|Jinny has been very ill and is currently undergoing rehabilitation in a Bangor facility so she will not be writing her article for awhile. She is making excellent progress and hopes to be able to return to writing her column in the near future... Adele.
More years ago than I care to say, I worked in the Hotel business. More specifically, in the food and beverage end of the hotel business. Through completely unplanned and utterly unforeseen circumstances, I am doing it again.
The hotel business is crazy. Anyone who works in it will tell you that it is. It is long, hard hours at a depressingly low rate of pay dealing with the absurd and bizarre. Conversely, it is also a strange adrenalin rush and often absurdly entertaining; full of characters from British parlor comedies and silly sitcoms. If nothing else, it is usually interesting, particularly for anyone who is a critical observer of human nature.
Did you ever notice how hotel managers in the movies are almost always portrayed as prissy little grovelers or nasty little tyrants? That is because they often are. Hotel managers and owners often get to viewing their property as their microscopic kingdom with themselves as absolute monarchs. They frequently behave like the worst kind of mini-despot, strutting around arrogantly and generally treating everyone as if they were serfs in some kind of feudal arrangement. I have seen it more times than I can tell you. They are the characters in the movie who see themselves as the stars while everyone in the audience laughs at them.
Executive Chefs are often the most amusing characters in any hotel saga. I have worked in really fine hotels with some truly amazing, highly trained and experienced chefs as well as with some guys I wouldn't let feed my dog, but whether they are talented artists with food or complete culinary disasters, they all share certain traits. Executive chefs almost always have bad tempers. This is a given. They tend to blow their tops and carry on at the slightest provocation, being certain to communicate their displeasure with everyone and anyone in their vicinity by yelling, calling names, hurling insults, and sometimes pots and pans. I once walked into a kitchen from the dining room and had a pot of cold (thank goodness) soup smash into the wall next to my head. He wasn't actually throwing it at me, he was strongly expressing his opinion of the soup with considerable force. Fortunately, the pot bounced off of the wall and continued on to my left, thereby miraculously avoiding spilling all over my silk suit.
I have seen every chef with whom I ever worked rant and rave on numerous occasions. Kitchen workers often live in terror of the temper of their leader and learn to scatter at the first sign of discontent. The first chef with whom I worked was also the best. He was from Switzerland and had been trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris. He started out his adult life as an Olympic skier but had his career cut short when he was skiing in the Alps and ran into a tree while going 60 mph. He broke every bone in his body and spent 6 months in the hospital in a full body cast. His career as a professional skier was over so he decided to go to culinary school. Since anyone who wants to ski down a mountain going 60 mph is unquestionably a lunatic, he had at least one of the prerequisites for becoming a culinary master already. He could also drink more wine than anyone I have ever met and still remain sober. Must have been those years in Paris. He was a superb chef and became one of my closest friends. As temperamental chefs go, he was far from the worst I have ever known, but when he blew the kitchen went up like Vesuvius.
The chef with whom I am currently working is, bless him, benightedly untalented. Part of the reason might be because he is from the south where the preferred method of cooking is often just to throw everything in a deep fryer and call it good. If you had suggested deep frying anything to my first chef he probably would have thrown you out of his kitchen. My current chef and his crew often make fun of me because I won't eat anything deep fried. They have come to the conclusion that it is because I was born and raised in California where, as everyone knows, people are all weirdos. I once saw the chef deep fry a sandwich made in a low fat wrap. Hello??? Cholesterol much? Isn't that a paradox or something?
This latest chef can be a real jerk and a terrible drama queen. He yells at the drop of a hat and carries on like a soap opera character. I must admit that I'm not very tolerant of him; partly because I am older and less inclined to suffer fools, and partly because he has no talent. He likes to think that he knows how to run the front of the house better than anyone who actually does it, and took it upon himself to yell at me about the servers one day. I told him that he had two choices; he could either mind his own business, which is the kitchen, or I would verbally lacerate him into so many pieces that they would be picking bits of him up from the kitchen floor for weeks. (I'm pretty good at that). I fully expected him to respond by either yelling more or getting all huffy and arrogant as if I had insulted Pablo Picasso in his own studio. Instead, he totally surprised me by getting red in the face and tearing up like a little girl. I was dumbstruck.
"Dude," I asked, "are you crying?"
"You shouldn't talk to me like that." He sniffled, "You hurt my feelings."
I just stood there and blinked at him, wanting to laugh but fairly certain that no one in the dining room was going to get fed if I did. I opted to pat him on the shoulder in a "there, there" kind of way. What else could I do?
I have never worked with a woman chef so I cannot attest to whether or not they carry on like their male counterparts. I do know one thing, if any mother who plans and prepares meals day after day for often ungrateful or complaining families ever behaved like the average chef, she would be vilified as the worst kind of wretched, nasty, moody female. As for me, I despise cooking and only do it because I have to. Every second in a kitchen is miserable for me. Despite that, I have never once thrown a pot of soup at anyone. I guess you have to go to school to learn to do that.