A Shiny Spot in a Grimy Industry

By jim berman, Jul 4, 2014 | | |
  1. There is always something screwing up the kitchen mojo. There are few travels across the restaurant universe that are smooth sailing. A surly cook that needs a good ass-kicking; a broken compressor in the walk-in is certainly going to make the day interesting; the seafood delivery didn’t get ordered in time, so no char, mussels and crab for tonight. There are also the larger, darker clouds that must get blown away before there is any basking under the sunlight of a well-executed meal; staff morale, slipping quality,  lack of focus. I stepped over the cigarette butts and balled-up plastic wrap into the kitchen to a whiff of rotted parmesan or the rancid remains of something that had met, surely, a slow demise under a refrigerator. Dirty side towels garnish the less-than glistening stainless (but stained!) steel. And today is just another day. So today’s nightmare is unearthing the root for the lack of attention to detail of the kitchen arena.

    A tossed-aside rag is no big deal and a little trash bounding around the parking lot are not as bad as, say, a rainstorm of dead puppies at a kid’s birthday party. But it is enough for me to question just what, exactly, the closing crew was thinking as they walked across the kitchen for the last time during the previous evening and simply closed their eyes to the filth that they had to traverse to get to their next cigarette on the way to the bus stop. I simply can’t comprehend the linen bin being left at capacity and languishing in its own stink for the first person to arrive in the morning. Mind you, that first person is almost always me, so assuredly they are sending me a message or they simply don’t give a damn. Either way, I do not understand the notion of stepping over sh*t and not caring. So, on this morning I hurl a string of expletives across the oven and over the fryer towards the broiler and around the mixer. Leave the place as good as you found it, if not just a little better. We already know that what we do is not glamorous, nor is it high paying. The reality is that we should share a bravado, a camaraderie, a blistering hot desire to do well. But not really.

    Pay attention. We do not dare send out a chicken with feathers or lettuce covered in soil. A dirty kitchen is as much a plague on the people that work in it as it is to work with, say, no electricity or gas. The ruffianism that we so lovingly embrace should extend to shattering the belief that we are slobs. Be a rebel. Sport your tattooed sleeves. Rock out to Avenge Sevenfold. Drink like a god-damned sailor. Leave your station clean. Leave the kitchen like a monument to perfection; a shiny spot in a grimy industry so that people see it  and want to laud the tenacity of this gang of marauders.

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  1. chefboyog
    Great Article
    Rock out Ax7 all day.
    Don't take that mess laying down. Have it cleaned before they get in and write it up.
  2. jim berman
    @oldschool1982 - "The fabled perfect crew does exist!" Preach on, brother! Thank you for the inspiration!!
    @Ranek - Thank you! I am glad you like the piece and that you posted for the first time after reading it. I applaud your sanitation practices!
    @John Martin - Thank you! I am trying to keep the pieces fluid and original. I appreciate the support.
    @flipflopgirl - Thank you for sharing! I think your practices are contagious and hope others are influenced by your fastidious ways!
  3. flipflopgirl
    Well said Jim.
    I have always been OCD about floors.
    Pick it up.
    Get a broom and sweep it up.
    Back bar floor sticky?
    Rain a hail of expletives down on my barback and tell him to get a mop... NOW.
    I carried this into the hospital setting (except no barback so called housekeeping).
    At one time we were into mimi style camping (a fifth wheel with a shower and 2 ac units).
    Knew I had a problem when I found myself policing our camp spots for trash and beer bottle caps.
    It is all about balance I guess.
  4. john martin
    Yes.. Really nice to read.
    Keep it up JIm
  5. ranek
    My fist post: This was super inspiring. Couldn't agree more! I too am almost always the one who takes out yesterday's trash. A shiny spot in a grimy industry! Well said!
  6. oldschool1982
    Another great read! You and I are definitely from the same school when it comes to this. At the end of the shift, it may have been a bit disorganized but when the lights were turned out by me.....it was exactly what you are described or asked for. Sometimes, I even preset stations if I saw that prep to open was going to be more difficult.
    Anyhow, this remains a hot button for me and I can't say how often as a prospective guest I have driven past a seemingly successful and popular restaurant because of the filth on the back dock or what surrounds the dumpster. My first two questions are always....what the hell does the kitchen look like and do I want to chance it with mine and my families innards!? 
    The fabled perfect crew does exist! I've seen and experienced it more than once in my life so I can say for certain it is something to behold. Hang in there. I can guess it's been your experience more than once......since you have the standard....so odds are, it'll land your way again soon enough. That key person may just fill out an application today!