(Blogger’s Note: Every Friday I run an excerpt of my soon to be published book, Faux Pas is French for Restaurant.)
When the phone rang, I knew something had gone awry. I was in the kitchen, taking a personnel and product inventory. Gazing through the massive opening between kitchen and dining room, a devasted look blanketed Kranston´s face. Her smile was gone. Anger laced pain, replaced the upbeat joviality of her day normal demeanor. My first thought- drunk driving car accident-staff member involved.
Kranston seldom expressed outward exasperation. She lived the business with a more deeply seeded personal passion than most and constantly acted as though she enjoyed it. Always on stage, while on the floor. I quickly learned the importance of restaurant food was seldom a life threatening ordeal, therefore the importance of any problem came down to dollars and common sense. I would, on occassion, lose all restraint when a customer claimed a near death experience because of an overcooked baked potato. But Kranston always remained sure footed, constantly focused on customer service. And, although I knew the caliber of making customers feel Kingish, I had lost my desire to stoop to the level of slavery for their happiness. In her eyes, the customer was always right. In mine, they got what they paid for.
Disdain accompanied Kranston to the kitchen’s window. I put my knife down, placing my hands flatly on the cold stainless steel counter, and looked at the clock above the window. It was 8:05 a.m.
“That was our first cancellation" she said.
"So. Don´t be upset. We still have another 250-plus reservations. Don´t take it so personally. It´s going to be a great day. Relax. Let´s enjoy the New Year. We can use the table, I over booked." I said. "Just relax. Have a piece of ham. Call Charles and see if he wants to come over for breakfast. Would you like an egg on a roll?" I asked.
"All right. I won´t let it bother me. I´ll try and have a nice day. I´m sorry I got upset. she said. "But I don´t think it would be wise for me to call Charles right now."
"Why not. He´s at Judy´s isn´t he?
"Oh yeah, he´s there. And, he´s getting ready to serve brunch. And Judy´s, making the toast. And his chef is there. By the way, the cancellation was the chef. Our chef. Actually, your chef. He won´t be in. Jason quit." she added.
"Are you frickin´ kidding me? "*#4*&*&*& *&". We should have fired his a– in November. *$#$$%$#$." I shouted at the top of my lungs, slamming knives, pots, and steam table lids along the way.
Chef Jason, persuaded us to give him New Year´s Eve off. He had made a personal pact with his girlfriend in 1998, while living in Ames, Iowa, and needed to keep it as his romance was as troubled as his cooking skills.
He called to inform us that he would not be coming in-ever again. He and his fiancee, Lizzy, had made a tandem millennium resolution and decided to call off their wedding and split up. He was packing up his knives and moving back to Ames, to secure a job with a friend, who had grandoise plans for a new Bistro on Main Street in the center of the two-block town. Lizzy, who briefly worked for us until the heated arguments between chef and server could no longer be tolerated, may be looking for a job, he said.
Although she was romancing everyone on the staff, she seemed more intelligent than her beau,before she broke up with us. The split with Jason was imminent from the beginning. She was just a dumb waitress to him. And, she had lost patience for his drunken, gambling fiascoes that plagued his ability to function with anything in his hand more complicated than a dull knife and a fresh carrot. He never would have been hired for our fine dining restaurants, but at this beef brisket emporium he had mastered the art of Alto Sham. Plus, he was adequately surrounded by the help of talented Spanish painters, turned cooks, who had a passion for their craft, whther it be wallboard, or chopping board.
My moment´s regret was that Lizzy hadn´t waited until Valentine´s Day to spring her misery on Jason, thus not affecting business until the next huge culinary holiday. I could have then taken precautions so my return to the kitchen was once again postponed. I was less than excited about my role that day.
After regaining my physical and mental composure, I preapred for kitchen duty. It came easy for me after ten years. Daily, I adapted to the job that needed to be done. I enjoyed the versatility of the my position. I was the roving troubleshooter. One day a dishwasher, one day a chef, one day a host, but always the owner. Suddenly I had to concentrate on getting through what could turn into a culinary catastrophe.