Friday, September 4, 2009
In the Beginning, There Was Chicken Fried Steak
I look upon myself on occasion and question where did I gain this stellar attitude towards my service job. How did it all begin that I imbibed such a healthy outlook for working in a restaurant? I flash back to the mid-80's. Madonna is on the radio, Cabbage Patch dolls are all the rage and this girl at school wears a pair of red jelly shoes every day. I was 16 years old and I have my first job ever. I applied for a social security card and started work in a small bum fuck town of South Texas. For $3.35 an hour, I was a dishwasher at one of the premier dining establishments in all the land. The finest place to enjoy a high quality steak that was cooked to perfection and served to you with a smile. Okay, not really it was Sirloin Stockade on Navarro Street in Victoria, Texas. You knew it was fancy because it had a salad bar. With three dressings.
I took the job because two of my best friends worked there as waitresses. They made all the money while I toiled in the back emptying grease traps, taking out garbage and mopping bathrooms. But I was in the food and beverage industry and knew I had found my home. A tear comes to my eye when I realize that this is where it all started. I did not deal with customers very often except when someone spilled something and they told me to go out into the dining room to clean it up. Within my first week, I knew that the job was a piece of crap. But all that money!! Fifteen hours a week at $3.35 was bringing me about 35 bucks week after taxes and I was rich! Rich I tell you! I was on the road to financial prosperity.
One night, someone wanted chicken fried steak without gravy. Well they must have been a foreigner or retarded because everyone knows that you eat chicken fried steak with gravy on it. You just do. Well it went out to the table with gravy on it and I guess therein lies the problem. They gave it back to the waitress who gave it back to the kitchen who then gave it to me, the dishwasher. "Wash this off," my manager told me. "They don't want gravy." "Uh, what? Wash the meat?" I asked. "Yeah, rinse off the gravy, they don't want it." I thought they were playing a joke on the new kid. I laughed nervously, not sure what to do. My manager rolled his eyes and took the spray nozzle from my hands. It was one of those big silver kind that hang from a spring. He held the chicken fried steak with his other hand and sprayed the gravy off of it and then threw the soaking wet piece of meat back onto the plate. I stared at him in disbelief as he walked back towards the line. He tossed the meat into the fryer for a few minutes and then pulled it out, put it on a fresh plate, handed it back to the waitress who took it back to the table. Without the gravy, just as the customer wanted it.
I learned that night that we in the food service industry have a responsibility to make our customers happy. Whether it be giving them a simple smile, making sure they have the perfect ambiance or even just washing off their meat to get the gravy off of it, we are there to please. I thank you, Sirloin Stockade manager. Thank you for teaching me how to be the perfect bitchy waiter. God bless you.
P.S. I quit three weeks later because according to my diary, it was "interfering with my social life."
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