Tuesday, October 19, 2010

House of Frank part two

Being a chef, the ability to speak French comes in handy so I remember thinking that working in this place I would finally get to learn French.  Of course that idea went out the window after I started because I saw most of the cooks were Hispanic and spoke lousy English so instead I learned Spanish.  I did manage to learn some bad French words and phrases.

I arrived to work on my first day and learned that every single staff member had to go and greet the owner (the old man as we all called him) prior to commencing our shift. It was a family run business and he was the absolute ruler.  His wife helped with the bookkeeping, there was another woman who worked in the accounting office we called "the wicked witch" because she was so frigid to everyone.  He also had three sons. One son ran the dining room. He was clean shaven, well groomed and kept to himself so I never knew much about him.  Come to think of it I don't think that dude ever said "hello" to anyone.  He was more like a piece of furniture.

One son was the chef, and talk about someone who hated his job?  Holy crap!  This dude used to mope around the kitchen and was the antithesis to what a leader should be. It's not that he was a bad guy or anything, he was just kind of "there." Being a chef, whenever I meet someone, I like to classify them as a fruit or vegetable based on their personality. I would call this guy a potato. A potato can be really good depending what you do to it but on its own is just a "blah" boring vegetable...that was him.  What's funny is this chef was highly regarded in the public's eye due to the enormous success of the restaurant but he was a shoemaker. A shoemaker is kitchen slang for someone who is a hack. He couldn't cook his way out of a paper bag.  He could only cook the dishes we did at the restaurant. I don't think anyone really respected the guy.  I know if the old man wasn't there to throw down the gauntlet when people screwed up there would have been a mutiny.

There was one cook named Bobby who I was closer with and we used to work next to each other. Most of the cooks in that kitchen were shoemakers but he and I could really cook well. We used to poke fun at some of those losers everyday. That was our fun. One thing we would say to each other is, "if you are only as good as your chef, we are both screwed." 

We all used to speculate that the owner made his sons work in that restaurant because it was obvious none of them liked their jobs. We used to joke that the three sons were waiting for the old man to die so they could get out of that restaurant.  Unfortunately the owner passed away recently.  R.I.P.  He was a good man.  I will get into him more later.

The other son, an alleged ex heroin junkie, we used to call either  "dirt ball" or "ham bone." This guy was scrawny, had greasy, unkempt, salt and pepper hair with a mustache big enough to make a caterpillar look like a toothpick. He had this smell that reminded me of overcooked stew, hence the nickname "ham bone." He had that stereotypical rough smoker's voice and laugh that kind of reminded me of a male version of Phyllis Diller.  His uniform was always stained and wrinkled and I don't mean the kind of "stained and wrinkled" like you just spilled tomato sauce on yourself.  I mean the kind of "stained and wrinkled" in the homeless sense. I always wondered if he slept in the shed in the back of the restaurant.  Garden tools do make nice sleeping company.

One of the guys who ran the kitchen was a Korean man we called Mr. Oh who was in his late 40's at the time and had been with the old man for years.  He was the one who made sure all the food was prepared correctly.  I have to say one thing, while that kitchen was a wreck in many ways, the food was consistent as hell and that is about the most important thing for any restaurant. For those of you who don't know your fast food history, consistency is the one thing that propelled McDonald's ahead of the competition when the whole 'fast food' thing started.

Some people have trouble learning a new language and Mr. Oh was no exception. There were certain vowels and sounds he could not pronounce and we certainly him of this.  In a kitchen when you are carrying a pot of something hot you always say "behind you, hot," to let people know you are coming.   This was one phrase he couldn't pronounce properly. When he would say it, it sounded more like "hiya hop." The guy couldn't pronounce the letter "T." Whenever anyone was carrying anything hot we would all say "hiya hop," and he would get pissed off.

Since he couldn't pronounce the letter "T" he had trouble pronouncing "shut up" as well.  This was another source of humor for us.  He would pronounce it more like "shaw upp."  This guy actually created a new language within the English language. Hilarious. Of course the downside to this was we all had to adapt our English so he would understand us and I think it took me about a year after leaving that place to get my proper grammar back.
The other way to really get this guy fired up was to tell him his daughter was hot.  She really was.  One day I asked him if I could marry his daughter and he didn't speak to me for a week. He would start spouting off Korean and I would be like "yeah , yeah, kimchee god damnit!" That was always my response when I didn't understand something he said..."kimchee."

To be continued

No comments:

Post a Comment