Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Litany ...of Woes

             So the other day at work I was finally given the chance to work a station during a busy set. I was given the short order grill. The set turned out to be busier than we thought too. Between the hours of seven pm and eleven pm we served thirteen hundred people.
            The set started and suddenly I was looking at a hundred orders on screen (a screen that only displays about twenty at a time) and I froze. Like a deer in head lights I froze. Shit. I was searching in my mind for anyway to organize this chaos and found nothing. I desperately searched for anything to stop the chaos. Only one thing came to mind as I started to panic. My geekier friends will appreciate this. I heard this go off in the back of my mind.

            I will not fear.
            Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
            I will face my fear.
            Allow it to pass over me, and through me.
            And when fear has passed, I will turn my inner eye
            And only I will remain.

            I may have remembered it slightly wrong, but you get the idea. My boss, at the lead of the kitchen said, “Damon you all right?”
            “Yeah boss,” I said, “I got this.” I took a deep breath and went to town. My training kicked in, and I suddenly remembered, I was pretty good at short order. The best in my class point of fact. I rocked it. Hard.
            Over the course of Thirteen Hundred people, my average ticket time was seven minuets. They told me to slow down as our menu states ‘please wait thirty minuets for meals during busy times’. I was flooding the server window I was moving so fast. You ain’t ever seen a fat man move that fast. I would also like to point out that our most popular item takes an average of nine minuets to cook. It was for lack of a better word, fantastic. This is the stuff I love to do. Bear down and cook. For lots of people.
            Then the set was over, and I went to my usual job of cleaning and scrubbing. It was a late night. I was at work for sixteen hours. While I was still cooking, being told I was in charge of closing, the closing GM (general manager) came in. We shall call him Mr. Tool. For no particular reason. He was angry that there were so many dishes. He was angry when I told him that we would probably not get done till two am. It is the usual time to be finished, two am.
            He started sending all my workers home, so I would have to close by myself. So the time stretched on. About three am the words, “Come on man this isn’t brain surgery, you don’t have a whole lot to do,” was uttered. Yet he still sat down in his office and waited for me to be done. I wan not happy when he said, “Three am isn’t cool man. I have to open in six hours.” I felt it was very disrespectful, and you know how I react to that. 
            Still I let it go. Yet it happened again the next night, this time I was done at two am, but that wasn’t good enough for Mr. Tool. He also decided not to engage me directly and kept giving orders and asking for updates from my subordinate. I wasn’t happy, but I am the new guy so I let it go.
            I finally brought up to my direct boss, my feelings about how I am being utilized. He listened and said, “Ok we will get you cooking more and try you out on some opening shifts instead of closing.” I was very excited. Maybe I would finally get to cook more than a few hours in a shift. Maybe I would get to learn how the kitchen operates, not just clean. I went to get my schedule the next day with a bright new optimism.
            Turns out Mr. Tool likes it when I close. I am good at it and the kitchen cleaner than any one else. He is also the closing supervisor so the more he gets me to do the less he has to do. The more people he sends home, the more labor saved and the bigger his end of the month bonus. He also has schedule approval.
            I was looking at a schedule of all closing shifts. I was even looking at a night where I was specifically scheduled to close by my self. I tried to keep some help late but Mr. Tool sent him home anyway. Then he complained that I was moving too slow. I lost it and we got into a screaming match. I was yelling about respect and kitchen duties, and waste of talent. I believe the phrase, ‘I have a culinary degree asshole, I am not a janitor,” escaped my lips. Not my proudest moment. He was also screaming about respect and how much he deserved it as well as about what he says goes.
            I was fired. Turns out the asshole comment counts as insubordination. So now I sit out on my porch typing this, smoking my fourth cigarillo (a nasty habit I picked up recently, but it does relax me) thinking over some crucial things.
            I hated the job any way.
            But now I am Unemployed.
I easily have rent handled till October.  I even have fun money (Anyone want to      go to Vegas??)
But now I am unemployed.
That easily gives me a month to find new work and get my pay check.
Shit. I am unemployed.

All in all I think this is fine. I will be fine. I may end up sleeping in my car for a while, but I will be fine. I’ll start a job search on Monday. I will take a few days and recuperate, because I think I pulled my groin lifting hundred pound garbage cans because I was CLOSING BY MYSELF. Who knows what will happen next. I am a little scared, but maybe this will lead to good things. Updates to follow.

Thought of the day: Shit. I am now unemployed.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Murphy's Law!

So I am trying very hard to integrate into Cinebarre culture. It is not a culture I would regularly fit into. Populated with mostly college students, or college dropouts, they are not foodies. They are rap blaring, trend following, younger, and clearly there for a paycheck. Me being the people person you all know I am, am trying very hard to connect and identify with the people I work with. It has been more than a challenge. I got a bump in this department when I realized that we share a common interest….. STARCRAFT ….The universal language it seems.
A few nights ago at work was D-Day. It was our busy night (we end up on average serving seven hundred people between seven and nine PM). Everything went wrong. It was unmitigated chaos. These are the times when you feel like a deer in head lights.
I need to ask you a question. What’s the one piece of equipment in the professional kitchen that you can’t do without? Take a second and think about it. Go on I shall wait……..Most people are going to say stove, oven, or walk in fridge. The closest you may get is the flat top short order grill. Truth is as long as you have a decently outfitted kitchen I can work around any one of those things being out of commission.
The one thing that you can’t work around is your hood system going down. It’s the vent and fire suppression system over your cooking line. With out it you have a kitchen that does nothing but build up intolerable amounts of heat, and lethal levels of carbon monoxide. This was the first thing to go down. So with a massive set looming we scrambled.
One problem faced is OLCC laws. OLCC equals Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Commission rules state that you cannot operate a bar without serving at least five substantial food items. Substantial means includes side dish and is a full meal. Us being a bar, not being able to cook means that you will not be able to serve drinks. So we are looking at a full shut down. What do we have to work with? A toaster oven and a microwave.
We managed to pull together five items (which included toasted grilled cheese, and BLTs, all with sides of popcorn because that machine was still working at the time). With everything being done on two machines a lot of set out cleaning. I did what I do best, support. I ran from station to station, getting things they needed, helping things get sorted out. I was cracking jokes and making people laugh and keeping things flowing. I fit in for the first time.
It was intense but we got it done. Then disaster struck again as the popcorn machine over heated and the glass shattered all over our line. As we approached the next set another shut down looming we thought of one more solution (which was not necessarily legal). You see a tech tells us that the vent is working, but the fresh air intake is what was down. So they sent waitresses to the store to buy great big fans. Then we executed the normal set.
There was just one problem. We sent home half our labor because we were sure the next set was out of the question. So I did it again. Ran my ass off supporting and instructing. It was good to fit in to the team. It was good to lead a team again. After that we rolled into a closing and scrubbed the kitchen down. It was a challenge and we triumphed. Maybe there is hope here at this job. I just have to get over the idea of a life and it could work. At least this massive chaos day lead into a day off.
So three and a half weeks into my new job I seem to be hitting two cross roads. The first, I have been keeping strict daily logs in my head and on my Iphone. It seems that my average shift length is about ten hours. Two of those hours, again on average, will be spent prepping. That includes things like making pizza dough, or chopping items for toppings or grinding meet for burgers (so much fun!). An hour and a half is spent cooking, working the line during the busy set to make food for people. Half an hour is spent on a lunch break, which oddly enough usually comes around hour two of my work day.
The rest of that time is spent cleaning the kitchen. Mopping, doing dishes, and scrubbing equipment. I understand the merits of a clean kitchen, but come on. Is there not some one else, supposedly not a supervisor making more money than the rest of the workers, that can do this job? I hate to sound pompous but I did not work so hard to earn a culinary degree, just so I cam do the work of a janitor (No offense to any janitors out there reading this. I think your job is worth while and important, it’s just not what I want to do).
So I am heavily leaning towards seeking new employment. I am torn though as I feel like jumping ship might be a mistake. However taking the damned job in the first place has proven disastrous.
I actually want to hear from you guys, so thought of the day. Make a comment on this one guys (and ladies!). Should I be worried they hired me to be a bitch boy? OR am I making to big a deal of this? Should I suck it up and keep mopping, or seek employment that might better utilize my (I think) considerable culinary skills?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Catching up!!!

Sorry for the long time between posts folks. I had too much going on. So we can now catch up. I went to a pirate camping event at the end of July. It was called Sea Dog Nights. It was my one big get away during the two weeks I engineered off. Without getting too much into it much fun and epic amounts of debauchery was had. It was truly a good time. So broke and tired I get a few more days off before I start my new job; kitchen supervisor of the Cinebarre Theater, Bar, and Restaurant. 
It is a new experience. I am a classically trained chef, and this place does not fit that bill. I am one of three supervisors and there are as many as ten people under us. I also found out I am the first manager to be hired from the outside and not promoted from within at this location. So far most of my time has been spent cleaning and shutting down the place. I only work nights, and it seems the supervisors don’t ever get two days off in a row.
Those few times I have gotten to cook I have done well, despite the epic volume that moves through the place that I wasn’t trained for. On a Tuesday night we do between seven and nine hundred people. I like the work but a few problems have popped up. One I work nights and don’t get home till well into the morning hours. This means I spend my days a sleep, and by the time I get active all my peps (that’s slang for peoples or friends for my non hip hop inclined readers) are all asleep.
Second, I feel like I am spending all my time cleaning instead of leading people and cooking for people like I was trained. While it is necessary, I don’t want to be a janitor. I know it sounds a little pretentious but come on people. Most the people that read this blog have had my cooking and know how good it is. That’s what I want to do.
Third, burn out. I feel like with more than half my shift donated to heavy cleaning, (which is surprisingly hard work), and with the never getting multiple days off in a row I am going to burn out here quick. I am already two weeks in and tired all the time. I end up muscle sore and wet from dishes and scrubbing floors. I go home every night wondering if this was the right career move. Yeah the burn out factor is high here.
All in all I feel I could learn a lot from this place, and I am. I will stick it out but I am concerned. Mostly I see not having any kind of life here. I am still committed to a quest to find a significant other, and this job will not facilitate that what so ever. Plus it has always been my philosophy that what is the point of working hard if you can’t party hard too?
I’ll keep you up to date on what’s going on here as it will undoubtedly dominate my life for a while. I wish I had better news these days as I never intended for this blog to turn into a total Emo fest but here it is. Have fun folks. I will follow up real soon.

Thought of the evening; worst job you ever had?