Wednesday, March 23, 2011

To You, Restaurant Worker

It's well into 2011, and I can't help but notice that I let the yearly summary for 2010 fall by the wayside. It seems cheap to try now (o hai late March! Nice to see you!), so instead please let me take a minute here to give thanks.

This goes out to you, fellow line cooks, for keeping my spirits up day after day. We're in it together, and when one of us goes down, we all go down. We're a silly dysfunctional family, but we are family. So thanks for keeping your shit together, and helping me keep my shit together. Thanks for trying to make our workplace better every day. This is for all the times you finished my prep as I was deeply weeded in happy hour tickets. For the high fives and fist bumps as we trade jokes and talk shit. For the cooking protips you've given me, from faster grapefruit segmenting to better butter basting. For the music and books and great/bad movies you've brought into my life. For giving a shit, and for making this time matter. Thanks, line cooks, for having my fucking back.

This goes out to you, chefs past and present, for working harder than anyone else in the restaurant. For having the patience to answer my endless and sometimes dumb questions. For having my proteins properly butchered and portioned, and my sauces perfectly seasoned and ready to go. For guiding me through everything from vinaigrette prep to lamb butchery, slowly but surely, over and over. For walking me through that method again after I screwed it up while your precious food cost suffered. For not firing me every time I fucked something up, which was quite a lot. I swear I'm getting better. Chefs past and present, you've all made an impression on me, and I feel insanely fortunate to have worked under each and every one of you.

This goes out to you, restaurant owner, for having the best kind of energy a person could have. You walk in and energize the entire staff. How you manage to seem even more spritely as your empire continues to expand, I may never know, but you are an inspiration to every single one of your grateful-as-hell employees. I never feel like an underling with you; you manage to make me feel like an industry peer. That's badass.

This goes out to you, dishwashers, for keeping my shelf stacked with clean pans so I'm never wondering how I'll fire this next 12 plate pickup. For dealing with all the shit that gets put in your area. For letting all of us invade your space. For doing all the shit that no one else wants to do--scraping burners, mopping stairs, taking mats. For scrubbing out my burnt messes, for taking my dirty pans without asking, for keeping me stocked on ramekins and pint containers on the daily. For keeping an eye out for that one tall squeeze bottle or that particular whisk. For teaching me how to say "dance" in Spanish. The restaurant would not run without you, and don't think we don't know that.

This goes out to you, servers, for siphoning out most of the bullshit before it gets to the kitchen. Sometimes I'll find myself daydreaming about the money I made in my serving days, and sometimes I'll look at you across the pass and think of how good you have it while I'm drowning in pastas and fish and chicken. And then I remember the bullshit. The demands, the entitlement, the "allergies", the my-server-is-my-slave attitude. 95% of patrons are nice, but that 5% that isn't is the loudest, worst type of person you could ask to interact with, and you, server, do a commendable job of holding their hand and dealing with them without us ever having to be a part of it. Thanks for alleviating some of the already-high pressure for the kitchen.

This goes out to you, hosts, for pacing us out properly. For checking in on us frequently to see how we're doing, and to slow seating down if we're getting crushed. It's far easier said than done when you have hungry-slash-angry mobs at the door, demanding to be seated lest their blood sugar get any lower. They want this table, not that one. They don't want to sit at the bar but they don't want to wait. I've hosted in the past quite a bit, and it's a job that can make you hate people pretty quickly. The only job I ever walked out on without a proper resignation was as a host at a Beverly Hills wine bar and bistro. And boy did I walk out. At 7PM on an overbooked Saturday night. In hysterical tears. So, thanks, hosts, for being the most underrated employee on the floor.

This goes out to you, bartenders, for killing it night after night. You dance the dance just like we do, but you have the added weight of providing skilled service with a smile. You're the last one to leave the restaurant in the wee hours of the morning, and I know you know what it's like to pull long hours. Thanks for pouring me drinks after a crushing shift, and thanks for all the good talks and fanciful bar knowledge. I've learned more about cocktails and beverages in the past year than I have in all my years prior, and I have mostly you, bartenders, to thank.

And for everyone else that I've failed to call out specifically (and I know there are a lot of you), thank you thank you thank you. You know who you are.