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More Tales from an Innkeeper's Crypt:Housekeepers and assistants

Updated on September 14, 2010

One of the stickiest relationships when running a bed and breakfast is that between the Innkeeper and their housekeeper or assistant. The two work so closely together that it's important that their personalities mesh. It took me a while to figure this out. And so, over the past 16 years, I've had a variety of assistants and housekeepers. The two jobs are basically the same. In fact, an assistant can also be a housekeeper or vice versa.

For the first couple of years I was in business, I did everything myself. But, when I started getting really busy, I knew I needed help. I found my first assistant on the streets of "Old Louisville" She was in front of one of the houses on the next street over from me loading the trunk of her car with cleaning supplies. I almost drove right past, but slammed on the brakes just in time to catch her before she drove away.

Margie was a beautiful. tall, healthy looking redhead with freckles all over her face. When I walked up to her, she smiled and greeted me warmly. I asked if she would be interested in working at a bed and breakfast. She answered yes immediately and seemed very interested. I had never had an assistant before, and I needed one badly. I hired her right on the spot without an interview or references. It turned out great for the first year and a half.

Margie was exceptional at house cleaning. She obviously knew what she was doing. When I first started using assistants, I confined them mostly to cleaning. I did all the cooking, serving, and taking care of the guests from reservations t to check-in, breakfast, and check out. Eventually, I started hiring culinary arts students from Sullivan University who were trained in hotel management and cooking and/or baking. This worked out really well. Most of them loved working in the kitchen; the hotel management people not so much, but they were good with the rooms, the guests, and the operation of the Inn.

Anyhow, back to Margie. I loved her. She was like a daughter to me and we got along so well. unfortunately, that only lasted for a while. After the first year and a half or so, I started noticing a change in her. For one thing, her behavior became somewhat erratic. She would get mad easily or come to work very moody and complain a lot. Then, she started showing up late, and eventually she started not showing up at all. I am very naive about drugs and did not notice all the ear marks.

One week-end, I left her alone with the Inn for three days, as I had done a few times before. I trusted her completely. When I returned, I was doing a routine check of my checking account when I noticed I was $500.00 short. I went through my check book and found that the very last check was missing. I called my bank and was told that the check had been put through at the Kroger grocery store near me. The bank sent me a copy and I saw that Margie has forged my signature. The bank took responsibility and put the $500.00 back into my account immediately.

I fired Margie and found out later that she had been on crack cocaine for months. She had stolen food and other items from two other Innkeepers, whom she worked for part-time and eventually ended up in jail. It was such a shame because she was a nice girl with two little children, who had just gotten mixed up with the wrong people.

My next assistant was Bryan, a 30-year-old African-American, gay, male, ex Ballet dancer. Bryan was with me for six years. He didn't cook, but he was very helpful with the guests, especially the ones who were "high maintenance", and he could really clean. He was slightly OCD and would spend hours and hours cleaning toilets and polishing up the handles on everything. He loved doing it. The bathrooms glistened.

Our relationship was quite interesting. He shared a lot of his personal life with me and we became rather good friends. We were not as close as Margie and I, but we got on quite well and I really trusted him. He had worked for other Innkeepers in Louisville, so he came with good references. Unfortunately, that old adage "familiarity breeds contempt" came into play the last year he was here and I had to let him go.

It was at this point that I started hired students from the culinary arts school in town. They were great, most of them trustworthy and responsible. There were only a couple who didn't work out. The problem was they would only stay for a year or two because they would graduate and either move back to their own cities or try to get a full-time job in a restaurant or hotel. I only needed part-time help.

One time I was so busy that I hired three students at the same time. Two went to school in the daytime and one at night. The night school student lived down the block from me. He was majoring in culinary, wanted to be a French chef. He wasn't French but he thought he was. And he also thought he could bake. But the only thing he really knew how to make was crepes. So I had him make hundreds of crepes and stack them on top of each other...then freeze them. My guests were eating crepes for months. He also knew how to make a really good filling and raspberry coulis to spoon over the top. But that was about it. The two girls I had working here at the same time kept complaining that he didn't know how to do anything in the kitchen, including cooking and baking. So I had to let him go.

I hated letting Page go cause it was nice having a man working in the kitchen. I had hired a student, who wanted to be a chef a few years prior to Page and he was great. He made the best bread pudding I have ever tasted in my life. I still have the recipe and will post it here soon. It's somewhat time intensive so I don't make it very often. But it can be frozen, so when I make it, I make a lot.


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