Sunday, July 29, 2007

Take That!

Forgot to tell you that I had a Brinkerhead in on Friday. GM of the "Linguini Bistro" in town. The company that I slaved for (and moved 6 times for), for 5 years. He was a dick.

First he was looking for coffee servers. We had a few selections that he was not impressed by. Sorry, wish we had a Super-dome sized show-floor to handle that for you. Not to mention that you've never bought a single thing here before, or asked us to stock this particular item for you. I mentioned that I worked for LB for 5 years, and that I was supposed to open the store here.

"Uh, no you weren't"

"Uh, yes I was. When I left Michigan in 2000, it was all for moving to this area."

"Was your boss **** ****?"

"Yes, he was my boss, until he left Michigan, and then asked for me in Tennessee when he became Area Director, then forsake me when he needed a scapegoat, then he went back to Michigan, and then on to a position with another company that offered him more money."


Dipshit. He acted like he was the manager of friggin' Spago, and not "LG".

I did happen to throw in my Monday through Friday schedule after wishing him a "good week-end", though. And my holidays off. And my 40-hour week.

I'm an ass-wipe. Look at prior posts to that effect!


This has been a week where the creative juices are...just... not... flowing. I don't know if it's the "dog days of summer", the brain effort required on the new job, or just burning out on the whole blog thing. I want to write, and there are so many more stories to tell. I'm just waiting for one to break through wanting to be told. So I'm just going to throw metaphysical pasta against the wall and see what sticks. Maybe a snippet here or there will tweak the brain and a full blog will emerge later. Maybe all will be ignored. I just don't like to fill space for the implicit purpose of filling space. Or, is that what you want? The experiment starts...

Our local newspaper sucks, especially the sports section. Usually a whopping eight pages long, it mostly contains local high school, junior college, and other local sport happenings, not that it shouldn't have that. The Super Bowl was on the front page, but other big to-dos are usually regulated to the back two pages. We're in the final third of the season for baseball (Go Tigers!), and all we get are box scores. Golf gets scant coverage unless one of the local contingent is in the top 30. Football training camps are starting and we get no info, except for Pacman Jones's problems. Tennis (my sport of choice) rated maybe 6 paragraphs for Wimbledon.

Drivers here make me crazy. Although this area hardly makes the "Top Ten" of bad places to drive, it still grates. The locals have established themselves as the master of the Left Lane Block. Because there are long, straight roads in places, like the bridges, you see long lines of two cars driving side-by-side, with vast empty spaces in front of them, and long, compacted lines trailing behind. I've lived in some of the worst places for traffic (Long Island, Boston, Detroit, Miami), but it's asinine when there's no traffic really, but everyone is behind these bozos. (It's hard to believe I'm complaining about my 25-minute commute, but it could be only 20)

Writing checks should be against the law. Before I moved here, I could count on one hand the number of people writing checks I've seen in the last five years. It's now a daily occurrence. Hello, it's 2007! I'd bet my left nut that even the Amish in Pennsylvania are using debit cards by now. I use exactly one check a month for rent, and I wouldn't do that if possible.

The homeless here have no shame. We have dudes who wave this sign, "Why should I lie? I want a beer!". And dip-shits still give them dollars! At least in South Florida, they were selling things, like wilted roses or week-old papers. For some reason that seems justifiable, but just sitting there with a little cardboard sign just doesn't cut it with me. I'm the biggest bleeding-heart liberal you'll find, but those people will find no compassion from me.

This city has the best DMV I've ever experienced. EVER! Not only did I never wait over 15 minutes upon arrival, but they were friendly. They smiled, they chatted, and just seemed like what city employees should. I've never seen that before in my life. And I've had my driver's license since 1974.

I've never seen more litter in my life. I've seen this subject in the local paper, but, Christ Almighty, I've never seen people with more dis-respect for their area than these. I can just imagine what someone vacationing here from Europe must think. Hello, people! Hurricane Ivan was almost three years ago. That McDonalds cup on the side of the road is not hurricane related. Take ownership for once.

Bloggers need to take "ownership" of their sites. There are some bloggers that I've followed, and will now delete, who I've never seen reply in the comments section. Are you too good with your 150-and-more comments to at least make a small reply? How much of your "valuable" time would it take to say "thank you", or"f--k you" or something? Many bloggers actually take the time to reply. Or are you too good?

This season's TOP CHEF may get good soon. The remaining "chefs" look pretty capable. Even more so than prior years. Even though I dislike Dale's faux-hawk, I'm pulling for him. There are so few gays (besides Dave "I'm not your bitch, bitch!") in the kitchen world as it is. Don't let us down! And stay away from the desserts, bitch!

How to turn lurkers into commenters. Please, people! If you read me, leave a comment! I don't care if it's a bad, indifferent, or good comment. I just want to know if I touched you in some way. Or else, it's all for nothing.

The less we hear of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie, etc., the better. 'Nuff said.

That's it for now. Did I waste your time? I hope not. Would you like to comment? I sincerely hope so! I see how many have visited this site, but not many have commented outside my circle of "blog-friends". What's stopping you?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Corporate Culture and the Restaurant Manager

The revolving door of the restaurant biz leaves many devoted and effective managers by the wayside, wondering what they could have, and should have, done differently. Looking back, there were many strategies I could have utilized to get further than I did.

#1 - Drink the corporate Kool-aid. Also known as the rah-rah manager. This manager is the high energy cheerleader we all made fun of in high school. These caffeinated leaders jump and yell during pre-shift like they are at a prep rally. They try to jump start the servers into selling that slow-selling appetizer, the entree with the lowest food cost, and the wine gathering dust in the racks. Though not always a bad thing, there's usually a good reason that app or wine doesn't sell. Corporate loves these managers and usually promotes them to new Peter Principle highs. That 25-year-old Area Director you have? This be him.

#2 - Be the yes-man (or woman). This is the manager that every Area Director covets. This "leader" is the one who tells his bosses how much he enjoys working with the other wonderful managers on staff. No problems ever happen while he's on duty, the restaurant is perfect, and his boss, the GM, is a genius. Said manager is also the one who volunteers for anything that needs doing, even if he/she never follows through with it. Also known as "The Store Brown-nose".

#3 - Try the bad-ass manager route. Be the Attila on staff. Your boss will think that you're the one his lazy staff needs to motivate them. You'll be the one to make the bussers cower under your spell of superiority. No server will ever call in sick with a 102 degree fever again, since you will force them to get a doctor's note. You will also force your best staff to work overtime or face suspension. You'll also be the manager the staff will never do favors for...ever. And your store always has a help-wanted sign out for some reason...hmmmm.

#4 - Implement the Teflon manager plan. This is where anything good happening at work is all because of you and only you. Conversely, any problem is someone else's fault and you had nothing to do with it, and/or you warned that person what would happen. This is the manager that e-mails their boss's boss every day to let them know that sales were up 5% over last year's sales...even though labor was up 10%...but that was the fault of the manager who wrote the schedule.

Needless to say, I wasn't #1, #2, #3, or #4. I was the manager who came in early to put together a working plan for the day. I'd check with the Back of the House to make sure we wouldn't be short of anything. If we had too many servers scheduled, I'd call one off (never difficult to find at least one volunteer). I was the manager who answered truthfully to the Area Director's questions (Yes, the GM works fewer hours than any other manager, and yes, he spends all night in the office chatting with friends on the phone). I was the manager on the floor pre-bussing tables, seating tables, running food, re-filling drinks, jumping on the dish tank to get it caught up, and chatting with the tables.

Unfortunately, the bosses I had who appreciated all that never lasted long. In a corporate culture that promotes managers #1-4, the good ones always move on to something else. The lesson from all of this? Hell if I know, I moved on to something else.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hung is the New Marcel

As I've noted before, there's a few reality shows that I follow. My two favorites are Project Runway and Top Chef. I like Project Runway because, with the subject, eccentric personalities are a given, and give great drama. I follow Top Chef because of my former chosen profession; I've worked with many of these self-congratulatory personalities. Not these in particular, but chefs can be categorized and classified comparatively (a little alliteration warning) pretty accurately with those competing this season:

I'M PERFECT, YOU'RE NOT. Read: Hung. All others, even those with multiple successful restaurants, like Chef Tom, cannot judge him, because whatever he does is perfect. If he places feces on a plate, bow down to him! Usually does not do well in a chain environment, or where the owner actually eats in the restaurant. Or where people have to actually interact with him. It's hard to be a sous chef while supine all the time.

IT'S WHAT'S COOL, DEAL WITH IT. Read: Sara N. Guacamole ceviche? Stop with the ceviche already, it's been done to death! First Harold, then Sam, now everyone thinks this is the road to heaven. Get a clue, Sam was not in the final three, probably because of ceviche, no matter how good it was.

I'M NICE AND YOUNG, CELEBRATE ME! Read: tonight's loser, Lia. Inexperience and potential do not make a great chef. It's all about the food, not your future.

So far, these only deal with Top Chef. A future post will deal with the chefs I've worked with. And while we're on the subject, let's talk about the title: CHEF. In times past, the title was only bestowed upon someone who has completed an education in said profession. Nowadays, it's bandied about with abandon. There are chefs and there are cooks. Many on Top Chef are cooks. Chefs are trained in all aspects of the kitchen, from pantry to saute to dessert. Any contestant who can't make a simple reduction or panna cotta is not a chef, they are a cook. Not that there's anything wrong with that! But if you're going to call yourself a chef, you need to know things beyond grilling and sauteeing. I'm just sayin'.

And we need to get Howie a headband or something. All that salt in your sweat can't be good for your older guests. Ne'st se pas?

Friday, July 13, 2007

I'm An Ass-Wipe.

This is a hard one. I usually consider myself a very giving person, someone who goes out of my way to make others happy. Not in a monetary way like Bill Gates, or Bob Geldof, or Bono. Just an ordinary person who does unordinary things to make the day a little brighter for those with a frown on their countenance. That's why this recent happening weighs heavy on my soul.

On a typical hot, humid afternoon here in the panhandle, things were as usual. Short periods of inactivity broken up by hordes of customers looking for spatulas, stock pots, and three-compartment sinks. I was hovering close to a lookie-loo, waiting to sell her the latest and greatest saute pan, when in walks another customer. The other salespeoples were busy with other customers, so I sauntered over.

"Hi, how are you today? What can I help you find today?"

"I'm lost and I'm looking for my house."

"I'm sorry...I don't think I understand."

"I live at **** Bayshore Drive and I can't find it."

This woman was close in age to what my grandmother would have been had she still been alive, I'm thinking late 80-something. She was tastefully dressed, hair done just so like they do in the South, but maybe a tosh too much jewelry, although not jarringly so. She appeared mostly coherent, but her eyes held that far-away gaze that seems like she's looking straight through you. I was non-plussed.

Multi-tasking went right out the window as the other customer interrupted me for an inconsequential question about aluminum poisoning and saute pans. I gave an off-the-cuff answer and went back to pseudo-Grandma. Being new to the area, I guided the woman to the counter where another salesman gave her clear directions, twice, while I kept each ear directed in two different directions. The elderly lady thanked both of us and headed toward the door.

I finished the sale with the other customer and rushed toward the door, looking to see if this woman was actually driving, thinking maybe I should call the police with a description of her car. Who wants a person like this on the road? Who hasn't followed "one of those" in the passing lane at 5 below the speed limit for miles with their turn signal on?

I saw nothing of her until I went out the door. Walking down the sidewalk was this lady, striding purposely toward her goal. Two miles away! Suddenly, a very depressing realisation hit me. I had been dealing with a woman who was obviously suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. And she was walking beside a busy road a couple of miles from her destination on a 90-degree day. My feet remained stuck as in concrete. Why couldn't I think of some daring-do thing to do? I second-guessed myself into non-action.

I should have dropped everything and went after her, offered her a ride, anything. I would have wanted someone to do that for my Grandmother. I don't know why I didn't. I should have. I should have. I should have. I hope with all my heart that she found Bayshore Drive safely, if even she still lived there.

I'm an ass-wipe.

Monday, July 9, 2007

What a Letdown....

It's pretty bad when you're doin' some blog maintenance, commenting back on a comment, then you hear "You've Got Mail!", and that small thrill get's your adrenalin flowing. Only to find out it's your own comment that's being announced. Damn!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Reality is a Bitch

My name is Ex-Restaurant Manager and I'm a reality junkie. Not all of them, mind you. There are many levels of addiction. Sometimes I like the format, other times there's a participant that I empathize with, some are just schlocky fun. Below, I list the ones that I obsess over.

PROJECT RUNWAY. The official reality show of all that is gay. If Tim Gunn was just this much (hold thumb and first finger one inch apart) butch-er, I would probably move to New York (again) and be on his official stalker list. I like his style, his humor, and his empathy. I tolerate Heidi Klum, but get a kick out of her Auf Wiedersehen at the end. Three years in Germany will do that to ya. And there's usually plenty of gays to root for, although they never seem to do well, not counting Jay from year one. He's from another planet, I'm sure, so he doesn't count.

TOP CHEF. Having been in the restaurant business for so long, this one is a no-brainer. I've worked with many chefs who would go far on this show, many who wouldn't make it through the first Q&A session. I've got to say, the first year was my favorite, although if Dale goes far in this one, things could change. The dialog between Dave and Tiffany on year one was priceless. I still want a "I'm not your bitch, bitch!" T-shirt. The only thing missing is Smell-O-Vision.

THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR. The first one had so-so contestants, but this one has Paul, my next boyfriend. Although, I hope he won't cry as much when we're a couple. That's only permissible when we're watching "Ghost" or "Sophie's Choice" on DVD.

STYLESTAR. I've always had the "gay decorating gene", so this one is always entertaining. When the super-hot David won Season One, I had that proud gay man moment. His shows prove he wasn't a flash in the pan. The second season is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I can't wait.

AMAZING RACE. Love. This. Show! I love it especially when they go somewhere I've been, and I've been all over Europe. The only draw-back is that this is one show where you have to pay attention. No reading is possible, it moves so fast. And I have the bad habit of trying to read while watching TV.

There have been other reality-TV shows that I've watched; Big Brother, Survivor, America's Next Top Model, etc. But they never hold my attention. Some rely too much on gimmicks (Big Brother), some take themselves too seriously (Survivor). The ones that seem to capture my attention are the ones that poke fun at themselves or just exist to have fun. Some I can't stand at all (Hell's Kitchen, reminds me too much of some people I've worked with!). They all have that human element though, that SOMETHING that not even the best writers extent can reproduce...real human drama.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Random Thoughts

It may seem, if you've read my blog, that I still seem obsessed with my old jobs managing restaurants. While I may agree to a certain extent, it's also a good way of saying good-bye to a way of life I've lived for two decades or more. Cathartic in a way, it kind of gives me closure to the old career, so that I can move on with the new. There's still many stories I want to share, so the obsession will continue.


"My friend and I don't like this Frutti de Mare feature, can we have something else?"

Me: "I suppose so, but what didn't you like about the Frutti de Mare?"

"It was too fishy."

Me: "Okay, well, what would you like instead?"

"We'll have the salmon."

No shit, I swear to God that happened to me in Long Island.

To be continued........