(Blogger’s Note: Every Friday an excerpt from my soon to be published book, Faux Pas is French for Restaurant appears on this blog).
The good lookers were getting the jobs. I had to break away from the masses and just knock on doors. By Friday a small morsel of hope came to light at the famous Smith and Wollensky´s Steakhouse. The manager interviewed me and explained that I might have a job at the renowned New York eatery as early as Monday. His staff was contemplating a strike, and, although it could be a bit dangerous, the job could be mine if they did in fact walk Sunday night as they were scheduled to do.
He wouldn´t know, of course, until Monday morning. He suggested I wait until nine for his call. If I didn´t hear from him, I could call the restaurant and if the strike was on I should come down, dressed for work. He handed me his card, and added that if there wasn´t a strike, I shouldn´t come back. I was un-hirable within the industry according to him.
When leaving, I looked into the dining room, sure not to make eye contact with any of the large, well built, heavier waiters throwing threatening glances my way. They knew what I wanted. They didn´t seem too worried.
A few blocks uptown from Smith and Wollensky´s, steps past P.J. Clarkes, I thought about throwing the manager´s card away. Keeping it was a better decision. My first New York business card. The producer didn´t even give me one. Now I could say, without hesitation, that Smith and Wollensky´s was considering hiring me. The beginning of a restaurant resume, New York style.
As I crossed 69th Street at Second Ave. a well dressed guy, resembling a Park Avenue doorman, stood underneath the door to curb canopy that extended from the front of the yet to be named restaurant, and flicked the butt of his Camel straight millimeters from my nose. It was a bit high and inside. Bill Kelly didn´t look like a man in need. A crisp white shirt proved the perfect palette for his pink and blue striped silk tie. Gray flannel pants and cordovan loafers, impeccably creased and shined, were his signature dress. I would soon learn that other guys wore the chinos, society guys dressed in flannel, according to the General Manager of Allen´s Restaurant.
When the ash from the Camel almost caught my face, Kelly apologized. I saw an opportunity.
"I´m John Foley. You the manager, by chance?"
"Yup. Bill Kelly." he said, extending his hand.
"I´m looking for a job as a waiter. You wouldn´t know of any place hiring would you?"
"I don´t know when we´re opening. The liquor license hasn´t gotten approval yet. But we´ll need a few waiters. In here. The owner´s inside if you want to speak with him. He´ll be doing all the hiring. We may get a call from the ABC today."
Motioning me inside Kelly whispered while pointing, "the guy over there is the owner, John Cobb."
Leaning over the tables in front of the red banquette in a somewhat unprofessional Pirouette pose the guy Kelly pointed to was raising the cane in his right hand. Tapping it on the hard-to-reach top edge of the carved Mahogany frame, straightening the black and white photograph of a very New York looking Fiorello LaGuardia, he lined it up with the other photographs of celebrity, cluttering the wall above the leatherette bench.
"Gorilla," Kelley said. " This young man would like to speak with you."
"Crooked pictures have no place on a restaurant´s wall", the owner said without turning around. "What did you need?" he asked.
"Need. I need a job", I said.
The rest of the sentence didn´t come out. I was speechless. Nervously standing at my last stop of the day I couldn´t get the full sentence out of the center of my tightened throat.
Turning towards me he asked, "So, you need a job."
"I´m John Cobb. The owner." He said with his hand outstretched. "What kind of experience do you have?" he asked, as he looked me over.
" Well, they are considering hiring me at Smith and Wollensky´s." I proudly blurted.
"Oh, Kelly. Smith and Wollensky´s must be going on strike, Huh? D´you hear anything?
"No, Gorilla. They were talking about it though." Kelly said as he took another sip from an open Budweiser behind the bar.
Was I that pathetic? Did they have to say that in front of me? Did I blow my inexperience cover already?
"Come on over here." Cobb motioned to the large, eight-top-round, in front of the only window in the place. "Have a seat." He said, The interrogation was about to begin.