Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The chef wants to see you

There was a fun little game the staff used to play when I worked in my last restaurant kitchen. It was called "The Chef Wants to See You," and it was a fraternal rite of passage for all the unsuspecting noobies who passed through.

It went like this:

Let's say you're the new guy. The new guy is the guy who walks around scared 99% of the time. The fear is palpable and unrelenting. It causes you to lose sleep. You are an easy target now. Noobie. You are afraid of not being able to poach an egg correctly. Of burning the top of the soupe a l'oignon in the broiler. Of slicing off your finger and then having to stay quiet because only a pussy would complain about losing a finger.

Your eyes are bloodshot from getting four hours a sleep a night. Thanks a lot, unrelenting fear. So when the sous chef tells you in a very stern, you're-in-big-trouble-now-buddy tone that the chef wants to see you, you mentally backtrack on your way down to the locker room. You make a list of all your crimes, the worst being that time you threw away a piece of perfectly good foie gras because you couldn't think of anything creative to do with it. Then you remember the time you served a salad even though you knew there were bugs in the lettuce. Man, you are so fired.

You stop at the door. You knock and then almost puke because you know this guy's a yeller. He's a kicker, too. You once saw him kick a waste basket in full-blown red hot poker anger in the middle of service, and you know he didn't give a rat's ass if the whole dining room heard him. You are dead.

"Come in."

You do. And standing there is the chef. But it's not the chef you're expecting, with his starched white coat and oddly out-of-place casual slacks.

This chef is completely nude. You are looking at head-to-toe skin.

You're confused and have what can only be described as an out-of-body experience. This can't be happening, you think. But before your mind starts going to the darker places - why is he nude? will I come out of this in tact, and not in need of intense psychotherapy? - he cackles. He has a sleep apniac's plegmy cackle. Then he hawks up a loogie.

"Are they fucking with you?" he asks as he puts on his gigantic underpants, but not before he leans over so you get a long, uninvited look at his butt crack. He then finishes getting dressed. As he heads upstairs, you hear him yelling for the sous chef.

You've been had. Only later, when another new guy takes your new guy place are you let in on the secret game. And you dream of one day saying to him in a stern, you-are-so-busted tone, "The chef wants to see you."

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