Although I have been
fortunate to work around many of the finest chefs in the world, my career began
as a short order cook and I loved it. We don’t talk much about what it takes to
produce good quality food at high volume. We forget that the cooks cooking a
thousand breakfasts in places like Las Vegas are some of the true genius of the
food industry, not to mention that these talented people compose the primary
portion of it. The fancy chefs, fine restaurants and the constant fiasco on television
make up on a small part our industry.
Here is what it was like for me when I was coming up the ranks. I still
miss those days.
I tip my hat to all those young hot shots
out there working your tails off in the fast paced world of eggs and sausage,
because you rock.
In 1975 at the age of seventeen I took a
job on Sunset Blvd. working at a place called David’s Potbelly, making crepes,
omelets and weird egg casseroles. The Potbelly was a small, maybe fifty seats,
but it was busy, especially between one and three in the morning when other
bars and restaurants were closing. The stripers from The Classic Cat would
mingle with waiters from The Palm Restaurant, Dan Tana’s, La Masia, Scandia and
all the other hot spots in the area. Because I was so young I became sort of a
mascot for awhile. There was always a six pack in the cooler and a few other
goodies to get us through the night. It was me and a dishwasher, slamming out
food to delirious crazies living on cocaine, angel dust and sex.
For the next three years, I moved from
place to place, migrating from the original Cheesecake Factory on Beverly
Drive, to The Good Earth in Westwood and places in-between. I became a short
order hot shot who could bang out 800 dinners or brunches a shift with the best
of them. At The Good Earth we were a team of kids all under the age of twenty
two running a multimillion dollar operation. We were the kind of kids that had
been thrown of school or into jail. But when we showed up for work we were
serious hot dogging professionals that took no prisoners.
We didn’t give a shit about the owners,
management, customers, or anyone at all. We competed against ourselves, to see
who could cook the fastest, or keep the cleanest station. If an egg pan stuck,
you were screwed. If the flat top grill was not spotless and properly seasoned
in the morning, the pancakes would stick, and you were doubly screwed. If you
didn’t show up for a shift and work your ass off, it wasn’t the management you
had to worry about; it was street credibility with your peers that mattered. We
tossed knifes, twirled tongs, pans and spun plates. I could crack six eggs at a
time and cook ten omelets at once.