Patty Canedo is a chef in Palm Beach. She writes frequently about her kitchen exploits in this column, Half-Baked.
"What's the deal with this front-of-the-house versus back-of-the-house issue?" my director of operations asked me on his first day.
"That's just how it is," was the best I could offer because that's how it's always been. Scott's career in the industry stretched longer than my whole lifespan, so I was surprised I had to explain the roots of restaurant drama to him.
The fact is, there is always some discord between the kitchen and wait staff. We'll intermingle for drinks after a shift because after all we share a common nemesis -- guests. But during the rush, neither staff crosses the line. We may work, drink, and even hang together, but we don't always play nice.
There's nothing like a batch of tickets rung in all at once from the same server.
"Did you just take all your tables' orders and ring them all in at the same time!?" Chef Gilles never eats lunch so he's always ready to chew out a server.
The deer-in-headlights routine was lost on him. He banished her from the kitchen (or speaking) for the rest of the night. When the other servers on the floor came to the kitchen wondering where their tables' food was, things almost turned violent. Always remember, kids -- the kitchen staff carry knives.
In the heat of the moment, everyone has lost his or her composure. We've all been on the giving and receiving end of a tantrum. A colleague of mine doesn't tolerate fits thrown her way.
Instead of scolding a snippy foh'er, she scalds them with hot plates. She quiets an aggressive tongue by throwing the plates in the oven and forgetting to warn anyone.
She only offers this tip: "If I can carry the plate, you should be able to too. And God help you if you drop the food!"
There's never enough time to set up, and the kitchen staff is always racing against the clock. In the midst of it, cooks have to stop what we are doing to feed the staff. Then add the offense of hassling the kitchen over it?
"Everyone else has already gotten their food. Where's mine?" the server questioned my sous in her rudest tone. She saw the mad dash we were making to set up for the day and was still hassling us. So I made her wait another ten minutes before I considered cooking her food. Finally, I treated her chicken like it was damned for all eternity. She didn't order for a couple of weeks after I flung the piece of charcoal at her.
Things always get a little hairy when there's a big event and service going on. Running from the pastry kitchen to the line, I heard,
"Where the fuck is my trash can?" dover Dan yelled. I stopped to help him look for another because he was wrist-deep in a dover sole. An unsuspecting server came back with an empty trash can for him.
"Don't fucking take my shit in the middle of service..." This Tourette's banter went on for a couple of minutes. Poor guy took a tongue lashing for trying to help out at a hectic moment.
Gloves Off Brawl:
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Chef was always pretty flexible with all but one rule -- no splitting specials! Knee-deep in tickets, one rascally server thought she could sneak this request in. I explained chef's policy for the 100th time, I threw the dish at her, and I bid her a good night.
She slinked back to the kitchen behind the shift lead who was carrying the plate. A brawl between the lead and me ensued; he even dared to pick up a knife! After our full-out screaming match ended, I walked the dish to the table because he refused. "Mommy and daddy" had to be called in to resolve the dispute and slap us on the wrists for not playing nice.