Pot Sink Diaries
Working for a manic depressive chef can actually make life in the restaurant more interesting. I say manic but I mean maniacal. Granted if you were the target of his demonic wrath it was not interesting, but frightening, but overall it added to the experience. Chef Jimmy could be unbelievably paternal one minute, handing me a bowl of beef bourguignon and offering sage advice (not the herb), and showering me with spit as he screamed directly at my face loud enough to insure everyone in the restaurant heard my total dehumanization the next. Could never figure out why he felt he needed to get nose to nose to communicate his displeasure, I was well within earshot and fully capable of understanding what a dumb godamn Ben Dayho I was. When he got pissed his evil twin Chef Jekyll came out and everyone else ran to hide. When someone angered the Chef he morphed into something non human. His face got all weird and contorted, taking on a smoky red hue. The wrinkles in his face turned into evil scales, his teeth rattled, veins popped out from all over his forehead and neck, and while this part was probably my imagination little horns protruded under his chef hat. His words found their target escorted by a military formation of saliva to make soggy strikes with surgical precision. All I could do was cower in fear like an abused puppy hoping that my trembling wouldn’t piss him off even further. From the corner of my eye I can see everyone else in the kitchen moving slowly and deliberately away trying to get as far as possible from ground zero. When the painful barrage of rapid fire insults dispensed at uzi speed subsided, the chef walked away mumbling as my comrades came to comfort me. By laughing! “Whew, you really pissed him off this time JT, chef giving you big ole cigar today.” “Ew we baby, cigars coming like grapes today boy, you getting them in bunches.” Wasn’t bad enough I just got eviscerated by the chef, now my co workers come over to gloat that it wasn’t them. When ever a chef or manager bitches you out in the industry we say we’re getting a cigar. It goes back to an old saying about someone being so mad they had a baby, but to be more cryptic restaurant people call it getting a cigar, which the angry person passes out after the birth of their tirade.
The best defense from receiving cigars is keeping the chef mentally balanced. I was skilled at creating such a delicate balance by virtue of subtle ass kissing coupled with schmoozing the hell out of him with my witty youthful charm. Holding up a mixing bowl of seasoned ground beef, putting on a sly smile saying “Want me to roll you balls chef?” Or “Chef, here’s the filet mignons. By the way, I heard they call you Mr. tenderloin.” To which he would give an approving chuckle and begin bragging. Little things like that kept the chef feeling good and when the chef feels good I don’t have to worry about flying knives or being stuffed in the meat grinder. I never witnessed any of that but the rumors abounded.
But fuck ups were like little ghosts all over the kitchen hanging out waiting for their chance to be called out for a haunting, and try as I did all too often I was possessed by the spirit of screw up. Sometimes it comes out of nowhere, during an otherwise uneventful shift. Jimmy had a thick Spanish accent an called me Gay Dee, having problems with J’s. Even his own name was pronounced Himmie, short for Jimenez, but he went with the traditional English pronunciation of Jimmy. He used a drawn out Ahhhhh so he could think about the right enlish word to use….Ahhhhhh, Gay Tee? You feel ahhhhh, hungry?” Sometimes took him over a minute to ask a simple question. On One particular shift started out as a quiet night and Chef was prepping something when I got the call. “Ahhhhhh, Gay Dee…Make me one favor por favor.” I immediately abandoned my post of suds busting by my sinks and ran over, “Yes chef, what do you need?” Ahhhh, Gay Dee, go a downstair anda getta me ahhhhh one case ofa gripeece.” Okay, chef needed something and I was the one he called on. Time to build some kitchen creds. It was considered an honor to do the chef a favor, get on his good side. “Yes chef, right away.” I ran down the stairs two at a time.
When I got to the bottom I began to think, “What the fuck is gripeece?” I looked around first in the storeroom, then the walk in, nothing even remotely close to gripeece. Shit! Now what? I ran upstairs as fast as I could an ran up to Jimmy, “Um chef, I couldn’t find the gripeece.” Believing I showed enough disappointment for the both of us I gave him my “what so you want me to do now” sad eye stare. “Gay Dee, please, ahhhh no fool around. Please go a downstair anna get me ahhhh one case of gripeece from frisser.” A light went on in my head, “Oh, the freezer, okay, be right back.” Back down the stairs I ran and directly to the walk in freezer. I scoured the shelves, all kinds of frozen things, ice cream, veggies, puff dough, pasta’s, meat product, but nothing even close to a gripeece. I double checked. Nothing. Triple checked. Still nothing. That light in my head dimmed as nervousness began to settle in. Now I have to go tell Jimmy we are out of gripeece and I don’t even know what a gripeece is.
I trudged up the steps in a state of severe gloom with a side order of fear. I walked up to the chef to give him the bad news, that we have run out of gripeece. “Um, I-I don’t think we have anymore gripeece chef, I checked everywhere.” Then it happened, almost in slow motion, the face contorted, the veins began popping, the scales showed up on his face and his chef hat moved slightly to allow room for the evil horns. “God a dammit Gay Tee I’m a tella you one more time.” Not good. No drawn out ahhh, the octaves rose as the decibel increased dramatically. Smoke rose off of Chef Jekyll’s neck and I could sense the hidden smiles on the rest of the guys as they anticipated evil Chef unleashing a pit bull of fury at me. “You go a down stair, go a to the frisser, and ona da tird chelf you get a me one case of a gripeece okay? Grie…..Peece.” The light went back on as I trembled under his wrath.. GREEN PEA’S!! “Sorry chef, right away chef” A ran to the basement in record time, flew into the walk in freezer and there on the third shelf, big as life sat a case of green pea’s. I tore back upstairs, brought him the pea’s then just stood there like a dog waiting to be rewarded for giving its paw. “What da hella you want Gay Tee? Huh? Getta you culo back to work you Ben Dayho.”
Knowing I dodged a round of bullets I returned back to my familiar soapy space, took the helm over my three compartment sink where I was more comfortable and commenced to scrubbing away, eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to kiss ass and maybe atone for the stupidity of not understanding my mentor. The chef was mumbling all kinds of shit, mostly about me I’m sure so I decided it was not the time to ask him why he called me and the other guys Ben Dayho. I just assumed it must be the name of the biggest asshole pot washer in restaurant history until one of the guys explained it to me. As soon as he told me what chef meant all I could say was, “God damn, I am such a vendejo!”