It was a holiday weekend for those nine to fivers. The fortunate get a three day weekend, with Friday being the coveted day of freedom. It was a nice sunny day, a great day to seize the opportunity to meet up with friends and enjoy a nice lunch. On this cursed day for your food service worker friends, we were ill prepared. That is an understatement, ill prepared. There was no preparing for the pandemonium that happened behind the line, in the bowels of the 100 degree kitchen. Lunch is normally slow, with maybe a small rush but nothing too crazy. This Friday, though, the people came in floods. They came in droves. They came in herds. They came in murders. They came in bunches, in parties, in clusters, in groups, in parades. They were jovial and they were hungry. Everyone wanted a bite of the proverbial apple pie.
In one hour we served over 100 people. That is more people than lunch does the whole week combined. They all came in at the same time, and they were merciless in their hunger. They were there to eat and drink and celebrate the freedom. I cannot really delve into the complete incompetence of the one and only line cook that runs the show during lunch. Why the hell the chef thought he could work it, I have no fucking clue. I have roughly zero training on the lunch menu, as my job is pastry prep.
After honestly the second ticket I had to start helping out, cooking and plating dishes I have never seen, cooking meat to the right temperature on a grill I have never used, getting trained by the worst employee we got. It was pandemonium. Sheer, complete, insanity. The ticket machine was throwing up tickets like the day after new years eve. Its pattering printing sounds were the music we were dancing to. It was nuts. We were going down in fiery flames like Dante’s nightmare. We were getting burned up like a Detroit house fire. We were so in the weeds that it felt like a jungle.
How can I describe how ill prepared we were for the rush? The line cook wasn’t even prepared for the 15 covers he was expecting. Chorizo for 3 orders. Potatoes for 7. Not burger miser in place. No tomatoes cut, no onions rounds, no cheese sliced, no lettuce picked. The soup is not heated up. Do you think we are going to sell burgers on the 4th of July?? No, its not a big grilling holiday. I think people are going to go for Christmas ham instead. At another point, he was plating something that also gets breakfast potatoes, it was at that moment he realized there weren’t anymore cooked. Is zero enough to get through? I am going to go with a solid no.
It was a grade A disaster. It is shocking that I did not physically harm my poor co-worker. I did tell him that I wanted to chop him up into pieces and put him through the meat grinder. I told the food runner that I hated him because he ran the special food ticket to the wrong table.
I lost a hamburger due to sticking to the grill because I was trying to cook it faster. I was so mad that I had to restart the patty when the rest of the ticket was ready to go. This unfortunate burger was finishing cooking in the oven when I had to go in the back to prep the hundred of things that we did not have set up. I said to him “that burger needs to be sent out as quickly as possible. It will be done in 3 minutes, put it on the fucking plate and sell it.” I come back 5 minutes later, ask if the burger flew, and the lunch guys says (honest to god) “what burger?” I plated it, wondering how the hell he could have possibly forgotten after how many times I talked about it. Seriously, I said something to him about getting that damn burger no less then 10 times. Pandemonium. Sheer madness.
At one point I was looking at all the tickets, my head spinning with the details, and I have a vague feeling that no, it was not possible to get this done. I wanted to panic, I wanted to walk away, I wanted to shout, I wanted to throw my tongs and say I am not a damn lunch cook, I do not make my living cooking fucking eggs! I screamed PANDEMONIUM and went about cooking as fast as possible.
It was awful. That is also an understatement, but I will leave it at that. Awful. At the end of the rush, the waitress is crying because she was working alone. Served everyone by herself, and she was upset that she could not give people the nice service they deserved. She was rushed and rude, and that does not make you feel like you did a good job. You work very hard and at the end you feel like shit. You feel that your best is not good enough. No matter how hard you tried, you failed. There is no winning in this game.
Afterwards, when the day settled down and the Chef decides to show up, he informs you that it was all your fault that there were 45 minute ticket times. How could this have happened he wanted to know? Why did I not call him with my third arm when I was cooking for the entire city? He could have called back-up, which wouldn’t have arrived until the rush was over anyway. It was in no way his fault for not thinking that maybe, just maybe, we would be slammed the Friday before the fourth of July. Not his fault for making the schedule, for not informing me that the lunch line guy was going to change to this guy who is still in culinary school and has absolutely no experience. Why is he not working the salad station? I have no idea.
I cannot describe the anger, dissatisfaction, contempt, and spite I felt at the end of the day. I saved the fucking day, and my reward was disappointment and an empty stomach. Rumble, rumble cooking is not so easy all the time.