Restaurant Kitchen Stories You Would Never Believe No. 3
The Bottom Of The Bottle
Time and time again, as the title states, I have found myself at the bottom of the bottle. Whether I was searching for answers there, drowning my feelings, or looking for some peace at the end of a long night in a fiery kitchen It seems to have happened all to often. However, in this industry it is all but common. Accepted. Earned. Deserved. These are some of the things I could and do tell myself when I crack one open. My usual choice is bourbon if one may ask, partly because I am from the bourbon capitol of the world, and now days because it reminds me of home as far away from there as I am. A good swig of the juice will warm your heart and your toes! It has become a unfortunately common characteristic of chef's who all to often get a bad wrap for being heavy drinkers. In my case, I fell right into that genre. In my later days, I have somewhat tamed the beast, but I still find myself on occasion slamming back several jagerbombs or sipping on some homemade shine!
In this entry of Restaurant Kitchen Stories You Would Never Believe, I'm going to share some of the craziest times I have had after hours in the many kitchens across my career. Probably embarrassing but nevertheless entertaining for me at least. Hopefully you will enjoy these too as it may give you a little peak into the wild, crazy, devious ways of not only me but a handful of these boneheads in the kitchen that have been cooking your food!
When it comes to maintaining comradery, one of the most precious assets of a kitchen team, a good round of beers and cheers at the end of a hard shift is rewarding. As an Executive Chef, I still to this day will reward my team with a round of brews after a hard night. Its a sense of accomplishment, achievement, and success to a good culinary shift when you can look at your teammates and rest easy that the hard part is over.
Now, with that being said, there are sometimes circumstances in my personal experience when a one beer salute just wasn't enough. Without divulging the names of the restaurants these instances took place, I will speak vaguely on that note. It was in retrospect, risky and even at some points career jeopardizing, but fun in the moment. I will revert back to my one of my culinary internships where, like stated before, we would be rewarded with a round of beers at the end of a long night. This was my first restaurant with high volume and fine dining experience, and it came to my knowledge of the specific ingredient providing my colleagues with the energy to barrel through the rush. Alcohol and cocaine. As a young culinarian, it seemed right at the time to indulge with the proven cooks and enjoy the rush that was provided from all the variables in the equation. Drugs, alcohol, and the intensity that comes along with pumping out delicious food in a faceted manor with time constraints. You have x amount of time to prepare a dish and simultaneously work on 10 others that are behind it. A racing mind and multitasking personality are two key functions of a good line cook.
With the scene set, it was another late night and we were all done cooking, only cleaning the kitchen remained. We routinely had a round of beers, and of the record a couple of the cooks and myself went out back to have a little puff of our ganja friend. While in the act, the kitchen sous chef, also one of our friends, walked out into the darkness where we were perched and caught us like a deer in headlights. With a light scolding, knowing we had been caught and in the wrong, he returned us to the kitchen to finish our nightly duties with the promise of keeping this a secret with the reassurement that it would not happen again. We complied.
The following shift, I returned to work only to be called into the chef's office. Subconsciously knowing and pissed at not only the sous chef, but myself as well, I hesitantly made my way to the upstairs office where the Chef was waiting. All hopes of getting permanently hired on there were out the window as the Chef explained, he was was a phone call away from calling the school and throwing my several week internship out the window. Not to mention the repercussions of the school itself. To my luck on that day, I believe he saw something in me that is hard to come by in the industry. Passion, perseverance, and motivation. With that in hand, after a harsh scolding he allowed me to remain for the duration of my internship and finish my job that I had place in front of me. I was lucky, and grateful for his mercy. I finished my time there without any more trials, however it was unfortunately not the last time in my career an instance like this would occur.
Nectar of the Gods
I'll be the first to say that sometimes, a beer just won't cut it. So when I go out with my friends or have one of those days where I really need to unwind, I turn to the nectar of the the gods. Jagermeister. It has proven to temporarily end all problems, and inherently cause more the following day!
When I worked at one of my more recent previous jobs, it was a usual expectancy that the staff would stay late and set up the dining room for the next morning. On the weekends this proved to create a problem for more people than I would care to mention. It was a conflicted schedule for those who like to go and drink at the bar after work as they were required to stay until 1 or sometimes 2 in the morning. Solution, drink there! With a full bar there, and a couple of winks at the bar tender it was an easy commodity after all of the guests had left for the evening and only the staff remained.
On several occasions, embarrassingly enough, it was not only unethical but got down right out of control. From roughhousing and wrestling in the bar area at 2 in the morning to dancing outside of the establishment itself with the music blaring. I've seen it all. People hooking up, people fighting, drugs, stealing, you name it and its probably gone down at one point or another. It was outlandish, but fun in the moment. We drank a lot during that period of my life, and honestly I ran around like a hooligan doing whatever I wanted.
It was fun for a while, and as I progressed with the company, I backed out of that scene gradually. I knew and still know what goes on there to this day, but I had my reign there and it was time to move on while I was ahead.
Throughout my blog there will be more stories with more specific details, this is only the beginning. I have a lot to tell and only time will provide more. The culinary industry is one of the most interesting subjects in the world and I am here to open the book for you. This is Restaurant Stories You Would Never Believe!