Chefs Of The Future,,,,Ha Ha


“Professor Renoit, can we see the Café Fete film from 1988 again?” The students at The Academy of Bio-nucleic Culinary and Nutrition Arts and Science University loved viewing the ancient eating rituals of the 20th century. “Well, since it’s a short week I guess we can see it again, message the Audio Visual Center to synch us up with Video CIA/FS11721. I haven’t seen images of Old-Old New York City restaurants in a long time.” Professor Renoit enjoyed the old films even more than the students. It was a fantastic break from all the technological culinary sciences and molecular gastronomic techniques. “ Okay guys, put away the superconductive reassemblers and be prepared to record notes. Pay close attention to the patrons ritual dining experience because I will expect a thesis on 20th century dining and the Amino Acid reaction to the digestive system from eating meat.”
The giant screen lit up and the video began. The title splashed across the screen “Dining In The 20th Century at Café Fete, W145 43rd street Old New York” The narrators voice broke the silence as the camera’s panned through the front door of an old restaurant named Café Fete, “This is Café Fete, and I’m Chef Krandem, executive chef. I am a Culinary Institute graduate and I have worked here in Manhattan for twelve years now. Café Fete is a 180 seat restaurant and catering facility located in midtown Manhattan. We serve what we like to call innovative Pan-Global cuisine, meaning we take fusion into the future by including cuisines from all over the world.” As usual this brought a chorus of laughter from the students as they viewed the now archaic eating establishment boasting of being futuristic. Café Fete was a large and roomy restaurant with 20 foot high ceilings, plush designed with large tables and regal chairs as well as banquette seating. The entire front wall was a bar loaded with a cruvinet for over twenty wines by the glass and fourteen spigots for ales and lagers. Chef Kramden was noted for his daring tell all exposes on restaurants in the eighties. Professor Renoit paused the video, “As many of you know back in the 20th century eating was more of a social phenomenon than the optimal nutrition blending we incorporate today. Back then the culture was all about doing drugs, drinking, and having sex whenever and wherever possible. Chef Kramdem wrote his confessional exposing the restaurant industry’s secrets. He was a self described ‘party monster’ who drank excessive amounts of alcohol, smoked, yes that’s right SMOKED illegal marijuana, and did an assortment of drugs such as cocaine. That was the culture, drugs, sex, and neverending hangovers. His stories included lines of a powdery cocaine on sheet pans, intercourse inside a walk-in refrigerator, and oral sex behind racks of glasses. Kitchens were quite different back then, not like the laboratories we use today ”
He called out “Go” and the video continued, “But today I will take you behind the scenes to watch as line cooks sniff cocaine, waiters and waitresses engage in lustful sex acts, and through it all we manage to serve well over 300 people a night who are totally unsuspecting of the decadence surrounding their meals.” Again Renoit held up the video, “In the 20th century people got together in groups, or in pairs if it was a date, and actually spent sometimes hours sitting at a table eating and drinking. Can you imagine how much information we would miss if dining took us hours? Unthinkable!” The video continued, showing a large area. Along one wall there was a large grill and broiler, five stoves with flat ranges, and a huge sink. There were four cooks at the apparatuses and the noise level was unreal. Screaming over each other, all trying to be the loudest as they cooked food and put it on plates. On the other side of the room was a cold section where they made foods from various vegetation which they called salads. it’s a wonder anything could get accomplished. The students all looked on in bewilderment.
The next scene scanned the dining room which always got a rise of chuckles from the students. Why on this or any other planet would people waste so much time talking and sipping fermented grape beverages? In this multi planetary world such action is a total waste of valuable time which could be spent gathering information. And the sex? My God sometimes it took forever to reach climaxes, not like the auto climax embracing machines they use today. Thirty seconds of embrace and all three or four partners reached climaxes and moved on. And to sit and cut up foods instead of swallowing a bar of compressed energy ion tablets once a day seemed absurd. The video showed a man and a woman sitting across from each other gazing intently into each others eyes. A waiter came out and placed a dish in front of each of them as he described the foods. “For the lady, the pan seared diver sea scallops with avocado balsamic remoulade on a bed of baby spinach from Belgium, and for you sir the grilled Iowa Black Angus fillet mignon with mango and Madagascar peppercorn glaze, twice baked potatoes, and floret’s of broccoli. Enjoy.” The waiter left and the couple daintily began deconstructing the beautifully laid out entrees. Next the video was of Chef Kramden at his desk speaking with what seemed great difficulty about the couple. “Oh yea, he is definitely gonna score tonight with a meal like that. Not to mention the bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Haut Medoc that he sprung for, probably set him back two hundred just for….for….Oh My God! Yessssssss! The wine!” The camera panned down to see a woman’s head under the chefs desk bobbing up and down then stopping suddenly. The students were rolling and holding their sides having just witnessed the old practice of oral sex.
The students viewed an assortment of sexual acts performed with the cooks ans wait staff in various ares’s of the kittchen, drunk and high workers all around, and all the time unsuspecting patrons dined a social interactive meal. They all seemed to be enjoying it which was perplexing to the students. At the conclusion of the video all of the students cheered and clapped. One hand raised up quickly and the professor pointed, “Yes B22?” A young lady stood up, “What did the woman at the end of the video do with the emission from the chef of the future?”

Over/Under…Over Whelmed And Under The Influence


As a Sous Chef in Soho, after being a line cook at Windows On The World, my career was on track. The Smoking Moon Café was a quaint little 45 seat restaurant in a very hip part of the city. The chef trusted me to run the dinner shift which in truth wasn’t all that hard. A limited restaurant with a lot of specials, the sous chef is a one man show behind the range. Our staff was one dishwasher, one waitress, one bartender, and me. But we all had the right attitude and abilities to make it a fully functional team.
Our clientele were mostly young hip professionals with an edgy style. Very often a diner would enjoy the meal I prepared so much he would send me a drink or a joint, or a piece of hash (quality stuff). Every once in a while a regular would come in an cut up a few lines after dinner then invite us all over for a snort. What can I say it was the eighties, the age of excess and everyone in New York City played a role in the Bright Lights Big City clubbing and drugging culture. The really hip clubs had no signs, one had to be “In The Know” to have the address. That was our clients, we catered to the in the know clientele, many of which came to us for dinner before bouncing around the various clubs.
It was a great place to work, the owner treated us like family, even when he wasn’t there when our shift was over he allowed us to lock up and have a few drinks at the bar before heading out. I was the back of the house and back of the house restaurant people complain about business a lot. Whenever its really busy I bitch wishing for down time, and whenever there’s too much down time I bitch wishing for customers. But on July 4th, 1986 I experienced the most excruciating downtime in existence followed by a near impossible power service. The city was alive with celebration, the streets packed with people in anticipation of the annual fireworks display. This year we celebrated the centennial of The Statue Of Liberty so the fireworks were on the West side that year. Being near the West Side ourselves lunch was crazy busy, I had to come in early to assist the chef, but by dinner just about everyone was out jockeying for a good spot to view the works. By seven o’clock we had had one single customer who only ordered a burger. The area was like a ghost town with everybody and their brother on West Side Highway. It was so slow Moss, the waitress, Eddie the dishwasher an I sat at the bar chatting with Stolie, our favorite bartender.
I mentioned that a customer who had requested a very hot meal had given me a bottle of Mt. Gay rum. I made some my patented dragon juice, assorted hot peppers stepped in sherry vinegar to an order of lamb couscous which I topped off with some harisa. When I came out to chat with him his face was covered in sweat but he loved the meal. He asked me if I like rum. Of course, who doesn’t so the next day he bought me a bottle of Mount Gay, his favorite, to say thanks. Before I knew it Stolie, Moss, and I were in a rum drink competition making each other rum drinks. Eddie didn’t compete but happily accepted the privilege of judging. My concoction was a combo of 151, Meyers, and Bacardi with a drop of every juice I could find then a splash of coke. Delicious and deadly. By 10:15 the four of us were toasted and still not a soul to serve, not even anyone passing by. Closing up in 45 minutes. We were laughing loudly when the door opened and a couple walked in. Shit! Now I am really buzzing and have to cook some dinners. When I started heading to the kitchen I hear Moss say, “Holy fuck!”
From the kitchen door I could hear the decibel level increase rapidly. It was like the floodgates opened allowing customers to come charging through the door. The fireworks were over and we were right smack dab in the middle of the path of hordes of happy hungry people leaving the highway extravaganza in search of a place to eat. Within ten minutes every table was full, a line of revelers out the door. Half hour to closing time, but now closing time no longer existed.
Most restaurant people stay in the field working because we thrive on the pressure. All four of us were thriving our asses off. Moss handled the tables expertly, Stolie made the customers drinks and helped Moss by bussing. I really would need a new ass, thriving or otherwise if I didn’t cook it off I was certain to sweat it off. Eddie was promoted to assistant sous chef and he did a fantastic job. For the next two hours the four of us worked together half drunk on pressure, half drunk on rum. For me the best part of the crazy scene was after the last two tables had been seated, while things were semi calm, Moss came back to the range with her cocktail tray holding one large drink. “The happy customer on table seven wants to send a drink back for the chef so Stolie made you a JT Rum Special.”
I was literally drenched in sweat, rivulets of saline trailing from my temples. I was breathing hard because I had been cooking non stop even slapped myself hard and shook my head many times to try instant sober up, and Moss was standing there, also exhausted, but still smiling handing me a drink. “Are you fucking kidding me? A drink now?” Moss tilted her head, lifted her eyebrows, smiled at me shaking her head yes. All I could do was smile back, “That sounds about right.” I accepted the drink with a laugh, giving half to my newly promoted assistant. We didn’t have our usual close up drink that night, all of us wiped out, but we talked about our fourth of July experience for months after. Those were the days….PEACE

Chef Jekyll and Mr. Run And Hide

cray cray chef

Pot Sink Diaries
J.T. Hilltop

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!”