Thursday, May 13, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Restaurant Business

At one time I had the worst job in the world. No, I did not clean out video booths with a mop at Adult Mart by a truckstop. It was worse. I was a dishwasher at a Mexican restaurant. Dishwasher is usually a job reserved for criminals, the mentally ill, and the generally unemployable. I had just moved to Columbus for the summer, living with my parents. While most young men my age had fathers hooking them up with plush jobs at country clubs and warehouses owned by Dad's golf buddies, my father was like me in that he didn't know anyone in Columbus either. I opened up the classifieds, and managed to interview successfully enough to convince management I was trustworthy enough to secure the dishwasher job at Casa Lapita in Columbus. I would work like a mule for roughly $3.85 an hour next to a dizzying array of scary individuals.

Dishwasher is a horrible job. It's hot, messy, back wrenching work. The extra joy of doing it in a high volume Mexican restaurant is that the refried bean pot contains sludge baked into the bottom that will not ever come out, and cheese is melted on every single item in the kitchen. It really fucking blows. I hated it. I hated the scary weirdos I worked with. My back hurt every night when I got home. My hands had cuts all over them, except for the spots where the steam burns had really done their work. It was awful work. After about 3 weeks of this, I realized I was meant for a higher form of labor. Yes, I joined the line.

When you think of traditional German cuisine, you probably don't think of me. However, if you ate at the Schmidt's Restaurant on Henderson Rd in 1989, you may have well eaten potato pancakes, bratwurst, or other traditional German delicacies like "potato skins" and "mozzarella sticks" prepared by yours truly. I preferred running the grill, although I was known to handle myself at the steam table with true courage under fire. I think the people of Columbus knew in their hearts they could enjoy a fine meal anytime I was on the line for my $4.25 an hour. But that Golden Age was not to last...

I was wooed away to a restaurant who's name now escapes me for the promise of $5.50 an hour. With me averaging 30 hours a week that summer, you can see I was going to clear enough money to really impact my lifestyle. I could move to Bud from Busch. Life changing money. I walked into the kitchen of the new place that day to see two grizzled old white guys (that learned to cook in the Navy) and a black guy that I couldn't understand one word of. The woman that hired me showed me around the kitchen showing me equipment and using terms I was 100% unfamiliar with. I nodded my head like this was all old hat. After the tour, she then said, "Why don't you make the quiche of the day. The recipe book is on the table.". Sure. Sounds great. Let me knock that out.

There were a few issues I would have to confront. 1) The recipe book used terms like "sift" I had never heard. 2) I had never seen a piece of quiche before, much less made one. 3) They were under the impression they had hired a trained chef that could cook anything made to order, where my experience was confined to throwing pre seasoned meat on a hot grill and frozen shit into a deep fryer. At first I thought I could bluff my way through it, but it became pretty evident I had nothing to go on. In fact, within 25 minutes of my first day, one of the Navy guys said "That kid doesn't know what the fuck he is doing.". That guy didn't know much, but he was right on target there.

The rest of the workday was a blur. I remember slinking out the employee entrance with a real sense of shame. Later that evening I sat at the family dinner table. "How was your first day of work?" The phone rang. I answered it. It was the woman that managed the restaurant. "Hi? Greg? Yes... Hey... We aren't going to need you tomorrow like we thought. Oh? Friday? No... We won't need you Friday either. How about we'll call you when we set next week's schedule?"

I never heard from them again, and so ended my career in the food service industry.


At August 20, 2011 at 6:22:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually enjoyed reading through this posting. Many thanks.
Commercial Dishwasher


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