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.
When Jules got to work, she immediately went looking for Mark, her boss. She was excited, but was little nervous about giving notice. To her, this was only a job, a way to pay the bills. To him, it was his life. He was there twenty four hours a day.
"Can I see you a minute," Jules asked. "I've got something to tell you."
"Sure, let's get a table. I could use a cup of coffee. How about you?" Mark replied.
She nodded. He got her a cup of coffee, fixed himself one and they sat down at table 13. They were right next to the kitchen doors and the service staff was trying to set up, constantly running past them. "Not very private," Jules thought, "But everyone will know soon enough anyway."
"Well, first off I want you to know I like it here. I've learned a lot and you've given me a decent amount of freedom to try new things. But I've been offered an incredible opportunity. After careful thought, I've decided to go with it."
"You What?!" Mark gasped. "I thought we were doing well together. What could possibly be wrong? You are well paid, we all like you, you have a great staff and you couldn't ask for a better schedule."
Mark was definitely not taking this as well as she expected. She was now a little hesitant about giving the one week notice. "Well, I am relatively happy here. But I've been here a year now and it's time to move on. This opportunity..."
"A YEAR? That's nothing in this business!" Mark cut her off. This was getting ugly, she thought.
"Well maybe to you; but this is a chance of a lifetime... It's a brand new restaurant with a high profile location, big ticket menu and an opportunity to get some real exposure, not only for my food but also for me. This is a chance to become famous."
"You know we're doing a lot of big things in the future. We'll be expanding and opening new places. There is one on the table now. You could be a part of all that." Mark was definitely upset now.
"Well I've already accepted the job. There's nothing you can do to keep me here. I'd like to start as soon as possible," Jules said.
"Will you at least give me some time to find a replacement?" Mark asked, hoping to buy a little time.
"Well, I really need to start working on a menu and laying out the kitchen. I was hoping to start on the ninth of November. They are hoping to open by Thanksgiving, or the day after."
"No way. That's only a week away. Who am I going to get to take your job in a week? I expect at least a month from my management team." Mark looked away, obviously upset.
"Well, that is it. If you need some help in the evenings or weekends past then, I'll help out; but I'm sure Dan can cover it until you find someone." Jules felt a little guilty, but she knew she was doing the right thing.
"I better get to work," she said, hoping to end the conversation. It worked, as Mark just nodded and she left him just sort of sitting there, stunned.
Jules went to her locker, got changed and down to the kitchen she went. She suspected that the staff had overheard some of their conversation, and was a little nervous about how everyone else would feel. She really liked her staff, and inevitably would try to take some of them with her. She walked into the kitchen and sensed they all knew pretty much everything. Everyone nodded or said a quiet "Hi;" but the tension was pretty thick. I better straighten this out, she thought.
"OK, everyone, I just want you to know that I've just given my notice." Everyone looked up kind of stunned. "It's not because I don't like it here, I just have an incredible opportunity, and I'll let you all know more about it later. Now let's all get to work. It's going be busy tonight, and we have a lot of specials to prep for. Dan, can I see you over here? I want you to work on the veal racks and cut the mahi mahi for tonight. I'll do the sauces." and that was the end of it for the time being. Business as usual, or so it seemed.
Jules was right. It was busy and about eight o'clock the hit came. People were running, food was flying. The expediter, Jeff, was calling orders to Jules, Jules was calling orders to the cooks, and the cooks were responding with their usual "YES CHEF!" Things were really clicking. Jules loved the rhythm of the kitchen when it was busy. It was great to be the conductor and have everyone playing their part.
About eight thirty, Mark came into the kitchen carrying a plate of penne pasta. "I've got a return here. It's not hot."
"Give it here," Jules said. "I'll put a little fire on it!"
"What's going on here? Why's this stuff going out cold? You guys got it together?" Mark shouted.
Jules looked at him. Not now, she thought. "Hey, I'll heat it up. Just give it to me."
"Why's it cold? I don't want problems tonight," Mark shouted back, waiting for an answer.
"What's your point? We messed up. OK? Now let me fix it," she said as she grabbed the pasta off the line.
Heating up the pasta, Jules thought to herself, "He better not be like this every night, or I'm outta here tomorrow." She put the pasta back in the window, where he was waiting.
"About time," he said with a frown and he took the pasta into the dining room.
"Man, what a creep," Dan said. "You got any openings with you?"
"I think he's just upset," said Jules "He wasn't expecting it. He'll get over it."
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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