The Serial That Takes You to Dinner
by Chef Bob Munnich
Back of the House is a real chef's fictional story about running a restaurant and the politics behind the scenes that diners rarely see.
Jamie and Scott met at the restaurant Saturday Morning. Both had said they'd be taking the day off, but for some reason or another they both wound up at the restaurant. Scott had come to recheck the dimensions of the kitchen, Jamie to try to decide on the color of the upholstery for the chairs. They met at the coffee maker.
"How ya feeling today, sport?" Scott said.
"All right, I suppose. Been a long time since I had more than one beer. I'm little tired." Jamie replied. "I'm pretty excited about that cook though. I think I should call her and see if she's interested in an interview."
"Good idea, we're only 4 weeks from opening, and I'm a little nervous about the menu." Scott and Jamie had designed a menu, but had no chef they really trusted to turn it out. The menu needed a chef, someone to put a little personality into the dishes.
They had spent months trying different dishes and presentations. They had tested all the menu items on their friends and family they had perfected the recipes. Still they wanted the menu to be personal. They knew that seafood, which was really the centerpiece for the menu, was very seasonal. What was fresh on Monday might not be available on Friday. The menu had to have several daily specials. The menu might even be a daily menu, using carefully researched preparations. They needed a chef who could create daily items, manage the kitchen, write and test recipes, and most of all that looked good for the cameras and the public. The restaurant was to have a state of the art open kitchen, and they had planned lots of publicity. They needed a chef with talent and charisma.
Jamie went to the phone and dialed. He rolled his eyes as Jule's tape machine answered. "Hi, it's me. You know what to do!" and the machine beeped.
"Hi, I met you last night, my name is Jamie, I was wondering if you might call me back. I have a business proposition for you. I think you might be interested. My number is 248-9338. Thanks." Jamie hung up and said, "Well her tape machine has an attitude, hope she does too."
"I just hope she calls back," Scott said.
Just then the phone rang. Scott picked it up. "Is Jamie in?" a woman's voice asked.
"He'll be right with you" Scott said as he handed the phone to Jamie with a wink.
It was her, Jamie was delighted. He told her of their project and asked if she'd be interested in an interview. She agreed and they decided on the Monday, her day off, at noon. They said good bye and he hung up the phone.
I feel good about this one, Jamie thought to himself. Scott was thinking the same thing. And they went back to their tasks.
Monday at 11:45 both Jamie and Scott were busy talking to vendors, Jamie to the kitchen equipment guy and Scott to the carpet salesman. An attractive young woman came to the door and let herself in. She walked around the restaurant pretty much unnoticed, except by the carpenters who whistled to themselves. She liked what she saw. The restaurant was beautiful. The wood paneled walls and three story high ceiling was spectacular. One could tell the dining room was going to be majestic.
She saw Jamie at a makeshift desk over in a corner and waved.
"Come on over, glad you could make it." Jamie said as she approached. "We'll be right with you."
Jules had a huge grin on her face. This was just what she was looking for. She was fed up with her old job. Sure the pay wasn't bad, but she hated her boss. Mark was so self-righteous. He was always at the restaurant, always complaining about something,. Never did he thank anyone or have anything nice to say to an employee. He was always right. Even when he was wrong he thought he was right.
"Hi," Jules said as Scott offered her a chair. She sat down and the interview began. Mostly it was the normal questions, where did you go to school, how long have you been cooking, where were you before your current job.
They were surprised to hear that she was "self taught". Her background was very solid, but no culinary school worried them. She was intelligent, well spoken, and pretty. She seemed to know something about food and cooking, and had experience managing a kitchen. They definitely had more educated candidates; but this woman had the charm they were looking for. They finished the interview on a very up beat, talking about their dreams for a posh, high profile restaurant. They talked about their intention to publicize everything about the restaurant, especially the chef. They wanted to make sure she was comfortable with being in the spotlight.
She left the restaurant pretty sure that they'd offer her the job. She was excited. It was the opportunity of a life-time. It would be her big break.
"What d'ya think?" Scott asked.
Jamie was quiet for a minute, then answered. "I love her. I'd marry her if I was interested in a wife. But she doesn't have much formal culinary training. I'm worried about that."
"Well, why don't we send her to some classes. We could get her into the CIA for some 2 week seminars; and send her to some good restaurants for dinner. She'd pick it up in no time. She really has what we need as far as charm and style. We just have to ensure that she can cook. I want to offer her the job. She's my first choice." Scott had cast his vote.
Jamie wanted to talk to her some more. He decided that they should invite her dinner at a nice restaurant, and get her to critique it. See what she thought about food. If she really knew what was what. In addition, they could spend some time together and get to know one another.
They agreed, and Jamie made the call. He invited her to "Tuttopronto". They knew Chef Al, and maybe he'd even meet them and give them a little review of what he thought. Plus his food was superb!
What do you think? Where do they go from here?
Next week...the interview.
Copyright © 1996, 1997 Bob Munnich. All Rights Reserved.
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
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