Behind the Kitchen Doors part two; snippets of a hospitality life
Millie’s section was almost full of the tour guests. The tour company based out of New York would bring mostly seniors to Canada, and this particular tour company was bringing their guests to the beautiful Canadian Rockies and to the most prestige hotels and resorts.
They would start by flying into Calgary, get stuffed onto a forty-five seat passenger bus, head to Lake Louise, then Jasper, back to Banff and head back to Calgary. Sometimes, the tour would head to Edmonton to fly out but usually the back tracking to Calgary was to keep the guests in the mountains, making sure they were happy.
Most of the servers didn’t care about the tour guest’s travel plans; they only saw them as a dollar figure. Millie used the information to her advantage; she genuinely was interested in her guests and made sure they were aware of her attentiveness, telling people what they should see on their free time from the tour. Giving them a little local information and this somehow got her an extra tip out of them.
She happened to have three tables of four people which were usually referred to a four top. The three tables were all from the same tour group, and two other tables of regular paying guests. The three tables of tour groups was an automatic gratuity on the pay cheque which would be then taxed, but the two other tables of two if they tipped would leave cash or sign to their room for which Millie would get the cash at the end of the night. She never treated tables differently, everyone got the same service, but with the tour groups it was the same conversations and questions over and over again,
“How much does that mountain weigh?”
“Did the fish come from the lake”?
“How do you get the water that blue”?
The many response that have been given:
“With or without the glacier”?
“Yes, our chef was fishing this morning in the canoe”
“We drain the lake at night and the staff gets in and paints it”
The responses that Millie gave:
“Well, the mountain can’t be weighed really, but I would think it would be heavy”
In her head she’d want to respond sarcastically just like other servers might have, but the
“Are you that stupid?” thoughts left as she laughed off the questions and answered politely, because they were sitting in her section and paying for one more text book for the next semester.
“No, the lake is glacier fed from the glacier that you see (She would point to Victoria Glacier) and it’s full of minerals and the fish don’t grow that big, maybe the size of a goldfish”.
“Well, the lake sometimes is that blue because of the minerals that come from the glacier and the reflection from the sun onto the water and minerals help create different shades of blue. Sometimes the water is really green or really deep blue, just depends on the day.”
When she gave the truthful and polite answers she’d get the deer in headlight look from the guests. Sometimes she wanted to ask them “why even ask me if you’re not going to listen”. But she was polite and doing her job.
The two tables of two were young couples. One was celebrating their first wedding anniversary, and the other table was on their first week-end getaway. Millie knew that she didn’t need to spend a lot time with them as they were there for a romantic dinner, but she would still give them her best service. At the beginning of the entree pick up, Millie went into the kitchen and heard the Executive Chef screaming at the other chefs behind the hot line.
“Come on, we need the tour pick up and now the single tables are coming in. Hurry the F*&k up!”
His deep French accent trembled through the kitchen and everyone was silent. Millie watched her co-workers quickly pick up their entrées and she stood at the end of the hot line where she would call her tables.
“Pick up for 23, 26, and 27 please” Millie gave her three tour table numbers and stepped to the side to get her soups for the one table of two who wanted to try the famous seafood chowder. For her second season she knew the routine in the kitchen and she knew not to talk to the Executive Chef unless it was about a guest’s food allergy.
As she started to get the bowls for the chowder ready, Millie noticed how the lemons were cut into shapes of flowers and was intrigued to know how the chefs created their food presentations. So without thinking. Without remembering the rules of the kitchen,
“Hey, how do you get the lemons to look like that”?
The cooks looked at Millie and then they all looked at the floor as the Exe. Chef stared at Millie as she stood at the end of the line and smiled.
“WHAT!? WHAT did YOU just say?” The Chef almost ran up to Millie and in her face started to scream.
“You are nothing! You waitress! You don’t get to ask questions! This my kitchen. Get out! You are banned from the kitchen all night! Get out now!”
“Wait, I have food to be picked up”
“I don’t care, get out.”
“You can’t do that! I am serving guests”
Millie wasn’t one to back down from a debate, but all the cooks behind the line wanted to tell her to shut up before the Chef banded her for the rest of the summer.
“Oh, I can’t! I can! I am the Head Chef! You will treat me with respect. Get out!”
Millie was ready to fight back; she felt her face turning red from the mixture of anger and humiliation.
“Oh you going to cry now, you little waitress. Get out before I see tears! I don’t want to see you for the rest of the night!”
He pointed his finger in her face and then towards the kitchen doors. Millie stomped out of the kitchen and was about to cry, but she wasn’t going to let the ego maniac see her cry. She stepped into the dining room where her tables were talking away. She took a deep breath and went to the captain’s table where one of the supervisors was working on a floor plan for a tour coming in.
“I just got kicked out of the kitchen, he can’t do that.” Millie huffed silently.
“Oh, you got kicked out, welcome to the club” Brent laughed out loud as he shook his head.
“Are you kidding me? Can’t you talk to him?”
“No, he’s kicked me out a few times over the years. You’ll have to get a busser to pick up your food, and I’ll help you if I can.”
“He’s allowed to do this? Isn’t there some type of labor law or something? I mean this is hurting my service”.
“It’s no good to get into it. He’s been doing this for as long as I’ve been here. Most of us have been kicked out of the kitchen once or twice. Just don’t talk to him after this until he talks to you. Trust me.”
“I need to get chowder and my three tour tables’ entrées”
“I’m on it” Brent laughed again and went into the kitchen to get Millie’s food. She stood by the bar where her friend Missy was swamped with wine orders for the Japanese tour of 45 guests in the private Sun Room.
“Shitty luck. Domo’s tuff, but don’t let it get to you. I think he only kicks out the people he likes.”
“Yeah, right. This sucks ass”
“Welcome to the club my friend” Missy smiled as she poured a whole tray of white wine. Then Brent came out with Millie’s entrées and chowder.
“Thank you so much” Millie followed Brent to her side stand.
“It’s probably better to shut down your section and you can help out with the tour coming in at eight o’clock.”
“I can’t believe this. He’s totally screwed me over.” Millie wanted to walk out of the dining room, to find the food and beverage manager and get Domo in trouble with the General Manager. This was not right, she needed to do something.
“Like I said before, don’t get into it. I think he only kicks out the people he likes”
“Yeah, I heard that. Tuff love.” Millie and Brent picked up entrées and started to serve her tables. Her section was under control. She just needed to pick up her two tables of two and then deal with dessert with her tour tables. She would have to pay a busser to help her out with the desserts; Brent was already busy with seating guests and doing his regular duties.
“Shut my section down and I’ll take the offer on the tour.”
“Why not, you’ll still make some coin. The key is that tomorrow you walk in the kitchen like nothing happened and don’t talk to Domo until he talks to you.”
Millie wanted to say something, argue the treatment, she could go to Human Resources and place a harassment charge on the Chef, but she didn’t want to rock any boats. She just wanted to do her job, make some money for her tuition and books for her last year in university.
Then Millie went to her busser who was just finishing topping up water in her section.
“I’ll give you forty dollars to help me finish up these tables?”
The busser was about a month new and was eager to become a server and his eye lit up.
“You got a deal” Millie gave him the money and she did her quality checks and everyone was enjoying their meals.
“Oh yes, dear, make sure you tell the Chef that his food is fabulous”
Millie smiled and nodded.
Millie wondered what the guests of the Lake would think of a crazy French Chef banning a server from the kitchen. She almost told them but what would they care? They were on vacation and wanted to be catered to and it didn’t matter what happened behind the kitchen doors, as long as they got great service and great food no one needed to know.