Saturday hurt, but not nearly as bad as yesterday. I haven’t counted out yet, but Sunday looks like it was bigger and we did it with two cooks on the line instead of three.
Yesterday was just a blur, on a wait all day long, people waiting for an hour to get in and then another forty-five minutes for their food, and most of them did it in good humor, a welcome relief since the crowds all summer have been in pretty foul moods.
By the end of the night I was definitely feeling my age, my shoulders hurt from pounding countless dough balls flat and then tossing them out to size, the constant lifting of dough trays, pizzas into and out of the oven, and my legs and back ached from the hours of standing, interspersed with quick drops into a squat to grab something from the lowboy cooler.
Several of the chef memoirs that I’ve read compare cooking at this intensity to combat, the chatter of the printer spitting out order after order like that of a machine gun, and the cooks are often romanticized as soldiers. Cooking, they say, is the last meritocracy, where the only thing that matters is ones ability to produce quality quickly and consistently, and the ability to do it under miserable conditions or while in pain, emotional or physical.
That’s a load of bullshit. I also read somewhere that the reason male cooks have such high machismo is to make up for the aprons.
I was lucky, I never saw combat while in the army. I did see some nasty scraps and tense moments as a cop though, and cooking is nothing like that. Ok, there was this one time when a guy got so pissed off at the previous owner that he grabbed an olive oil-filled wine bottle and threatened him with it and we all ended up in a pile on an oil and blood-slicked tile floor. That was fun.
I have heard machine guns though, and you know what a printer sounds like? It sounds like a fucking printer, and I’m sure that plenty of other grunt jobs are meritocracies, the fact that you show up and do your job well far more important than who you know, what level your degree is, what color you happen to be, who you choose to sleep with, and whether or not you have a penis.
But we do have three bachelor’s degrees in this little restaurant of mine, all of them preferring the world of restaurants over the world of cubicles and weekly meetings. Things are different in this world of ours, a certain amount of drunkenness and debauchery are tolerated which wouldn’t be in an insurance office. Punching another employee in an accounting firm would be grounds for dismissal, and probably police intervention; here it would be a few minutes on the back steps to cool off…if there’s time. If not, we’ll sort it out later, now get your sorry asses back to work.
Now it’s over. Labor Day is done and summer is over as far as we’re concerned. We shut down it 3pm, ordered some burgers from the Quarters, had some shots and some beers and cleaned for a couple of hours. In the dish pit Randy and Danny are still at it. No dishes and no trash left behind as we’ll be closed for the next three days. Tomorrow will be Café Rio Fun Day…when we drag a grill out onto the sidewalk, drink in public, and play drunken Wii all day long. Wednesday and Thursday, I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m thinking about finishing the tile in my kitchen…or going to Albuquerque and eating sushi ‘til I’m sick, catching some movies in a nice theater, and staying in a quiet, clean hotel room with the “do not disturb” placard displayed.
I’m thinking that the tile can wait.
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