7.12.2009

Choices.

"She's doing it again." 

I'm not even sure what my grill cook is talking about until I look up from my prep list.  And there it is;  Mandy, most hated server is sitting in front of the line, counting her absurdly large stack of tips.  All work in the kitchen has halted.  My sautee cook menacingly flicks his chefs knife across his fingertips while the grill guy tries to figure out which ticket has Mandy's staff meal on it.  The extern on pantry does his best to count how many twenties are in her stack of cash, and later, over beers, the conversation is dominated by talk of the inequality between FOH and BOH, how soulless waiting tables is, and what an utter bitch Mandy is.  And after a few drinks, i'm inclinced to agree with them.

The next day i'll go into work, and go to the GM.  I'll tell him about Mandy, and how pissed my cooks are, and how she can't ever, under any circumstances count her tips in front of them.  I'll tell him how rude it is.  How unfair this behavior is.  And he'll tell me this:

"Your cooks?  And you?  You chose this.  You chose to work in the kitchen.  No one is forcing you to slave over those stoves.  So if you want "equality" why don't you all become servers?"

And I realize that he's right.

For the next few weeks, what he said dominates my thoughts.  I did choose this.  There is no greater power guiding my hand.  No one has handcuffed us to our stations.  As we trudge through service, I start to notice things.  Shortcuts being taken.  Corners being cut.  Cooks running low on mise, and trying to scrape by on the remnants of a filthy nine pan.  And why?  Was our choice to be mediocre?  Wasn't there some modicum of integrity guiding us at some point?  What happened to all that shit we talked about being the best? 

A cook makes hundreds of choices a day.  These choices are tied to the well being of the restaurant, their co-workers, and themselves.  As the days go on, some cooks lose sight of what's right, and instead turn to what might be convenient, or popular, or even vindictive.  They begin to feel a sense of entitlement.  Every day becomes less about whats right, and more about whats easy.  Suddenly everyone starts to feel like the kitchen might collapse in their absence.  Things start to get ugly. 

It's a hard talk to have, but helping a cook realize that the culinary world goes on without them sometimes has to happen.  That gentle reminder that there's always a job at the local Macy's is sometimes what it takes to get them to re-focus.  Cooking is a choice.  It's making a decision to give of ones self.  It's a decision to try to do something well.  Cooking is a sacrifice.  Being in the kitchen should light some fire in you that fills you with dignity...even if you spend hours talking about dick and ass.

I've made my choices.  Sometimes they've been stupid.  But I don't get mad about inequality, or what's not working in my favor anymore.  It's important to remember that fate and circumstance had nothing to do with how you ended up here.  If you can't deal with your situation, you get to make a choice to remove yourself from it.  If you're not moving up, you get to make a choice to re-focus and try harder.  And if you're doing well, you get to make a choice to settle in where you're comfortable, or to contribute something of substance to your craft.  It's all up to you.



notes:

  • Gee, I wonder what restaurant he could be talking about.  
  • Our meal at Flour & Water was the best of the year after Coi.  Amazing pasta, inspiring lambs tongue, tasty pizza, friendly people.  Don't be surprised when Tom McNaughton gets a rising star from the Chronicle.
  • The difference between tech support guys and kitchen equipment repairmen is that tech support guys are actually into tech. 
  • Listening to Andrew Zimmerman chew makes me want to throw up.
  • Speaking of Chew, you gotta check out this comic.  It has a serial killer sous chef in issue 1.  (Which is now going for $50 on eBay)
  • Cory Cartwright (who writes Saignee) is a cool motherfucker.  Fun hanging out with him at Terroir.
  • Surprisingly, a whole weekend of no 3g connectivity didn't kill me.  The 6 hour drive to Tahoe almost did though.
  • I understand the envy, but why can't folks just mind their own business?  I've been on both ends;  seeing others get sweet treatment (TFL) and getting it (Coi)
  • Ginger Pierce is one of my favorite humans on the whole planet.
  • Blu-Ray.  There is no other way now.
  • That Giants no-hitter was so fucking fun to watch.

quotes and conversations:

Amy:  Will we ever hang out again?
Me:  I hope so.  Corey's on lock down though.
Corey:  Whatta ya mean i'm on lock down?  You can't cage a tiger, bro.

"I'm also from fuckin' Wisconsin, so I don't have to explain why I drink PBR."
-Justin

Me:  Hey Mer-mer.  How's the fries?
Merrell:  They're good.
Me:  They're good?  Are you enjoying them?
Merrell:  I enjoy them more when they're on my ass.

"Well actually, white chocolate's not chocolate."
-Corey

"This way i'm more aerodynamic and free-flowing."
-Mongoose.  Got a haircut.

Me:  She was really crazy.
Goose:  Really really?
Me:  Really really.
Goose:  Did you have to put her in a headlock?

"I lost my boyfriend, got hit by a bike, and lost my job."
-Ponder.  Had a nightmare.

"This kilograms.  It's a measurement on the scale?"
-Gerardo.  Not up to speed on the metric system.

Me:  How's this dude gonna eat a flatbread every night?
Goose:  (shrug)
Me:  Gerardo, you're gonna get worms or something.
Gerardo:  They got pills for that.
Paulie: ..........

Me:  What if your balls were made out of aluminum?
Ponder:  They'd be worth about 9 bucks at the recycling center.



from top:  dusk, mirror, no service on the 4th, my wife will blow your head off, USA!, burger, the bus stop, Ponder, grilled watermelon, Corey, spices, what does 3 stars mean anyways?, worst tip ever, ronde de nice, carbonara, maritess, ponderfish, day off, gibraltars, katana-ya



10 comments:

scallops said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ginger said...

The amor is mutual. I think you are cooler than me anyway.
I still think waiters should not talk about or count their money in front of cooks. There is no reason to flaunt it. We make less money because we do something we love, but still...we make less money.

Chopstick Senator said...

Say you're riding a bus. Someone in a Porsche sees you through the window at a stoplight and flicks you off, calling your mother terrible names. Did you deserve to be treated like that because you chose to ride the bus?

Matt said...

I agree with Ginger. That server showed an utter lack of tact. We do what we do cause we love it right? Not to get TOO cheesy but I saw a nice little quote that went a lil something like this:

We are in the business where if the motivation is money this is the wrong business to be in...but if the motivation is pleasure I think this is the perfect business to be in." -Daniel Boulud

jc said...

dude, love your blog. as a Bay Area native stuck outside of the Bay Area and CA, its fun to read.

and lay off Justin, PBR is great beer (for the style).

Billy Rygar said...

Richie,

Thanks for the shout-out. it was cool hanging with you and the wine was good as well.

The sound of people loudly chewing is disgusting. i'm glad someone else agrees.

Cheers,

Cory

ontheline89 said...

http://linecook415.blogpot.com/ just to happens to be a self proclaimed religious megasite.

mike said...

Your response about our choices to cook is outstanding .I copied it and made each one of my staff at both restaurants read it. However ,if Mandy purposely rubs your cooks noses in her shit , which is exactly what she is purposely doing ,(and I'm sure mandy must have put in a grueling 5 1/2hour shift complete with "sidework"). Then expects you guys to cook her a staff meal, probably vegetarian , special requests and all, Your GM is pretty spineless in not telling her to take it somewhere else. From a kitchens point of view she is nothing more than an arrogant delivery person at this point. Not an Important piece of the big picture.

MyFrogs said...

Was it "your" Nopa I saw on the Food Network show about bacon? A whole show about bacon, could it get any better!? "It's the fairy dust of food world!"

bert said...

I agree with you one hundred percent that we cook because we choose to. That said, Mandy deserves to get stabbed. In the eye. With a dick.