Sunday, February 13, 2005

Valentine's Day, Part 1

This is what we get for having the luxury of two Saturday nights off in a row during the holidays - two nights of Valentine's Day. Any holiday that comes with the tradition of taking your special someone out for a romantic dinner wreaks a fair amount of havoc in a restaurant. "Amateur night" it is called - the whole dining room filled up with people who don't know shit about food. People who think filet mignon is a good cut of meat. People who not only think filet mignon is a good cut of meat, but who order it medium well or -gasp- well done. People who are afraid of anything off of the fish menu. People who ask for ketchup with their pommes souffles. And not only are their orders predictably boring, but they only come in twos. Everyone is there on a nice, romantic dinner with their date, so while the ticket board in the kitchen looks jam-packed, really we're only dealing with 24 meals.

We did 196 people last night, which is a lot for our little restaurant. The most we ever did was 248 (incidentally, that was last Valentine's day) and that took three complete turns and lasted until well after eleven o'clock. (For those non-industry types, a "turn" is a complete seating of the restaurant, meaning by six thirty the restaurant is completely full. By seven thirty they're finishing up. By eight most of them will be gone and new people will be arriving. That is a turn.) The annoying part of it is, yesterday wasn't even Valentine's Day proper. It was just busy because of all the people who decided to go out the Saturday before Valentine's since Valentine's day is on a monday this year. Unfortunately, the other, more traditional half of the city is saying "Monday be damned, we're still going out on Valentine's Day, school night or no." So we have to go back and do it all again tomorrow. Like I said, it's pennance for getting two Saturdays off on Christmas and New Year's.

The best part of last night was when the bum walked in our kitchen. The restaurant is right downtown, and our back door is in a little alley which connects with several other restaurants' backdoors and which opens right up into our back kitchen. I have a perfect view of the door from my station, and around 8:00 last night in walks some guy in street clothes whom I have never seen before. He walks toward me and tries to confirm if he's in the right restaurant. Meanwhile I have fish cooking on the stove and chef calling out more orders behind me. This fool has walked right into our kitchen right when the second turn is starting to get going and I know that if chef sees this guy it's on. "We are very busy right now, sir. You shouldn't be in here." I cut him off before he could even try to explain. The guy backs away like "Okay, okay," and then when he gets to the door he mumbles something about "white bitch" and then slams out. By this time, chef has noticed something amiss. He walks toward me. "There was just some bum in here," I say, still totally shocked. Chef nods and turns his eagle-eyed stare to the back door. He starts toward it, then turns back to me. "Do you have something hot?" he asks, then grabs a saute pan off my stove with a towel and stomps toward the backdoor and out into the alley with it. He returns a minute later shaking his head and replaces the pan on my stove with a characteristic mumble of "Fucking idiot." I look after him, laughing. "I love working for you," I say. "Why's that?" chef asks. "Because you were going to fight a bum with a hot saute pan in the back alley in your chef clothes and everything." Chef nods and says, "Yes, and I would have burned him right on his fucking face, too," and mimes searing a man's cheeks with a hot pan. Even though chef's English is very good now, he has become a master at pantomime. And let me tell you, I'd never want to tangle with chef in the middle of service, hot pan or no. That bum was flirting with disaster.