In a previous post about crapping myself, I intimated that I was fat as a kid.
Thankfully, I’m no longer fat. I lost most of my excess weight, believe it or not, by working in a restaurant at the age of 15.
How I still manage to actually go to restaurants, after actually working in one and seeing what goes on back there, is beyond me. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.
I was eventually graduated to the role of chef (from peasant dishwasher). This set me at 16-17 years old, and cooking food for people.
You can see where I’m going with this.
Teens are not good with responsibility…or cleanliness…or, really, anything that doesn’t involve boobs.
At that age, as a teenage boy, you have a keen attitude that slightly resembles “who gives a f*ck.” This not only translated into my attitudes at home and towards other people, but towards my preparation of food and the customers who ordered it.
Settle in. This gets ugly. Here we go with some examples…
(I can imagine the vegetarians firing up their word processors and PETA getting their emails ready now…)
#1: The Lobster Incidents
Did you know that when you order a baked-stuffed lobster, that the lobster must be killed while it’s still alive? You cannot cook dead lobsters. This is not a good thing. I mean, the lobsters don’t care at this point, but the Insurance companies responsible for counting your dead just might.
Unlike boiled lobsters (which can be thrown into scalding water and burned alive), a lobster that’s ordered as “baked-stuffed” must be murdered by hand. I had a real aversion to doing this when I was first told to, but – eventually – you realize that SOMEONE is going to do it…so why not get paid $4.25 and hour for it.
It’s getting graphic here, kids…hold on tight…
To kill a lobster, you have to grab it, flip it on it’s back, and then drive a ginormous knife into it’s mouth. You then work the knife all the way down it’s body and split it open. You THEN have to reach in, with your fingers, and pull out it’s brain (as, apparently, it is either poisonous to eat or doing so stops the lobster from becoming zombified and attacking you later on that night in your sleep).
(Dear, Moooooog…. I’m from PETA and I….)
It sounds as horrible as it is. BUT, you actually get used to doing it.
To make this somewhat entertaining, I used to take said butcher knife and – prior to splitting them open – would stick the lobsters to the walk-in freezer door…Michael Myers “Halloween” style (you know the scene…when Michael bursts from the closet and sticks the guy to the wall with the knife? Just picture Michael coming out of the closet, and in one hand he’s holding a 1-1/4 pound lobster).
While the lobster is there, his tail is frantically flapping away.
Forgive me Baby Cheez-its...I’m a teen…I know not what I do….
This has two effects:
1) It’s funny to your friends who have been hired as auxiliary dishwashers
2) It TOTALLY freaks out the waitresses who want to get into the freezer to get Jell-o
…good times…good times…
Never, EVER, under any circumstance order the “special” at a restaurant.
Specials are created to get rid of food that’s about to go bad. If it didn’t sell before at full price, Hell, put some cheese on it, call it “Au Gratin” and sell it cheaper. This way, we don’t have to throw it out...and now it's cheesier!
In fact, one of my friends worked as a dishwasher while I was the cook. In the walk-in freezer, was a small cup.
In said cup, was a piece of ham.
The ham was approximately 200 years old.
We called it the “Lipton Cup-a-Ham” (not an actual Lipton product).
We put it in a corner of the freezer as a science experiment. We wanted to see if (a) anyone would notice it was there and (b) how long it would stay there untouched and how green it could get. Keep in mind that part of our responsibility was to clean the freezer regularly.
We always skipped cleaning or removing the Lipton Cup-a-Ham.
It became so famous in the restaurant, that in this kid’s yearbook entry, under “Memories”, he wrote – I swear this is true – “Lipton Cup-a-Ham.”
So skip the specials…you have no idea how old that food is.
Just another helpful tip.
#3: Never eat out during a power outage
One night, we had a hurricane actually blow through New England. I was working at the restaurant at the time.
The power went out everywhere.
We stayed open…people came pouring in. We were able to stay open because we had gas-fired stoves, and a flame grill.
Now – the actual dishwashing machine is neither gas nor flame powered. It needs electricity.
This does not bode well for clean dishes.
Here’s what we did:
Taking a large garbage pail (yes, a large garbage pail), we filled it with hot water (faucets still worked). We then blasted the plates with water, and rinsed them in – yes – the trash bucket.
As the trash bucket now weighed 472 pounds...the water pretty much remained in the bucket the entire night. It eventually resembled a 3-foot high bucket of soup.
This passed as a “clean" plate.
There were no deaths related to the hurricane.
However, I’m not so sure of the count from e-coli related deaths because of people eating off of our plates.
#4: Teens + unguarded booze = drunk teens
Recipe for disaster...
A) I had a bunch of my friends hired at the restaurant.
B) The basement of the restaurant was filled with booze.
C) The owner of the restaurant trusted me enough to take over on nights to do all the cooking.
This was a bad idea.
As such, my teenage friends and I would have the following ritual on worknights:
1) Cook a meal
2) Drink a beer
3) Wash a dish
4) Drink a beer
6) Cook a dish
7) Wash a meal
8) Wash a cook
9) Go pee
10) Sh*t…I’m hammered…
We used to get completely sh*tfaced while working. Meals would get screwed up. Dishes would be put away dirty. Spaghetti that went out with butter instead of tomato sauce was power-washed in the sink and re-sauced...and vice versa.
It was not pretty.
..but it was fun...and Hell, we were teens…who gives a f*ck?
Enjoy your meal.