Monday, August 31, 2009

You can call your restaurant "5 Star" but that does not make it so.

You can dress up your staff, you can claim to be a gourmet restaurant, but if your dressed up staff is frightfully sub par, and your product is cringingly questionable then a 5 star bistro you are not.

At the time that I became employed at the restaurant where I spent 6 years I also took a part time job in the "5 Star" (who gave these stars was quite a mystery) restaurant at a local resort. I had worked at this resort in another department a year or two before this and was having my share of suspicions about this "Bistro" before I even set foot in the door. However, the manager seemed very positive and extremely organized and the staff members that I was acquainted with said the money was insanely good so off I went, full of hope.

I should have known that things were going to be questionable on my first day of training when the Head Chef announced "The haddock is minutes away from turning. I need you all to push the haddock- it has to go." These words made me think twice about eating anything at all that came out of that kitchen, let me tell you. This was the only kitchen I ever worked in where food quality was an afterthought, at best. Huge chunks of mold were cut off fruits and veggies before they were added to recipes. Almost anything could hit the floor and still be sent out to the dining room. I won't even start with the personal hygiene of most of the cooks, as it was too nasty for me to give much thought to without feeling a bit sick.

My training was done by a girl I knew, and was a most peculiar process. It did not help that she was an inept waitress, who couldn't keep an order straight if it was laid out in front of her on a ruler... She had an air of extreme agitation and nervousness around her, which seemed to be shared by many of the other wait staff. I wasn't long in making the discovery that to get thru a shift, most of the staff used a stunning variety of uppers, downers, and various mood adjusters. It appeared to be common that most would come in either way too shifty and **ahem** teeth grindy, or a bit to mellow and spaced out. Either way, they would be quick to remedy the situation with another dose of their choice substance and be rendered fairly useless. It was a wonder that there was ever any food to send out to the customers what with the excessive snacking and munching that the cooks needed to do to offset the side affects of their "herbal remedies." They could often be found, crouching behind the dumpster in the parking lot snacking on special brownies, or they would emerge from the walk in pantry in a cloud of smoke. Nice!

Despite the extra curricular activities of most of my counterparts I managed to get trained and started to wait for the busy nights and piles of cash that I had been promised. One evening, after we had done about 110 people (with 9 servers, an expeditor, 2 bus boys, a coffee person and a 2 hostesses) one of my fellow waitresses wiped off a bead of sweat and said "WELL, there's a good shift for you!" I examined the 43 dollars that I had made and couldn't help but disagree.

Not only was I fighting a loosing battle against strung out coworkers and questionable food, but there was the problem of the Head Chef dating the Head Waitress (guess who always got her food first) and the fact that after impressing me with his skills the Manager took off, never to be seen or heard from again. By me, at any rate. Things spiraled into chaos and bedlam, with the Head Waitress taking over the scheduling and giving herself and her friends all the good shifts. There was no order in the dining room, as the hostess was having an affair with the bartender and was so busy mooning away over him that people would come in and seat themselves. The tension in the kitchen was about to reach a breaking point, as the Head Waitress, who was dating the head chef had previously been engaged to another cook who still worked there. Things were not civil between the three of them, as periodically the HW would shack up with her ex. Now, why that would cause problems is just beyond my comprehension!!

After toughing out this peculiar working environment for a couple of months I was growing weary of constantly having to dodge angry jilted lovers, huge clouds of pot smoke, and a poor schedule. I was serving a table of two lovely ladies who had ordered a very expensive filet mignon special. Checking back with them, I discovered that one wished for her food to be cooked a bit longer. Making my way into the kitchen I placed this simple request with one of the cooks. "WHAT?" he yelled in fury "THAT STEAK IS MEDIUM, THAT B***H DOESN'T KNOW JACK S**T!!!" "It needs 3 more minutes," I muttered "it's so easy, please just do it for me?" He threw the steak on the floor, and his friend picked it up. "Watch this" his friend said as he proceeded to stick the steak down his pants and do god only knows what with it. I stood there in mute horror as most of the kitchen staff hooted and whistled, encouraging this madness to continue. After hocking a vindictive loogie onto the re-plated filet he tried to pass it to me over the line "You take that out" he jeered "and see how she likes it now!" Looking at him in disgust I flat out refused to do so. The head waitress happened to be in the kitchen at this point, and glaring at me she grabbed the plate of contamination and brought it back to the poor, sweet lady who had no idea what was coming to her. I could hardly believe my eyes, and felt like I was living out a scene from a cliched waitressing film. I hung up my joke of a bistro length apron and quit.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Peg!
    Thanks so much for the kind words.
    I was forced to delete your comment though, as it is very critical me to remain anonomous here.
    Please feel free to continue postimg comments- I really enjoy them! Just remember that you don't know my name. :-)