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.
Jules was excited. Not only was this the opportunity of a lifetime, but a free meal at Tuttopronto was always a plus. They had decided to meet at the restaurant at 8:30, and she was a little nervous about getting out of work on time.
So far, she had been very cool at work. It had been a few days since the interview, and she was having a tough time containing her excitement. Kim the bartender was her only confidant; and the two of them were thick as thieves over the idea of a new restaurant. Kim made her promise to get her a job there, too, if Jules was hired. Jules agreed, as long as Kim kept her secret.
Seven o'clock and the line was busy. Jules had an extra cook on; but was worried about service going smoothly. She knew she had to get out of the restaurant by 7:30 if she was gong to make it to the restaurant in time.
"I need two shrimp and chickens on the fly," shouted one waiter. "Where's my Nicoise?" shouted another. "I'll never get out of here." Jules thought to herself. Finally the rush was over and everyone was calm. Unfortunately it was past 7:30. "Damn, I gotta run," Jules told her sous chef. "I got a date, and I'm gonna be late if I don't push it." Dan was not alarmed. "Go ahead. I got this." He said as he flipped a hot pan of herbed salmon. "Just don't forget to give us the details tomorrow."
Jules didn't even change out of her whites. She charged for the door, grabbed her keys and ran the two blocks to her apartment. A quick shower, and off to the restaurant. She was running late, but, hey, they're in the business. They'd understand. She made it to the restaurant by 8:45. Fifteen minutes late. "Not too bad," she thought to herself.
Jamie and Scott were at the bar waiting. They were talking with the Maitre D'. They obviously knew each other. As she approached, Jamie smiled and waved. "Come on over, I'd like you to meet Marcel. He worked with us at the hotel. We've known each other for years."
"Nice to meet you," Jules said smiling. "I've never been here, but I hear it's excellent."
"Well I'm sure you won't be disappointed," Marcel replied as he excused himself to greet some guests at the door.
"I've been looking forward to dinner all day. I hear the chef is dynamite here," Jules said as she turned to greet Jamie.
"Yeah, we worked with him back in those days, too. We're a couple of dinosaurs I suppose." Jamie said.
"Let's get our table," Scott suggested as he gestured to Marcel.
"Your table's ready," Marcel said as he scooped up three menus and a wine list and led them into the dining room.
The table was in a quiet corner. It was set very elegantly with mauve napkins, beautiful flatware and bone china. As Jules sat down she could smell the aroma of fresh thyme and rosemary from the miniature planter in the center of the table. What a pleasant sensation she thought, as she got comfortable in the deep chair.
"We've taken the opportunity to pre-order. I hope you don't mind," Jamie said.
"Not at all, I have every confidence in your choices," Jules replied.
The server came by with a bottle of Chardonnay, showed it to Scott, who nodded and she preceded to open the bottle.
"Excellent!" He proclaimed after sipping the wine. "I think you'll all like this."
"Scott is the wine expert," Jamie said. "Do you like wines?"
"Absolutely," Jules said as she sipped from her glass. "This is superb. Can you tell me what you've ordered for dinner?"
"Yes, we are going to start with Bruschetta with White Bean and Shrimp, then a Salad of Arugala and Watercress, then three different fish dishes, a Tuna and Sea Bass and a John Dory, and finally a fruit tart for dessert. I hope you're hungry!"
"I can't wait!" Jules sounded genuinely excited.
"How's your pastry experience?" Scott asked, as the conversation turned business.
"Well, I supervise the pastry department at the club now; but that's pretty light. I love to bake and have some experience with ice cream and sorbet. It's not my strong point; but I love to work with it. Are you planning on hiring a full time pastry chef?"
"As a matter of fact we have someone in mind. We need to recruit them from the Biltmore, though. I think they'll come," Scott said. As he finished the sentence the server brought the appetizers.
"It smells wonderful!" Jules said, as she scooped up a bruschetta off the platter.
She sure isn't shy, Jamie thought, as he picked up his appetizer.
Scott watched as Jules discreetly analyzed the small garlic toast topped with bean purée and sautéed rock shrimp. He watched as she sniffed and tasted the sample. "What do you think?" he asked.
"Delicious, not too much garlic, but enough to taste, and very nice on the basil."
"What would you do different?"
"Nothing," she said as she thought about it for a second. Not sure if she should speak up, finally she said, "I would have grilled the bread with a little less oil. It's delicious and the oil itself is excellent; but it's a little too drippy."
Scott and Jamie were impressed. They both realized that as she was speaking they had been wiping their hands on the napkins because of the excess oil. "You know, I think you're right; but the flavor is excellent."
The rest of the meal was just as exciting. All three of them were wild about the idea of discussing food, wine, restaurant gossip and eating. They were a natural match. The chemistry Scott and Jamie were hoping for was there. Jules was the perfect complement for their restaurant. They would get her no matter what.
Chef Al joined them for an after-dinner drink. Chef Al and Jules had never met, but got along great. They talked about cooks they knew, and what brand of oils he used. They had a great time. But now it was late. Scott paid the bill, and Jules thanked them all. Jamie promised to call her the next day and they all left the restaurant with a great feeling about what the future was going to hold.
The next morning, the phone rang. Jules answered it on the first ring. "Great, I'll see you then." It was Jamie. They had set up a meeting for noon, She was sure the job was hers!
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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