a little brighter...just knowing she's out there...nice...I forgot what that was like. (And she hates to cook...perfect.)

Allow me...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Paying dues...

Sure I am. What do you expect when you start at the bottom?

But I've moved up two levels, in a very short period of time. That's not to say I don't make mistakes, and incur the wrath of Chef. I deserve it. He depends on me to have my shit together.

And usually, I do.

But lately, the tired is creeping into my performance. My attitude has been short with servers I should be gentler with...they seem to be disadvantaged.

I know not to let personal issues into my station...but the "single" issue has been weighing on me.

It's only been ten years since my divorce, I should be used to being single. And I am for the most part, but sometimes, it would be nice to come home late, and have "her" (the mythic her, no one in particular) here.

Or know she was thinking of me, in my corner.

Oh is what it is...time to shake it off and stay focused. Maybe I'm just one of those guys...too sweet for his own good, and too much of an asshole for anyone else's.

The turning 50 next week deal is on my mind too.

Lucky no one killed me yet...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

To the Dining Public...yeah, you...

Attention: For those of you in your matching shirts; be they bowling, square dancing, or groups of professional badger shavers...just because you and the "gang" think it would be a "hoot" to swarm into an eating establishment, ten minutes before they close, it is not, ever, a good idea. STOP IT!!!

I mean really....the kitchen staff has been battling real service all night and are closing down their stations...wrapping, cleaning, nursing wounds and trying to get to a cool climate before they pass the fuck out.

But no, in all 14 of you sashay, and order appetizers, desserts, and coffee. These items have more than likely been put away for "real" guests the following night, and now, well, it's a good thing you're leaving in a group, because there are a half dozen cooks, in various states of heat stroke, undoing the work they already performed, knowing they will then have to perform it again, and gang, you aint felt pain like a degreaser burn (the stuff they use to clean the grill...that's right, it takes work, not magic!), and they now hate you.

They also have knives.

And the waitstaff that you are either going to stiff or leave a couple of dollars to are trying to make a LIVING!!! These poor bastards make 2.13 an hour, they depend on large tickets so they can make larger gratuities and FEED THEIR FAMILIES!
OK...all on the same page? Fine...

Goodnight sheep...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I'm as whipped as the slowest guy on the Amistad...

Seventy five hour weeks.

Requires focus, dedication, no social life, doing laundry at 8 am, eating at midnight, six hours of sleep...lather, rinse, repeat.

My day job...oh my dear God. Cooking with garage sale equipment..chaos, drama, everything is a surprise, which equals a fucking rush/emergency.

Restaurants are either sick, or healthy. This one...pretty much has a wet hacking cough and shingles.

Doing all I can to turn things around for the cafe, but the owner, great guy, but NO restaurant experience, is hemorrhaging money at this point. Unwilling to make the "Healthy" concept of the place a little more palatable. Dripping with irony, no?

"We opened this place to make a difference in peoples lives through healthy eating and education." He told me that yesterday, after I tweaked a dry, hard, organic peanut butter cookie recipe into something, soft, gooey, and good. Made a batch of thirty and sold 20 in a half hour.

"Just trying to get people to come back, and make you some money, boss. And it worked."

"If we wanted to make money we could have opened up any kind of restaurant." He actually said that. The fact that the majority of these enterprises fail is totally lost on him.

We even hired a GM with experience. We speak the same language. She started three days ago, on fire and ready to roll.

The toll is already showing. Now she wanders around mumbling to herself in amazement, her eyes glazed.

The other job...great. Greatness all around.

Started on the fry station a few days ago, now moved to hot sandwiches. In a week...that's, well, pretty damn good.

Told my Chef my two year plan. In two years, I was going to be his Sous Chef.

He smiled. "I don't see why not..."

I'll take that as a plus...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Some days you eat the bear, some days he just shits on your head...

Yeppers. That was basically my morning. Went in at six...had a cater out to prepare for, no problem. Set up for breakfast, easy. Love working by myself anyway because I know I can count on me.

The "individual" responsible for the their part of the catering affair, finally drug her ass out of bed and arrived 10 minutes before the transport, wondering why I hadn't done "her" stuff.

"I've been here since six...where the hell were you?" And then we were off to the races. Apparently her inability to follow through and coordinate was supposed to constitute an emergency on my part. Who knew? Downhill on a rocket from there...Holy Crap.

An emergency birthday party for eight just somehow "showed up" and requested a list of baked items that would take at least two hours to complete. Along with the breakfast rush, and items somehow "forgotten" on her part for the cater out.

Oh yeah, then the produce order arrived.

I had given this "person" the order list the day before, striking through about 1200 dollars worth of goods we could get through different sources for about 500 dollars.

She ordered them anyway.

The last time we spoke she was demanding her dessert tray from yours truly for the cater out and I informed her the owner and I had taken care of the cookie situation. Thus followed the following discourse.

"I don't care who you talked to, it's your responsibility to make me what I need, and I..."

"Then make 'em your fuckin self!" That was mature of me.

I had to make them anyway, but she damn sure had to wait and I felt immensely better.

Then the texting from the ex-girlfriend started while I was wrestling with homemade lemon bar crust and I damn near lost my mind. But enough about that.

Soon I go to the other job, with professionals, and they can dog me like a rented mule if they need to. They have the right. They earned every bit of it.

Amateurs do not.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The business...(reprinted from my previous Blog "The underside of honesty..."

The business. Restaurants...up until now FOH (front of the house) but a passion for cooking, creating and being recognized for my meager efforts has landed me in the kitchen.

Outside responsibilities have kept me from culinary school so I'm doing it the hard way...learning as I go.

Apprenticing as a prep-cook under two very accomplished Chef's while working as a line cook under yet another inspiring executive Chef and friend.

In the business, and I'm afraid fast food doesn't count-they could be making mufflers for all the artistry involved-we who work professionally making other peoples food are a clannish bunch-a tribe of sorts.

We thrive in the heat; the flames, the military precision of a "rush"...with the language of a busy professional kitchen almost musical.

Orders yelled, responses short, "Yes Chef,"...

We are tattooed, with burn marks on our forearms, and knife scars in assorted places. Many in some sort of recovery as the business can take a toll,but most waiting with held breath for the after work "wind down" being alcohol, or other substances.

Some with families, many divorced, tempers short, expectations high that we can "hold the line" and not be placed "dans la merde" or "in the weeds" forcing the flow to an interrupted standstill.

It's like having a knife fight during a hurricane in a 120 degree submarine.

(Often guests want special variations as to what the menu items should be, having zero knowledge of the hours of back spasm, heat stroke inducing labor involved in first writing a menu and then preparing the items "as they are")...sure, feel free to throw a kink in the flow, without this, or this on the side or add this....sweet Jaysus...we truly do hate you.

But that is what we do. Most of us have tried to live "out there" but we always come back to it.

For the most part we are misfits, who understand the others in the tribe, tip generously when we get to dine out (often at places we can simply afford-rarely where we work) but critical to a fault. We could always do it a little bit better.

Two jobs are common-making food for you in one place, then another for the rest of you.

We are not paid exorbitant salaries-those of us in the trenches, and ends must be met.

But it's the life.

Tickets rapid firing into the kitchen-a ballet of organized chaos; fast moves and sharp knives, 500 degree ovens, open flames, crushing criticism for mistakes, but deep respect when it's done right.

Most of us have not had the luxury of culinary school and those of us who have, started in the trenches anyway- searing 40 lbs of chicken breast, trimming the same and slicing the chicken paper thin.

Twenty pounds of homemade potato salad, quarts of dressing made from scratch, flash freezing, washing pots and pans, sharpening knives (nothing worse than being cut with a dull knife-ugly, terrible wound) cleaning grills, using industrial degreaser that scars the skin and burns like hell when it does, sprained backs, hands useless for anything more than curling around a glass at the end of the shift, legs like rubber, knees shot from 14 hours on your feet on concrete- sure order something special, we are more than happy to remove the already mixed cranberries, one by one from your cranberry chicken salad.

At almost fifty years old it takes either clinical madness or deep passion to begin this career move. Which is it? Hard to say.

But I wouldn't have it any other way...

(This quote from Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk sums it up for me)

"Remember this. The people you are trying to step on, we're everyone you depend on. We're the people who do your laundry and cook your food and serve you dinner. We make your bed. We guard you while you're asleep. We drive the ambulances. We direct your call. We are cooks and taxi drivers and we know everything about you. We process your insurance claims and credit card charges. We control every part of your life.

"We are the middle children of history, raised by television to believe that someday we'll be millionaires and movie stars and rock stars, but we won't. And we're just learning this fact.

"So don't fuck with us..."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I'm going to kill everyone in my kitchen...

I work in two very different food service establishments.

I have over twenty years in the industry, but except for the past two months, all of it front of the house. Throughout those twenty years I watched the tribes in back, amazed, sometimes in awe- at the skill, the sweat, the sheer insanity-of pumping out meal after quality meal to an often snotty, unappreciative and pretentously indifferent public.

I know. I served them.

I heard the comments. I took the orders. And the sheer frustrated wrath of  overworked Chefs, line cooks and sauciers, because Mrs. "Don't you know who I think I am," simply had to have the scallops when we were on a scaled down holiday menu, and the scallops, well lady, they were not freaking available.

But I digress.

I began in the kitchens two months ago, as a commis, the one willing to peel and scrape, clean and carry, and to cook, little by little.

In both jobs I have been promoted, by hard work, attitude and sheer determination from day prep-cook to night line-cook, part of the "big dogs"  on the line in an upscale American Grill and the other, filling the void left by a disgruntled executive Chef and friend, and being commissioned as Kitchen Coordinator/acting Chef in an upscale Health Food/Catering kitchen and Cafe.

It is this kitchen I am willing to blow apart and bring in my own crew  to run it professionally.

The crew that I have been placed in charge of, are, in a word, useless.

Perhaps it is me, as I am not a natural leader. But I am a doer.

And the kitchen is filled with sharp German steel, and blunt heavy objects abound.

I am passionate, and far from stable...