When you work in the “biz”… the restaurant “biz” that is.. there’s a LOT of shit one must endure. It’s not just the dickhead customers with their rude behavior and their cheap tipping abilities. Or their dirty faced, grubby fingered, ill mannered kids. It’s not just the working of nights, weekends, and holidays. At times your co-workers can be the greater enemy.
Now normally when it comes to serving with the enemy, my nemesis always included either the ladies who have been serving since the 60’s. You know, those old ladies with the “smeared on their teeth” lipsticks. The ones that reek of cheap “old lady” perfume and stale cigarette smoke. The ones that sound of stale cigarette smoke calling all the old guys “toots” and everyone else “sweetie”. These ladies are tough cookies who are set, or shall I say stuck, in their ways. They’re the types to see a new girl come in, specifically young new girls, and have this entire vendetta against them, a drawn out plan to get them out. With all reason. I mean, how’s that saying go? “Out with the old. In with the new”? Usually these ladies, once they start to realize that I too am a tough cookie and that I won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, become civil, one could even say friendly.
The other nemesis that seems to follow me around are the young girls. Young girls meaning either my age or younger, who seem to think that having no moral compass is the “hip” thing to do. Funny thing is, they seem to really try to have that aura that they’re just too “cool” for me while at the same time I can smell the fact they need my acceptance (as well as everyone else’s) desperately.
It typically takes about two weeks for my amazing personality *wink wink* to win over any one that may be hesitant to befriend me. I’ve been used to it all my life and it’s something I actually find pleasure in. It’s almost like a game to me. “Oh you don’t like me?” Muahahaha “We’ll see how long THAT lasts..” So anyways, When I began working at the latest “supper club” a few months ago I was sorta shocked to find such an easy going crew. The guys loved me. The girls were awesome. Everyone was funny and helped each other out. It was like working for the Brady Bunch if they would have had their own fucking restaurant. I felt like I lucked out really. Until… <— I mean you had to know that was coming right?… The Chef and I had a bit of an altercation on Valentine’s Day.
If any of you out there reading this have ever worked in the restaurant industry you know how chef personalities can be. I’m not talking about just regular joe shmoe cooks that work in the kitchens of your regular chain restaurants who basically follow a recipe given to them by the higher up. No. I’m talking about those fine dinning chefs that actually create art with their dishes. They’re the ones who don’t follow recipes the make them. They are the ones when it’s slow at work and you’re just shooting the shit, they are amazing individuals. Big old teddy bears. Then once in the weeds, or god forbid they get a picky customer who tweaks their beloved dish, picking it apart to tiny little pieces, it is like the devil unleashed his wrath upon all who crossed its path. I have lots of experience working with these kinds of personalities. Growing up in South Jersey, I was lucky to have had the opportunity to a lot of job shadowing and internships in the casinos of Atlantic City allowing me to work at some of the top restaurants alongside of the cream of the crop when it came to chefs. With that said, I have never, not once, had an altercation or confrontation with any of them. So when Valentine’s Day 2016 rolled around and I found myself in a boarder line shouting match with this guy.. I was at a loss for words.
On this particular night, it had been busy, but for the most part it had all gone easy breezy. I mean to be honest, I was so focused on the shit I had to do to get through the night, that I hadn’t even realized the night had gone by so quick. Before I knew it, it was 8:30 pm and I was on my last reservation. My last table consisted of a nerdy couple who were approximately in the early thirties. They were both tall, lanky and wore glasses. He was the type that wore grey knitted socks with is strappy Moses sandals, khaki cargo pants that tied in the front, and a Mr.Rogers sweater. She had a scarf on, even though this is Florida and in February it’s still quite warm out. Her hair was shoulder length and sported big white chunks that curled into her intensely black hair. Intellectuals for sure. They asked a million questions about the menu. He was vegan. She had a gluten allergy. what seemed like hours later they both ordered. They settled on a fruit and cheese plate for their appetizer (he ate the fruit, she had the cheese) and then she got a blackened salmon salad, while he ordered the vegetarian dish. All veggies, no butter, just a plate of veggies. I quickly ring in the order. Then within seconds I hear, “A GODDAMN VEGGIE PLATE?? WHO THE FUCK.. RANG THIS IN…. GET HER IN HERE!!!!!!.” I had been summoned.
I walk into the kitchen and I see Chef just glaring at me. “WHO the fuck orders a vegetarian dish on Valentine’s Day?! I made a wonderful god damn specialty menu for tonight and you allow them to order the FUCKING VEGGIE PLATE?!” he’s throwing dishes and banging pans. I made the mistake of actually going ahead and answering his question. I mean how was I supposed to know it was rhetorical?
“Well Chef, a vegetarian does. Everything you put on the special menu for tonight is either meat or fish and…” I was cut off, almost literally. He points his knife at me and says, “I don’t give a FUCK! Do you even know if they can consume butter???” he asks, again I was stupid. “Yea Chef, he’s vega….” I calmly try to say.”Get the fuck out there!!and ask him!!!If he can have butter!!!! NOW!” I already knew the answer to this one…He’s Vegan. No he can’t consume butter. He specifically gave me the run down when we were talking about the menu, but I left the kitchen, made a loop around the dining room as to pretend I actually went over to ask him, came back in. “Chef, no he can’t have butter.” So he replies with “Goddamn cock suckers!!! WHY ARE THEY COMING OUT TO EAT THEN!!!?? WHAT THE FUCK!!” This time I don’t answer. As I’m walking away I hear him say to the expo guy, “She’s a fucking idiot. What’s this her first day? Why would she let him order that?” Now keep in mind that it’s Valentine’s Day. This couple had to make reservations to have dinner at the supper club that night. The menu that Chef created for the night was NOT the only menu that was available that evening. If people wanted to order from the regular menu, they were allowed to do so. The vegetarian dish is on our regular menu therefore they were allowed to order it. I was pissed. No one had ever talked to me that way and just because he didn’t feel like making it, didn’t mean he was allowed to give me shit for having to place the order for it.
Everything that could have gone wrong with that table did. Their fruit and cheese platter came out 45mins after being ordered when in reality it should have taken no longer than 10 and that was pushing it. Her salmon was over cooked and there were no pine nuts on the salad. His veggie plate looked like a pile of mush. It was obvious that Chef didn’t care about the product that he was serving these “cock suckers” and what bothered me even more was the fact that he didn’t care that ultimately it would reflect on my tip. Needless to say, I did not get a good tip from this couple and you can tell they left quite unhappy. For the rest of the night, I spoke to no one. I was fuming. My manager that night spoke to me. Word had gotten out on Chef’s behavior and she came to see if I was upset. “Of course I’m upset! Who talks to another human being that way? I did NOTHING wrong and I get shitted on? What the hell?! He’s got issues…major issues.” She basically defended him by saying he had been working long hours and he was tired. She didn’t take into account that I too had worked a long week that week. At this point I had two jobs, I served breakfast from 6:30-3pm and then I would rush over to work 4-10pm at the supper club. Those aren’t easy days, especially as a server. You didn’t see ME snapping at anyone. No one deserves to get reamed just because one is tired or cranky. But whatever. He was the Chef none the less and if it came down to it, they would have definitely taken his side over mine any day. So quiet I stayed yet from that day on I was on the fence of whether or not I would stay working there much longer.
Fast forwarding on to a few nights ago. This night was not very different from any other night. It had been exactly a month from Valentine’s Day. It was a Wednesday which is a lot more quieter than a holiday or weekend day for that matter. The night had gone smoothly. It wasn’t too busy. All of my customers had been friendly and easy-going. I had spent the day joking around with my co-workers. In actuality it was one of the best days I had at the supper since I had started working there in December. It was about 9:30 and finally the restaurant had slowed down. I had one table waiting to finish their dessert and so I began doing my side work for the night. During this time it is customary for servers to make themselves a little salad to eat. It was the only thing we didn’t have to pay for so of course it was routine for us to make one. After a six hour shift of serving hungry customers and delicious food what server wouldn’t? Well here I am rolling silverware. I hadn’t eaten all day but hadn’t noticed until the second my stomach spoke to me. I walked into the kitchen, grabbed a small to-go box as I normally would throw my salad in there as to not dirty a plate, and went on to make myself my salad. As I’m adding shredded carrots to the mixed greens, I hear, “I hope that salad that you’re making isn’t for you to take home…That better be for a customer right?” I turn to look and see Chef with a drunken stare just glaring at me. “No, I’m making it for myself to eat here.” I kinda laugh a little bit for I had no idea what was coming. “Who said you could make a salad?” He raises his voice just a bit. I for some reason think he’s fucking with me so I say, “What do you mean? I can make one if I want to.” I laugh and turn back to finish making my salad. “No YOU CAN’T!” By this point, the bartender had brought him his end of shift beer, which he seemed to have once an hour, but who cares right? I mean he IS Chef. So I turn to him and say, “Yea? and why not?” and that was the trigger that set him off I guess because he slams his precious beer down making most of it spill onto the cutting board, “Because this is MY GOD DAMN KITCHEN THAT’S WHY! I AM THE GOD DAMN CHEF! I SAID SO!!!! WHAT? YOU THINK THIS SHIT IS FUCKING FREE??!!” He is yelling so loud that he’s turning almost purple. His veins are protruding from his neck. Spit is literally foaming in the corners of his mouth. Every server was in the kitchen and every single one of them was standing there wide eyed. They had lucked out, for most of them were about to go on a make a salad too. I guess that day was my day to be the martyr. I stood there frozen. The only thing I said back was, “Since when??! Clara (my boss) has always said that we were allowed to?” “I don’t give a FUCK what she says!! THIS IS MY FUCKING KITCHEN!” I had a million scenarios playing out in my mind for that split second. None of them would have helped the situation any other than allowing me to feel better. At that point Clara, who had been standing there the entire time watching in horror, walks over to me, grabs me by my shoulders, and leads me out into the kitchen. But not before I call out to Chef and when he turns to look, I slowly dump out all the contents of my to-go box in to the trash, just to piss him off. Everyone stayed quiet. No one knew what to do or say. It wasn’t until a few mins later after I come back from cashing out my last table that a few of my fellow servers came by, one by one, to tell me how fucked up that was. Clara had spoken to me saying how disgusted she was with him and to not take it personal. “It’s not you. It’s him.” No shit! She continues on to say, “Have you ever read the Four Agreements?” I want to say yes bitch I have! I read that book my sophomore year of college, of course! but instead I nod because I am just to pissed and drained to say anything. “So then you know about the agreement not to take it personal. Don’t take it personal. He’s had a long week. It wasn’t right what he did but don’t let it get to you…” And with that she walks away to call the owner to let him know what went on.
I went back to rolling my silverware and during that time is when I decided that THAT night was going to be my last night at the supper club. The schedule was up for the entire month but I didn’t care. I refused to be talked to that way. I could care less if I wasn’t the first person this had happened to. I was going to be the first person to actually respect myself enough to not allow to someone to degrade me like that. I didn’t care how much I needed my job, I loved myself more than that. I cherish my peace of mind more than any dollar could give me. From the moment the incident began, I wasn’t taking it personal. I knew I had nothing to do with why he went off on me. But still, I had the right to be upset and I made the conscious decision to never set foot in that place ever again.
I was vocal about it. Whenever anyone came up to me to talk about it, I simply replied, “Hey it’s no problem. I’m just not coming back. Just giving you guys a heads up. You’ll be one man short until Clara gets someone else to work.” It being the middle of our busy season, no one was happy to hear that, yet they all understood. I kept my word and I didn’t return. Its been three days since it happened. Clara sent me a message or two about how sorry she was and how wrong it was for him to have done that. But in all reality I believe that was said just to go through the motions. If any of them really cared they would have at the very least spoken to him. Mike, the owner, would have apologized for what happened. I never heard a word. Not from him and definitely not from Chef. But that’s the god damned server life for you. One thing I know for sure is that this is the Universe’s way of telling me that the supper club was just not right for me. I’ve got bigger and better things heading my way and now I have the available time in order to seize the moment when it comes knocking on my door.