Tales from the Restaurant

Tales from the Restaurant
Where you'll find all the restaurant dirt you'll ever need.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Having left the business; A Requiem

Many of you might know that I left the restaurant business back in November of 2014. I had scooped up a regular sales gig, and the weekend/mid-week evening shifts were getting to be too much. The exhaustion was really getting to me, and I didn't have enough water for all the plants in my time garden.

So I wrote an emotional resignation letter.

Breaking up with the restaurant business was a hard thing to do. I knew that people in my restaurant grew to depend on me, and some of them I suspect started to kinda like me. My letter was filled with semi-professional Shakesperian-sounding tirades ("I would that I had the hours in my week, nay, the energy to continue to serve and prosper within these four walls), and it was overflowing with gratitude for the opportunity.

I felt weird about it, because restaurants are not places that people leave graciously. It's always a "good riddance" type of mentality that follows you out the door like a personal storm cloud. Certainly, that's how you feel after any given shift, but it wasn't the end of a shift; it was the end of four and a half years of service. It was the end of a chapter of my life.

None of this is to say that I wouldn't go back if I had to. To quote Ashton Kutcher, "I've never in my life had a job that I was better than."

If circumstances in my life permitted, I would absolutely go back, and I would rock it. But it's been over a year and a half, and I'm doing well in another area. So I end this blog for the time being, and take with me all of these experiences that I've had over the years, and will always keep them in my thoughts as I go out to eat in other restaurants.

Order up!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Flood

The beauty of going out to eat dinner is that someone you can't see is taking care of everything. You get to relax, you get treated like someone important, and your meal magically appears in front of you without you having to worry about cooking, doing a mountain of dishes, or being stocked up on booze. It's an experience critically dependent on what is left to your imagination.

So when something happens that could threaten the environment your food is cooked in, it becomes absolutely imperative that the issue resolves itself. But what's more important is that no restaurant guest ever finds out.

I took one Tuesday night off, and I assumed nothing when I came in on Wednesday morning and began nonchalantly brewing coffee. One of the line cooks nudged me as I did so, and I assumed his story chronicling the night before was merely business as usual.

As per usual, I figured another cook conjured up one more stupid story not worth hearing. I could hear it in my head already; some dickweed with a Styrofoam allergy probably ended up bending the restaurant over backwards, complaining his ass off when the CEO wouldn't come down there and personally jerk him off over his own dinner. In layman's, some douchebag probably insisted that his filet mignon wasn't cooked as “Medium-Medium-Well” as he wanted it, and nobody on staff had the balls to tell him off.

Turns out it was something a hell of a lot funnier.

An unsuspecting customer took a stroll into the restroom to take a leisurely piss.

When finished her business, she did as all domestically trained humans do and flushed the toilet. It took no more than ten seconds before the fragile balance of plumbing and physics relinquished their cease-fire over the Bull Run that was my restaurant's facilities.

When you hit the flush in a public restroom, you kind of expect that your shit and piss disappears forever, never to be seen again in your current plane of existence. You don't quite anticipate that your business will return with a shitty, smelly vengeance, ready to ruin the evening of every mortal within a fifteen-foot radius of everything you can actively taste. I had been conveniently enjoying a night off in the comforts of my own home while fiery feces and female sanitation products exploded and rocketed throughout the restrooms and kitchens of the place I spend 6/7 of my week selling to the general public.

When I learned what had happened, I immediately relinquished control of my gastrointestinal reflexes.

I remember regaining control of myself, but for some reason I continued vomiting for another 13 seconds.

It might have had something to do with the way I perceive female hygiene. After all, I've never had a period of my own. Despite that, I know full well that the little tin buckets inside female restrooms are repositories for hygienic products, and I imagine that if I had to dispose of a blood-soaked tampon, I'd give that receptacle strong consideration before relinquishing the item to the depths of the public toilet. In fact, I'd attempt to further contemplate what manner of awful service I'd have to do to said product that would convince me to drown it in the toilet instead of laying it to rest in the designated public tampon receptacle.

Either way, several of these misguided cotton rogues ended up in the kitchen that Tuesday. That very line cook ended up snaking the drain and sending them back to hell with a life-sized pipe-cleaner Excalibur right before heading back to the griddle to cook the same entrees these misguided females probably ordered without so much as thinking about that ten-foot radius where that fateful period happened. But I digress.

When you take on the yoke of a restaurant manager, you don't typically sign up for these kinds of situations. You forfeit the kind of tip money you'd make each holiday for a salary which is supposed to compensate you for your ability to deal with certain higher-plane PR difficulties.

That said, the look on my manager's face when this situation came to fruition was somewhat priceless; Nothing like this had ever made its way into the restaurant manager's handbook. Why should it? After all, situations like these are precisely why waiters don't ever climb the career ladder.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Turkish Ministry of Douchbaggery

Before I get to brass tacks, I'd love to thank you all for keeping Tales from the Restaurant frequented. After logging 15,000 views, I'd like to think there's been an impact made on the general population from a true representative of the industry. Thanks again.

Between my computer breaking and losing a good chunk of my photos and data (combined with searching for a more predictable occupation), it's been tough to schedule serious time to devote to the cause. But it's safe to say that my work isn't done, and my lack of updating isn't impressing anyone. I plan to return to the task at hand in full force. 

That said, I clearly haven't reached people like the shitheads who came in to eat last Wednesday afternoon, so I certainly have a lot more work to do. Let's take the gloves off.

I took a reservation for 25 people who identified themselves as the “Turkish Ministry of Health." It was around lunchtime, so I thought it was going to be a typical, businessy 'in-and-out' sort of thing. One of these days I'm going to simply know better. Until then, feel free to step up, assume a firm grip on common sense and then use it beat my thick skull in.

The group of suit-and-tie clad cock jockeys fired strongly out the starting gate by showing up an hour and fifteen minutes late for their reservation. Anyone in my shoes would have rightfully canceled their reservation, pushed the tables back to their original configuration, and laughed politely as they strolled nonchalantly into an accurately functioning restaurant business model. But as it happened, it turned out we weren't that busy when they showed up. So we pushed the tables back the way they were and sat them.

I don't know what it is about professionals who show up from various embassies to eat. It always takes place during lunch, 99% of the group is always struggling with English, and the demands of the head honcho usually take the staff on a Marco Polo themed tour of the dining room in a futile search for the perfect table that often finishes right where it started. And since they're all in suits, it occurs to nobody to tell them off.

The table we had happened to have arranged for them was about ten feet away from the bar. According to the head translator of the Turkish Health Ministry, this was a "GRAVE RELIGIOUS INFRACTION."

The dignitary responsible might as well have reacted like we just exposed him to an airless vacuum. I would rather choose to represent him as a fanatical religious robot.

Acknowledging one's religious beliefs and finding a solution isn't usually a problem. But in the restaurant world, it typically throws a kink in the works if someone conscientiously objects to your non-secular ways of forcing them to eat in close proximity to sinners.

So one of the men in the party casually suggested that the entire party move outside.


The completely vacant outdoor patio happened to be available on account of the less-than pleasant temperature and the ostensibly ominous clouds overhead. So my boss allocated four staff members to rearrange the tables outside to accommodate them. Most people who want to spend any extended period of time outside typically check what the weather is going to be like while they're walking around the square.

If I had to guess where the priorities of foreign dignitaries lie, the last thing on the list would be "what the weather will be like at the precise date and time that I would like to drag 20 foreign editors of health policy outside of the sin-minefield-that-is-the-bar-and-restaurant-where-we-made-reservations.”

As soon as the Turkish Health Ministry got settled in, their particular God decided that it would serve them right to open up the skies and shower them in heavy rain.

You may very well consider that by this time I was trying my hardest to suppress a hearty grin while observing these horrible souls running for cover. Thinking they would see the humor in it themselves, I immediately ran outside to make peace and recover the menus. I meekly asked them all for a modicum of assistance.

I asked them collectively, "Can you help me out and bring your menus inside with you?"

Our unspoken war of non-compliance continued as they each completely ignored me and ran inside, each menu meanwhile disintegrating beneath the torrents of rainfall. Nine of the paper-inlayed menus I was trying to save were destroyed by the rain.

So the men all ran inside and proceeded to sit without instruction or guidance at their original table, in complete defiance of their own religious double standard. As if that wasn't bad enough, they sat down, demanded NEW menus, and one of the men pulled me over to tell me an important piece of information; they were all now hard-pressed for time and the 25 of them needed to have their lunches finished and paid for in the next 40 minutes.

At this point, I was furious enough to have reasoned a few counterarguments that would have surely gotten me fired.

If timing was so gravely important, why didn't you all simply;


and also,


When I brought one of the dignitary's briefcases in from the rain, he simply took it from me and said casually,

Well aren't we just a big pain in the ass?”

To which I felt I could only reply,

Your words. Not mine.”

Sure I'd had a few responses prepared. But I also remembered how hard I could later immortalize them here. I can only pray that someday, when I have some high-powered jack-off job where I can dress as well as I please, that I decide to go out and attend my reservation at a favorite restaurant of mine. I'll ask to sit outdoors, and when I do, I'll look up at the sky and wait patiently to see whether or not my deity of choice thinks I'm a complete asshole.

And if I'd stepped on enough harmless people by that point to get to where I was, I'd grab some nails, a hammer, and some plywood and start building a fucking ark.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Tale of Baked Potato Man

When you work for a period of time in a restaurant, you tend to get better and better at sharpening your wits in situations that require excessive damage control. Just last week alone, I called a woman with short hair "sir," I mistakenly brought a Diet Coke to a morbidly obese woman who had asked for regular Coke, and even went to hand a guest a pen to sign a receipt, but ended up accidentally flicking it end-over-end until it smacked him in the face. These situations can be fixed with a few well-placed words and a free dessert, but nothing can compare with the great mistake of letting a regular guest order something that isn't on the menu.

Pretty anti-climactic, huh?

Well then. Cue the "Baked Potato Man."

This is perhaps one of the most odd people I've ever met in my restaurant career. Although there's nothing immediately wrong with him (or requiring rapid medical attention), you can just tell that when this man walks in with his uncombed Bob Ross hair, enormously thick 70's era rapist glasses, and a canvas sack that he wears around his neck, that there's no way he can be allowed within 500 feet of a playground.

After his last visit to my restaurant, a friend he was dining with told the waitress privately that she "hadn't seen him in about ten years, and he's apparently developed a....thing."

Included in that is this man's ever loosening grip on the world around him. Here's why I think that.

At my restaurant, we do not offer baked potatoes. At one point in time (a few years ago), baked potatoes were a viable option where I work for people who decided that they didn't want their potatoes mashed or "french fried." I suspected that because the potatoes were made in batches of 20-30 and were selling at a rate of about 1 per hour, it became economically unfeasible to continue to leave them on the menu.

What people don't understand is that when you order a baked potato, you're ordering a specific kind of potato. It's usually a darker russet potato, a root vegetable which takes well to a convection oven and is usually not much bigger than your fist. These kinds of potatoes don't typically do well to mash, and fries are usually pre-made in 99% of restaurants. So when someone insists on being served a baked potato, I take absolute hedonistic delight in how the next 45 minutes plays out.

I usually explain a more concise version of this to the irate guest, and let him or her know that they're going to have to wait just under an hour (in addition to the time it takes to prepare the meal) for an individual Yukon Gold potato bigger than a college football to be cooked all the way through for them. And I usually mention as an afterthought that it'll taste like shit.

Usually this is enough to not only deter people from straying from the menu, but from severely inconveniencing the kitchen. But not the Baked Potato Man.

Instead, he just sits there and gives you what my coworkers and I have deemed the "Unibomber Stare."

I feel that whatever trauma this man suffered through rendered him unable to process that baked potatoes were nearly impossible to put in front of him. So he eventually wins every standoff with something like.

As a restaurant server, the absolute WORST thing you can do for your career and the well-being of your coworkers is to simply give into what I've deemed "Restaurant Terrorism."

So I did. The first time it happened, it all played out exactly the way I described. Baked Potato Man was overjoyed that his baked potato arrived an hour after the rest of his meal. He spent another two and a half hours eating it.

The next time he came in, I was determined to hammer the lesson home. I explained once again that we don't offer baked potatoes and told him that since the kitchen was exceptionally busy tonight, baking him a new potato would take perhaps over an hour. He reacted accordingly.

I went into the kitchen and spoke with the chef, who was a recent addition to the team. I let him know that this guy was a repeat offender, and to take as long as humanly possible to fulfill his obnoxious request. After that, I returned to the table to reiterate that I went completely out of my way to make sure his order was tended to with all of the care and determination we could muster. What I didn't know was that the new chef's pride was going to be a problem.

A moment later, he interrupted me with a tap on the shoulder. I turned around, and he was holding a fully-cooked, regular-sized potato, adorned lovingly with butter and sour cream. A mere eight minutes had passed, and already here was the baked potato.

Baked Potato Man was ecstatic. He dove into that potato like it was a sandbox at a playground. I took the chef off to the side and had a private discussion with him. Not only had he just encouraged this man to continue to order things we don't offer, he had undermined my authority at the side of the table and reduced my credibility to nothing (which probably didn't matter--this guy is deliriously obstinate). I bet that the next time this guy comes in, he'll bring all of his strange friends and will have briefed each one of them on how easy it is to get a baked potato at my particular restaurant.

And I fear that if one day we decide to put our collective foot down and tell him that he can't have what he wants, I suspect I'll have a package in the mail the next day that will blow my arms off and may just kill me.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Stuff I drew at Work (Vol. 3)

I've been really lazy. For those of you who still hold me accountable for updating this project of mine, thank you. In many ways, I'm really proud of you and humbled by your constant encouragement. Simultaneously, I'm bewildered that you haven't yet capitulated to the modern era and started picking up vampire novels.

I'm working on a couple new stories for you to read (and suspend disbelief at), but while I do that, I figured I would show you a couple of things I drew while I was supposed to be working.

The first one is a movie idea I had.

Text: INGLORIOUS LOBSTERS ...They just came to kill some Nazis.

It seemed like it could be a legitimate movie.

The next one had me thinking about borderline inappropriate things a lobster could be doing. What's with all the lobsters you ask? I simply find it really morbid how lobsters are prepared for our dinner. I'm convinced that Darwinism will eventually come full circle, and lobsters suddenly won't be so defenseless anymore. I've seen 70-year-old lobsters that were over 16 pounds alive and in front of me. What's to stop an army of lobsters from growing to human proportions (or bigger!?), taking up arms, and storming the beaches against us? Nothing. That's where the idea for this next one came from.


This last one was a request from my sister.

Sister; "How about you draw you and me running from zombies holding strange objects?"
Me; "Okay."

The strange objects are in fact a rolling pin, a stapler, and a menorah.

Anyways, I have a couple big stories planned for the next week or so, stay tuned!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rape in the 'straunt

In the past two weeks, I've failed at a couple of crucial things at the restaurant where I work. Whilst some of these infractions were less severe (showing up for a shift with a slightly wrinkled shirt, not using tongs to retrieve a food item, exhaling casually onto an authority figure while severely hung over, etc.) some of them have had lasting ramifications that have made me wonder whether or not quitting my waiter job of three-plus years was a smarter decision than merely showing up for my evening shift.

My first mistake was relatively innocuous; I responded sheepishly to the brand of questioning that the line cooks had devised for the evening.

I did something waiters should never do with back-of-house staff. I used self-deprecating humor.

I thought nothing of it until the contagious leper of a rumor I had kept at bay for a long time ironically turned around to embrace me. You see, one of the line cooks reached out towards me again a week later with a “genuinely concerned” “how come?” style of questioning. They wanted to know more about it. Instead of actual honesty, I proceeded to facetiously respond in a careless fit of unbridled ignorance. Observe;

At that particular moment, I had unknowingly committed restaurant suicide.

The two Hispanic line cook brothers have since then been using every opportunity possible to wage pseudo-homosexual warfare on me every time I’ve entered the kitchen. I walked in two weeks ago and bent over to wash my face only to hear seductive whistling coming from behind me. I’ve leaned over to scoop ice for a beverage and felt an open hand smack my out-thrust ass. I’ve placed dirty dishes into the bus-bucket and immediately felt an unmistakably horny member grazing my goose-bumped femur. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time I humbly asked the pantry for a side of caesar dressing and received a shallow dish full of human semen sprinkled with ground pepper. If I were to reach up for something on a high shelf tomorrow evening, I might very well experience full-on rape in public. But as a joke.

That's restaurant humor for you.

I might as well just quit at this point.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Transition from Waiter to Salesman

Every successful waiter knows what it's like to be under-appreciated.

That feeling of knowing that you'd do anything to please a total stranger is something that a career waiter can't just extract from his psyche like a skilled neurosurgeon. Many waiters find that they are able to make their living selling, but what is it that keeps a skilled waiter from making a respectable stipend as an actual salesman?

Salesmanship is a logical next step up from the base floor of "Occupational Order Taker." It seems that anyone who can establish him or herself as a waiter could have potential as a salesman, and what waiters do (if they enjoy being tipped) is make alluring recommendations to enhance their guests' experiences. If you suck at recommending dishes and beverages, you become an order taker. So in essence, what makes the occupations of seller and salesman different?

I've taken a long hiatus from regular restaurant work to actually DO sales, and I've since found it relatively unrewarding. The fact that family men, scholars, public servants, and circus folk can serve people and make a menial living and be treated similarly is both fantastic and comforting, but completely sucks balls. We all keep doing it however, because we find enough comfort in providing strangers dinner because it seems preferable to any other time-consuming, emotionally limiting professional endeavor.

That's why people with decent jobs still keep a couple shifts waiting tables on the weekends.
When a guest sits down at your table, he or she kind of understands that you are there because you HAVE to be, and that servitude isn't ever glamorous. When a person complains about a dish you didn't cook for them, they're generally innocuous about it because in essence it's not your fault.

I once knew a great lawyer who studied and worked hard to dominate her profession. She kept five shifts a week waiting tables because it was good money, and because it was comforting and equally tormenting. It ended up ruining her social life because the effort she put into selling was dominating her life as a good person in the legal profession. When an implacable ass-clown at one of her tables yelled at her on a busy night for messing up a slightly intricate order, she broke down in the back of the restaurant and swore she'd never come back. I remember asking her why she never cried in a courtroom for defending a family from the crazy heart-breaking rantings of a drunken father lying to save his shitty life, and to this day never got a comprehensive answer. Having left the waiting profession for good, she is doing much better.

Life sucks as a middleman. The true power of it is that you find a way to make your customer's experience worthwhile. When a customer complains, you tend to establish yourself as a professional when you empathize with them and work to fix their every trouble. Either that mentality drags you into a deep dark hole, or it lets you believe that eventually you will find redemption as a "good person."

Sales contains none of those ideologies. When you're selling a product, you're promoting value, gaining trust, and easing someone's mind. If you're falling short of any of these tasks, you're probably just a waiter.