#171 In which our hero discusses reality programming and a distressing story involving a penis (not his own).
It’s no secret that I dig on the reality TV. I don’t know why, but I’m a big sucker, and as much as I rant and rail about the stupidity of much of it, I’m still more likely than not to get sucked into the season ender of “The Biggest Loser.”
The latest reality TV to capture my attention is Bravo’s Top Chef (now in season 2!) This show is especially interesting for me because I cooked in restaurants all through high school and college (and sadly, a fair amount of time after college). I never cooked in a “fine” restaurant, and I am in no way a “chef.” I was a line cook, that’s all. A pretty good one actually; but this is relative considering that I worked mostly with ex-criminals, retards and social misfits.
But I have some insight into what it means to cook for a living. And restaurant cooking is really in vogue right now, and there’s no end to the shows that make being a chef seem really exciting and glamorous. To which I say: bullshit. Again, I’ve never been a chef, but there’s no escaping the fact that professional cooks (from the 4-star celebrity chef to the fry guy at Applebee’s) go to work in industrial kitchens that are hot, greasy, smelly and generally not the most fun place to hang out in for 8+ hours a day.
And to everyone who dreams of owning their own restaurant and/or bar the headaches are magnified 1000%. You have to deal with staffing, produce, bills, fickle patrons… I can’t even imagine wanting to take on that burden. It’s really not surprising that most start-up restaurants fail in less than a year.
So it is with great amusement that I see that the contestants on Top Chef (who are clearly working in an upper echelon of the food world that I never even glimpsed, let alone worked in) are pretty much the same shitheads that I worked with at Max & Erma’s.
It’s hard to get too riled up about the contestants, though, just because they are so obviously cast in pre-defined roles. Here’s the cocky young chef who thinks he knows more than he does (i.e., this season’s Stephen); here’s the likeable woman who’s not been professionally trained but everyone loves (i.e., this season’s Lisa); here’s the lovable working stiff who’s just being himself (i.e., this season’s Miguel -- but Michael doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of making it as far as Miguel did, mostly because Mike is clearly a dim-witted douche bag); and so on.
That said, it’s hard not to wish a quick death on the jackasses who “just don’t cook that kind of food,” disdainfully referring to the fare at TGIFriday’s… which, by the way, is “fine dining” to the vast majority of the country. But God forbid these contestants should put down their truffle-infusions and fois gras compotes and cook something that the rest of us Neanderthals might enjoy. I find them just as infuriating as the elitist prigs from “Project Runway” who “just don’t design for women like that” when they had to dress regular- to big-sized non-models. Pfft!
Anyway, obviously they are just like the people I used to cook with, at least in attitude. Sadly, I was right there with them, ranting about how stupid diners were if they sent back my food or if they dared to complain about any element of the preparation. I saw some nasty things happen in those kitchens (including a few I did myself). But, by far, the most alarming one involved a salad.
At Max & Erma’s, we served a cobb salad. If you’re not familiar, it’s basically a big bowel of greens with rows of toppings: blue cheese crumbles, bacon bits, chopped egg, I don’t remember what else. Like 12 rows of ingredients. For a salad, it’s pretty time-consuming to make. Which, explains -- in a twisted, sick fashion -- what happened late one evening when I was closing the kitchen.
As you may or may not know, industrial kitchens don’t wait until the last meal has been served to close up shop. Closing down a kitchen involves wrapping up a bunch of food and a lot of cleaning… like I said, it’s a greasy environment. So, closing crews will get a jump on things and start tearing down whatever they can, usually hours before the posted “kitchen closes” time.
I think it was only the two of us. We were happily cleaning up and thinking of the large amount of alcohol we would shortly be drinking, when a patron committed the cardinal sin. They placed an order for food 10 minutes before closing. No-one on staff wants to work past closing, and getting a big order right before you pull the plug pisses everyone off. None more so than the kitchen.
On this order was a cobb salad. Now, this is a big pain in the ass because the guy doing salads had to make the thing from scratch. This is probably a 10-minute operation, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but you have to remember that this is at the very end of the shift, when everything is already covered in plastic wrap and put away. You also have to remember that the guy I was working with was high as a kite and a big asshole even when stone sober.
“A cobb?” He shouted. “Who the fuck is ordering a cobb at closing?!”
Grunting and mumbling under his breath he made the salad. Poorly. And when done, he looked at it for a second before declaring:
“You know what? Fuck that guy. I’m going to put my knob in his cobb!”
And he did. He unzipped, rubbed his dick around the salad a bit, and sent it out. It’s an indication of how badly I needed to get out of food service that I found his actions perfectly acceptable -- even justified.
Now, I’m not saying that one of the Top Chef contestants is going to finish off a dish with a body part, I’m just saying that it’s the same sort of utter disdain for the customer as when Emily stated last night, “When I was making my ice cream I hoped it wouldn’t be served to some snot-nosed kids. But who was there? Snot-nosed kids.” With a stellar attitude like that I’m sure she’ll go far on the show --
Hm? She was voted off last night? Oops.
So here's the lesson: don't order food right before closing, and don't say stupid, self-incriminating things on national TV.