SO YOU'VE NEVER EATEN OFF THE FLOOR * RE-VISITED*

This blog was edited because it was brought to my attention that the time line I illustrated was incorrect.  I tried not to mention any names or businesses because this blog is written under a pen name and I really didn't think anyone was reading it anyway. I apologize if I offended anyone or misrepresented any of the facts. This story is true but the names and places have been left out to protect the innocent.


My first job in the Sunshine State was in a restaurant. It was a popular local eatery filled with nostalgia and rich in history. I was hired as a host, mainly because there were no server positions available. What I didn’t know was the General Manager at the time took a liken too me. He wanted to teach me the business and as I watched him and he managers orchestrate a busy night. I became interested and was quick learner. In no time I was promoted to a Dining Room Manager.

Although the pay wasn’t very much and most of the servers made more money  per hour than I did it didn't matter.  Hey,  I had insurance, a steady paycheck and several perks. One of which was scheduling company fishing trips aboard the owners fishing boat. Of course, someone from management always had to attend so I aptly volunteered my services. There was nothing like being on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico. Cristal clear waters, good people and plenty of good fishing. When I told friend from home about how the boss let us go fishing they could not believe it. If fact no one can believe it now. I guess it was a risky thing to do, but it truly created a bond between management and employees. A better bond than any seminar or self help tape could do. Good clean fun.

As weeks turned into months I bonded closer with my mentor. Spending many off hours with him meeting his family and drinking many beers.  We discussed my life and his life and where we were both headed.  This was truly something I didn't expect and I owe a great bit of gratitude to him and his family. He help me grow, he helped me learn and he stood by me when no one else would. Everyone should be so lucky. I really don't think I would have stayed in Florida if it wasn't for him.  

So with the help of my newly appointed mentor, we developed a way for me to continue learning the business. I needed time in the kitchen so I creatively scheduled people to supervise the front while I learn about food preparation, cooking and storage in the back. 

I figured it took me about a month to learn the front of the house so maybe it would take 6 to 8 weeks to learn the back. 'NOT' 

A year later I was promoted to Kitchen Manager which meant a larger salary and a bigger cut of the bonus pool. Although  serving well prepared food was rewarding the heart and soul of any restaurant lies behind the double doors.

Good servers are very very hard to find. Out of all the servers  that worked  with me over the years I can only think of a hand full, maybe 5 that were really top shelf. They were the ones that enjoyed serving and it showed, especially when they counted their tips The rest of the servers were constantly turning over. Cooks on the other hand stuck around awhile. Even the bad ones were useful to some degree.

A year later I was offered the General Manager position mainly because the current GM decided to take on a new location. I finally had the opportunity to shine. Record setting food cost, high profits and a clean well maintained location didn't go unnoticed . With the help from my crew, my mentor and other colleagues I was finally offered the opportunity to buy into the company. Although there were some that didn't have the same enthusiasm and quiet frankly I believe finally cause me to leave.

Anyway my first month at the helm we averaged 300 covers for lunch and 1000 covers for dinner. This location actually had a rebirth and it was busier than the day it opened. My staff made money, my managers made money and after a while I felt a great sense of accomplishment. 

That's what I choose to remember and I have no regrets.

Well that’s my story and I'm sticking too it but that was many years ago. Like so many ex-restaurant people there are so many stories. Looking back I really only have great memories from that time in my life and here is one of them. 

Getting back to what this blog was suppose to be about I figured you  would need a little background on me. Hopefully it will add validity to the story.  The best stories always start in the kitchen. I worked for three major restaurant companies before I called it quits. So those of you who figured out who I am, you really don't know which restaurant chain I'm referring too at  any giving time. It's just part of the fun. Mind you, while I was in the food industry no one was ever in any danger of getting ill or suffered greatly  from the things you're about to read. 
Enjoy,

After leaving that infamous local restaurant chain which unfortunately was sold and is now down to one location I ventured to one of the Bigs in the foodie biz. My first stop was a popular Italian eatery that is the sister concept to a world wide steakhouse themed after the land down under (get it?). 
My stay with them was short, only six months. Working for a global  restaurant chain was very different then working for a privately owned company. A lot of politics and a lot of ass kissing. It didn’t really matter what experience or talent you possessed. After opening 100 + locations the only thing they cared about were bodies running locations. I can't tell you how many drug addict, alcoholic, thieves that were considered outstanding management simply because they knew how to manipulate the system and their bosses. No shit.

However, what I experience in the bowels of those kitchens was to say at least unbelievable. Ultimately, the food must go out, anyway anyhow. This is not fine dining like portrayed in the book Kitchen Confidential by Tony Bourdain. In his portrayal, in those famous New York eateries what I experienced was in no way similar to the steps and procedures I witnessed in getting the food to the plate and out to the customer. You see the cooks and chefs in Tony’s book all seem to have a vein of arrogance.and a heart filled with pride. They're serving  fifty to a hundred dollar a plate meals cooked by chef’s earning 80K to 100K a year. This is not reality in the cookie cutter chain restaurants world and the common folk eat there.

The highest paid cook in my kitchen was $15 per hour and our most expensive plate which included two side dishes was around $12. This is where America truly ate. First and foremost you have to realize that if you frequently dine out, let’s say 5 times a week for lunch and two times a week for dinner. You my friend have eaten off the floor or your steak knife was just wipe d off and recycled or the glass your drinking from was just barely rinsed and reused.

Oh yes, what goes on in the kitchens of America must stay in the kitchen’s of America. Over the next few blogs I will share some of my experiences in these well known and quite frequented establishments. Some of you may be privy to the happenings in this fast paced world of chain restaurant cuisine and some might be quite surprised. Most of the men and women I worked with were great. They cared about what they were serving and how it was prepared. In a fast pace high volume restaurant you will find some of the best people busting their asses to get your well done porter house under your nose. But if you’re an ass-hole which many of you are  when you go out to eat,  don’t be surprised by following blog entries.

Let’s start with a well done steak. If you’re a steak lover and order a king cut prime rib or a porterhouse or even a 9 once filet you probably want the temperature to be medium at most.  medium rare is optimal. Well, let me tell you about red neck Bob and his party of 13, four adults and the rest children under the age of twelve. 

Bob and his buddy were hungry for steak, they are men, and men know a lot about cooking steaks, right? And by God Bob knows how he likes his steak This party would be a nightmare for any server, but I had one of my best serving it that evening. The kids were bouncing around not looking at the menu and wives were just happy to be out. No one really acknowledge the server until they started wanting things and they wanted something every 3 minutes. While running her ass off trying to please these once a year dinners the men sat back drinking Busch beer (they requested it in the can) with a smirk on their face silently stalking their victim. (the poor little server) They already knew this one was going to be on the house.

The last time these people went out was probably their wedding. after the ceremony at the court house.  The only reason why they decided to come in this night was someone gave them a gift card and by GOD they were going to do their best to stay with in its monetary limits.

Bob ordered the King Cut Prime Rib and his buddy ordered a 20 once Porterhouse each well done. Bob explains how he burns his steaks at home that way they’re nice a tender.  "Huh!" Bob probably buys his steaks at  Walmart when they're on sale of course. I don't know about you but I never have any luck with the meats from Walmart. However, Bob knows what he likes and even if the cut of beef is a beautiful slice of prime rib he wants it burned.

When we got the order request in the kitchen a good grill man knows there is only a few ways to bring a thick cut of meat to that temperature. Nuke it, fry it or weight it, either way it’s going to be tasteless. I can never bring myself to nuke or fry beef so I take it upon myself to bring this delightful slice of heaven beyond its normal cooking temperature and try to maintain some integrity if not for me, for the cow that gave its life for our culinary pleasure. I began the grueling process of flat grilling the meat with a five pound iron weight on top. Always turning it over and removing the weight every few seconds checking its texture and juiciness. After 8 horrifying minutes hanging over a 500 degree flat top it was done, well done. I was able to maintain it's shape while transferring what was now left of this prime rib to service.

To make a long story short this guy sent the steak back three times eventually demanding a comp. The steak were perfectly cooked to order the first time and everyone agreed, But when it came back the last time I allowed my line cooks to take over. First the steak was dipped in 600 degree fryer. Nope, not done enough, then it was the microwave. Still not done enough, after a second spin in the microwave Bob reluctantly accepted it and cleaned every scrap off his plate and demanded to see the manager.

Peter my front end supervisor came back to the kitchen to find out what happened. I wanted Peter to make the call hoping he would grow a set and give Bob a free appetizer card for his next visit, but no Peter was pretty much a pussy so he comped the entire table. The check was over two hundred dollars and they left a $2 tip on the table for the server.

But wait there’s more; you see Bob made everyone at the table drink ice tea. Bob knew that there were free refills on Ice Tea and his table was now on their tenth round. So  line cook  located the server and the tray that held Bob's parties drinks. He then proceeded to add a little something extra to the two largest glasses on the tray.
No, it wasn’t any kind of bodily fluid in fact it was quite edible and undetectable. He added orange and yellow food coloring to Bob's tea just enough to stain the enamel on his teeth. In a restaurant the lighting is usually dim and  you can’t see someone’s teeth even if they're sitting across from you. So I’m sure when Bob finally went home and looked at his mug in the mirror the next day he probably thought he was coming down with Jaundice.

Thanks Bob and don’t forget to come back and see us.