Tuesday, December 14, 2004

It's amazing how a man can work so much and have so little to show for it.

Last week, I started at another restaurant, and worked 4 12-hour shifts in a row. This week, I have worked 2 9-hour shifts already, with three 12-hour shifts to come.

I like my day job better than my night job. The work is a bit more interesting and there's a lot to do. The restaurant does a good deal of catering to UPenn, deli platters, sandwich orders, and the like, and most everything is made from scratch. There's also a good deal of prep work for the evening shift as well. I want to learn how to work their line so i can have a bit more flexibility with my schedule and command more money. I get to wear a white coat at the day job instead of a greasy teeshirt.

The dynamics are different in each kitchen. The evening job is in a very small space: you could fit that kitchen into mine at least 4 times, and perhaps even 8. On one wall, from left to right there is a 2 burner grill, a four burner stove/ oven, a small 2-basket Fryolater, and a small cold station that fits about tows of about 5 six-pans each. On the opposite wall, going right to left is a swinging door, a small hand sink, the trash barrel, and a triple sink. The pipe below the middle sink leaks badly so we rarely use that one. Storage is tight. Moving around is even tighter, and everyone's stepping on someone else. The back stairs serve as a sort of storage area for our plastic, but lights have never been put in back there. As a result, it's a treacherous messy pile of plastics that collapses abou three times a night. We serve a hot menu limited to a hamburger, done three ways; a vegan burger; 3 types of sausage; an oyster po' boy; and jambalaya (made fresh). We do two cold sandwiches, and two salads.

The owner who is most frequently there was either a bartender or bar manager at another venture the partnership owns, but I do not know how much experience he has running a kitchen. Some of his practices are just not kosher: for instance, he doesn't believe in roatating out bread. That's just common sense. Another time he got rid of a batch of jamabalaya, about $300 worth of sales, because it had kielbasa in it instead of andouille. We're not fine dining, and the odds a customer would have noticed the change in one batch are not even worth talking about. And he nitpicks, which drives me crazy. Every day, without fail, we're reminded to do the dishes or to sweep the floor. It doesn't help that one of the new guys complains about everything to our boss: I don't know if he's trying to curry favor or what, but it brings misery on the rest of us.

The kitchen at my day job is a joy to work in. It is a long, open rectangular room. Going from left to right is a complete dishwasher's station; a triple sink; a prep area; a pasta station; 2 6 burner stoves and overhead broiler;a fryolater; a convector oven; and another prep/ bakery area. Opposite are the doors to the dinign area, the walk-in and freezer, and the refrigerator. There's a waitstation further down the wall. Between the stoves and the walkins is a long counter which is made of stainless steel like everythign else int he kitchen.

The restaurant is owned and run by three very effeminate gay men in their late forties/ early fifties, who have been working together for the past 25 years. One of the delivery guys told me "Over the years they've gotten totally sick of each other's bullshit." While I've seen them make pointed and snide remarks to the staff on occassion (as any boss does), they save their real wratch for each other: the result is some odd cross between the Three Stooges and Christopher Guest as "Corky" in "Waiting for Guffman."

"You're SUPPOSED to be wearing rubber gloves when you work with CHICKEN, or have you learned ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in 25 YEARS of restaurant work?" yelled one guy yesterday.

"I found the gloves, I found them so stop BARKING at me," yelled the other guy.


The delivery guy shot me a glance. "See what I mean? It's like working in the kitchen with three bitchy high school girls!" He added, "Last week they threw ramikens at each other."

The chef at this place drives you pretty hard: last Saturday, after being employed with them for 4 days, he had me run an entire catered event by myself. He's had me stay late the past two days as well. I enjoy it though, because I am relearning things I'd forgotten over my five-year hiatus, and I am learning a bit more about proper set-up too, which will be a good skill to carry on. I like working with him though.

On the other hand, neither job pays enough, and I am dog-tired for at least an hour when I get home from either. I just finally decompressed from work, and it's 10:00 at night. I want to go out and get a beer, but it's so late...