I don’t think Chef reads my blog. This is one of those “good news/bad news” situations. Even though I try to be fairly anonymous in my writing about our guests, staff, and my day-to-day, anyone local should be able to put two and two together and figure out who I am and where I work. Hell, with the transience of restaurant people there is probably about two degrees of separation in our world, so my cover may be nationally blown at this point. So the good news is if he doesn’t read it, he can’t get upset about any of the content.
The bad news is also that he doesn’t read it. If he did, he would know that in an earlier post I had mentioned how “Thursdays mean danger” at the restaurant in terms of potential walk-in/last minute reservations. If he had read that one, he likely wouldn’t have allowed a banquet of 18 we had scheduled into a private room to “upgrade” and move into our dining room en massé last night. They were to have had a set menu, no choices, set wines, etc. But now we have them, 18 people walking in the door, all at once. They were to be seated at three 6-tops, fairly close to one another. When he allowed the Catering/Sales Department to make this venue change, we had only a handful of reservations on the book. But, I repeat: Thursday’s mean danger. We always go way up on covers on Thursdays. I had staffed accordingly; but having 18 people order ala carte, right off our menu, within 15 minutes of each other was going to be a challenge. “Challenge”, by the way, is “Human Resources-speak” for “Iron Clad Bitch” (and “Human Resources” is Human Resources-speak for Personnel Department. Call your Human Resources Director “Personnel Director” and watch them bristle!).
So, in addition to our party of 18, not-so-cleverly-disguised as three 6-tops, we had about a dozen or more smaller parties of twos, threes, and fours in the dining room, plus a party of eight outside on the patio, all converging on us in one massive D-Day at Omaha Beach style seating; and I have two waiter teams, a Sommelier, and me.
The eight had grown from a deuce when the host had his limo driver call from a winery that afternoon to say they had met some “new friends” who were going to join them for dinner. Danger Will Robinson!! People with 7:30 resos that are still at wineries at 5:30 and have a driver are not going to be anyone’s ideal dinner guest.
NOTE: “We have a driver” and “We are staying in the Hotel” are the two most oft used excuses for people to turn into blathering, drunken fools who feel you can’t or shouldn’t cut them off because…well, you get the idea.
This couple, who were staying in our hotel, had wanted to do the Chef’s Tasting Menu when it was only the two of them, and the driver said that the other guests were of a like mind. This is good news for me, as a set menu would make our lives a bit easier given all the other activity in the dining room. So as expected, they show up drunk and inappropriately dressed. Fortunately for the employees and our guests I was able to quickly shuttle them outside. Un-fortunately, they eschewed the prix-fixe menu the hosting couple had set up the night before, and would now require much more attention than anticipated; and I am now officially, and most thoroughly, fucked.
A dinner service like this one, that requires a monumental amount of head-down-run-your-ass-off effort to get all the tables rolling, always makes me think of riding my bike when I was a kid. Maybe I grasp at pleasant childhood memories as a mental life-jacket at times like these, who knows?
When I first learned how to ride a bike, I was low man on the totem pole of four brothers, and as such I was issued the least desirable bicycle: a single-speed, full-sized, Schwinn Typhoon, that had those “ape-hanger” handle bars. This was a behemoth of a bike, even for a tall-for-his-age kid like me. It required about a football field’s length to get rolling even on flat ground, as it had a giant front sprocket and only the one gear. At the time, we lived on a fairly steep hill and our house was downhill from my best friend’s house. So, if I wanted to ride up to his house to meet up with him and the rest of our neighborhood “gang”, I had to plummet downhill first at breakneck speed, gather what momentum I could, then bang the most severe of U-turns and pedal my ass off to negotiate the uphill climb. Kind of like the Starship Enterprise doing the slingshot around the Sun to get up the speed for time-travel. “Ah’m gibbin’ her all she’s goat Cap’n!” Such was the effort needed to get this Thursday Night Express at the restaurant out of the station and rolling.
But roll we did. Beverages were served, orders taken, the food started to pump out of the kitchen and we actually managed to get into a rhythm; a fast rhythm (“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” got stuck in my head for about an hour), but a rhythm nonetheless.
During this run around, someone on the staff had to let us know that they had eaten some bad Taco Truck earlier in the day by emitting what had to have been some of The Greatest Farts of The Century. So as I am fast-walking through the dining room and the kitchen pass where all the plates were coming up, I was walking through these noxious, mobile clouds that were so bad they almost brought tears to my eyes. As much as I hate to resort to Fart Jokes for material, the impact of these toxic fumes cannot be discounted. I deduced that it had to have been one of my Front-Waiters that “dealt it”, as the density was especially high at the POS station where orders were entered, checks printed, etc.; and I am the lucky guy who gets to separate the checks and run four credit cards for our party of the eight drunken losers on the patio. I toyed with the idea of donning a Haz-Mat suit to safely negotiate this three-minute bookkeeping chore.
One of the best things about a crazy-busy service like this one is that no matter how bad it gets, it does end at some point. All the guests left happy; even the drunks outside slurred their compliments on the way out the door. The Mustard Gas clouds dissipated, and I popped an ice cold Stella. But, Chef, are you out there?