7.19.2009

The Clash.

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.
-Kahlil Gibran


This week's
question: What was/is the worst clash you've ever had with another
person in the kitchen? How did you resolve it? Who was it?


zellicious@linecook2late for ??? once a kinda violent grill cook threw a trashcan at me,i secretly cut hairs off his "fancy" pastry brush everyday
afwalsh@linecook I was a 17 y/o punkass with some lip, he was a chef with a bad temper. Got a black eye and now I only ever say 'oui chef'.
adoxograph@linecook road the bipolar express for a while. Jumped off that car.
fiend394@linecookanother cook was having a bad day. He decided to open hand slap me for putting 2 grains of salt on his food. Fistfight after work.
wolvesmouth@linecookbouchon in vegas, this culinary grad came in and thought she owned the place, we had a screaming match, she minced 20# shallots.
shunafish@linecook worst run-in. CDC. got physical. he: 300#, me: 100#. calmly told him to get his hands off me. chef fired him next day.
beerandnosh@linecookmy first day ever working in a kitchen - I was a busboy - a cook held a knife to my throat. He was later fired for being an addict
randomplacement@linecookanother cook, angry I was made sous, he had more experience. tried to sabatoage me, daily, I kept catching him. pulled him of line
abohemian@linecook Idiot chef trying to tell FOH how to do their jobs, when said chef was totally clueless about how to run FOH
fromhils@linecook,Strangely twas about cookies, w/ head chef @ Puck Cafe SCP, notice givn. Obvsly a camel-straw sit. Really abt creative freedom.


It's my last year at VDV, and everything is unraveling. 
For a long time, things had been good.  My brigade was almost bulletproof.  The food was beautiful.  Our guests were loyal, and it seemed like the restaurant was getting busier every night.  My chef trusted me, and when talk of the new San Francisco restaurant came up he even mentioned the words "chef de cusine" to me.  I was soaring.
To this day i'm still not sure what brought me out of contention for the spot--and the truth is that im glad I didnt get it.  I wasn't prepared.  But at the time, when my boss started receiving resumes from CDC candidates, I was seeing red.  I felt humiliated.  Betrayed.  I knew the food, the ordering.  The brigade trusted me.  They stood behind me.  Whoever was going to come in was facing an intense uphill battle.  They would have to be a hard-core badass.  They would have to be able to throw down, and work harder, faster, and cleaner than the entire brigade combined.

This would not end up being the case.  My first warning came when I was handed a prep list for one of the chefs tastings.  It was full of nightmare items;  Chilean sea bass, every manner of out of season vegatable, and all of it written in barely legible, horribly spelled chicken scratch.  I wasn't shy about passing the list around to stir shit up...and my chef knew this.  When the tasting happened I wasn't just off, I was in Hawaii.  Chilean sea bass guy was hired and working in the kitchen when I returned home.

He was a nightmare.  There was some compassionate side of me that wanted to give him a shot, but his demeanor...the terribly homophobic and/or misogynistic things he would say...and a complete lack of skills on the line were tough to overlook.  He was insulting, lazy, and mean.  When I asked him about the chefs he had worked with, he called them all assholes.  When I inquired about what he put in a dish he was making, his de-facto response was "good shit."  When he trained on the expo, our kitchen would go down in flames.  The only way we could survive a service was by reading all of our own tickets....orders whispered to each other, food magically appearing on the pass...only to get cold while he tried to figure out where he was sending it.  It was just the beginning of a very dark period for the boys and I.

My life slowly became dominated by all of the negative shit that I felt about him.  It was all I talked about.  I was boiling inside.  There were a few really big blow ups between us...one time in front of the entire staff.  I pleaded with my chef.  How could he not see that I could outclass this guy in every aspect of the job?  What difference did his experience make if the guy was completely burned out?  Didn't it matter that the kitchen was standing behind me?  Days were filled with trying to clean up his messes; over ordering, allergy menus that were completely mis-marked, insulting everyone around him.  I decided to quit.  It was like someone I loved had cast me aside for a nazi/zombie/rapist.  So I did what I always do when im freaking out.  I called my Mom.

Mom wasn't happy that I was leaving my job, but she supported me either way.  Then she said this:
"You know, if he's as bad as you say he is, he's going to end up weeding himself out.  Just be patient, stick to yourself, keep doing your job, and see what happens."
So that's exactly what I did.  I buckled down, and focused on the job.  I stopped making about me and the CDC, and instead turned my attention the guest, and the wellness of the kitchen.  I pushed forward, and only a couple of short weeks after the SF spot opened, CDC was gone.  He had indeed weeded himself out with a toxic mix of sleeping in meetings, laziness, and temper.  Damage had been done, but we were at least able to move forward for the first time in months.

Kitchen clashes happen.  Cooking is too intense, and difficult, and adrenaline driven for them not to.  Sometimes these clashes are valid.  Most of the time though, they're over some petty shit that has little or no bearing on anything of actual value.  And the truth is that life is too short to get upset over some bullshit.  The truth is that you're probably too fucking smart, and talented, and mature to let yourself be drawn into the drama.  The truth is that if someone is so ignorant, you're probably better off leaving them be and just focusing on what's really important.  Life goes on.  It has to.  Don't let it creep in.  You've got guests to cook for tonight.


notes:
  • Speez got this email at Nopalito: 

    Learn How Make Your Recent Press Last & Last & Last ........

    Make your press in Northside SF on  5/1/2009 about "Rickie Nakano - the new-wave Bourdain" bring you real benefit. Easily and Inexpensively. Guaranteed!

  • What's up with folks that come in the restaurant and try to tell you how to cook your ingredients?
  • A Gordon Ramsey show is guaranteed to have three things:  dumb people, yelling, and Ramsey taking his shirt off at some point
  • September 5th.  Don't make plans.
  • This city has no good fish n chips

quotes and conversations:

"You know what she looks like?  In that movie Bone Collecter...she looks like Snoop Dogg."
-Mongoose

"I watch a lot of Sponge Bob."
-Ponder

"I bet her vajeen looks like sleeve of wizard."
-Corey

"I kissed a goat yesterday.  That didn't help either."
-Ponder

"You can never drink too much beer!"
-Merrell

Me:  You guys know about the history of Bastille Day, right?
Paul:  Oh, it is Bastille Day...
Merrell:  Isn't it French New Year?
I pull out my notebook to write down her French New Year line...
Merrell:  Please don't put that in the blog!
She grabs my pen and runs away...

"They look like they're bad boobs but with a good bra."
-Merrell

Me:  Hey Justin?  He's serious.
Justin:  What?
Me:  He shaves his balls.
Justin:  I've done it before.
Goose:  I just don't like havin' a rats nest down there....so that means you haven't been a hipster your whole life.
Justin:  Yeah.............................wait, what'd you say?


from top:  bloodhound with Ryan, Eddie, Jesse, and Corey; Maritess; Beers from Paulie; Mom and Baby; A crowded grill; Corey forgets shit all the time




12 comments:

Chef in Progress said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
don't touch my knife said...

dude your shit always comes right on time. me and this fresh out of culinary school saute girl and me are having it out bigtime at work right now. homegirl keeps jackin my salt, fuckin up my meez. Other day she took MY knife from me and used it for her prep. she damn near cut her pinky off and a couldnt help but scoff. "thats what you get for fucking with my knife! 'dont touch my dick, dont touch my knife!'" ive got the sharpest knife in our kitchen and its got the name "betty" burned into the handle. now she avoids it like the plague. weve had a good service though recently toghether and all transgressions seem to have been forgiven. if just for the sake of the guest.
also, are people really calling you the new wave bourdain?

erik_flannestad said...

I haven't been there for a while, but The Kensington Circus, in the East Bay, used to have pretty rocking fish & chips.

I also enjoyed the fish & chips at Bender's the last time I tried them.

Meredith said...

no good fish & chips? As a child of Scottish parents, I have to wonder what your standards are. Old Chelsea/Edinburgh Castle have the closest thing to real UK fish and chips. Yes the fries are pale and some might say "soggy", but that's how then are supposed to be. But is you are looking for Thomas Keller chips and tempura or corn meal battered fish, well, I don't know what to tell you. What I can tell you is I really want some malt vinegar right now.

Michelle said...

This is completely off the topic, but I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy your pod casts but could not finish listening to the last one because the sound quality was so poor. I am not sure if you realize this or not so I wanted to let you know.

Lisa said...

Great post, as usual, especially seeing the sexy chickens on the spit at the end. Man, I wish I could make chicken that good. That pic fortunately has taken away the image of shirtless Ramsay that is lurking at the dark recesses of my mind. You know you should keep your shirt on when a pan of raw chickens (one of your way earlier pics; still one of my faves) has more sex appeal than you.

When I was a dietary aide many moons ago, I threatened to cut off the cook's balls because he kept whipping out his junk (he always went commando) every time I bent over. He didn't believe me until I turned on him, knife in hand. Never bothered me again. Head cook promoted me to full-time days, only had to work one weekend a month. Must've done something right. :)

Richie said...

@chefinprogress: hrm, i've seen it spelled both ways...even on the covers of his own books...
@donttouchmyknife: no, no one is calling me the new wave bourdain. ok, maybe one person.
@erik: the fish n chips at the pig & whistle are ok...but still, nothing transcendent
@meredith: eating at old chelsea inspired me to say that. authenticity is no excuse for mediocrity
@michelle: you're right. our podcasts have terrible audio quality.
@lisa: you can make chicken like that. it's easy. kinda.

Chef in Progress said...

I know what your talking about it is spelled mad ways(people tend to get creative when spelling) but the placement of the H changes the pronunciation of the word.
However, he was Syrian and I am not so that could factor into spellings.
- Khalil

Chef in Progress said...

Lebanese not Syrian.

ontheline89 said...

it was my first kitchen job, and the sous chef was a terrible combination of cocky and lazy. he kept cutting me hours early and calling me off 3 days a week because i asked him why he didnt care how the food looked on the plate. we got into a screaming match on a friday night after service and the next night i put a gallon of water in the gas tank of his roush racing mustang.

Waleed said...

I think alot of of the time in a kitchen fights have to happen. I'm not advocating that people are in the right for starting the fights.

I currently work in a kitchen that is open 6 months out of the year, so we are usually working 14+ hours a day 6-7 days a week. In a situation like this I've found that people become scapegoats on a regular basis. The new guy this season doesn't perform like a seasoned pro, he's suddenly the problem that all other problems revolve around. Night crew vs. Day crew is old as time itself.

My advice for the world is find peace with yourself when someone tells you what you just made sucks ass.

Fights always happen in a kitchen, usually started by someone who feels bigger than they really are, like that new saute guy who thought he was going to be promoted to sous in under a month. People like that work themselves out, it's always hard to stick it through, but if it's worth it you should.

Scott Sebastian said...

Joseph tried stabbing me with a 10 inch chef's knife. I avoided the first thrust and got a leg behind him and put him down. (hopkido anyone?) Put him in a Nelson until he swore to be good. Finished the shift. Hey, anyone can have a bad day.