Patty Canedo is a chef in Palm Beach. She writes frequently about her kitchen exploits in this column, Half-Baked.
I'm especially tired this morning, and Saturdays are the busiest here. To my dismay, I wasn't fast enough, and the cart is already gone.
"Great," I groan. Now I have to lug the ice from one end of the property to the other. Bucket full, it takes all my strength and one good grunt to lift the ten gallons. Fortunately, by using my God-given "shelf" to bear some of the burden, this chore is more annoying than heavy. Slowly making my way back to the kitchen, I pass a very blond and delicious specimen.
"Have a good day, buddy," he throws me a wave. I come to a stop, tempted to follow him and dump the load on his head. Nah, that just means I would have to refill. Androgynous -- I guess I achieved it with my hair tucked up in a beanie and figure-concealing attire. No trace of femininity around here.
I take a minute to catch my breath from the punch in the ego I just took and walk back into my world, the kitchen.
When I walk on a line for the first time, I do the same thing...
"What's the difference between a circus and strip club?" I say to Dan as we start our first rush together.
"What?" he replies.
"The circus has cunning stunts," and with that (or any) dirty joke, I break the ice. They get a silly laugh, but I manage to manipulate his subconcious to seeing me as just another of the guys.
Recipe for bonding on the line: Put a couple of "guys" into a small, hot space, add one part passion and skill to two parts pressure and exhaustion, simmer with a pinch of agility and mental defect.
"Where we going after this?" Dan's reading the board and counting his proteins on the grill.
"Don't know and don't care, so long as they serve drinks," I'm tossing pasta in a sauce with one hand and grabbing for its plate with another.
"Same place we go every night, Pinky," Dave yells from the garde manager station. Tickets are winding down, and we see the light at the end of the tunnel. Soon we are in the usual routine of breaking down the line and cleaning after a busy night.
"You gonna call the other guys?" I'm hauling my pans over to the dish pit.
"Just sent the text." Dan's got his coat off and ready to pull everything apart. We work quickly, savoring the beer to come. We finally make it to the bar to find our friends already with drinks at a table. The three of us sit in our dirty pants and sweaty undershirts across from clean, groomed guys who had the night off.
"Who's ready for shots?" Ben's already had a few.
"Let's do it," the three of us chime in. He orders a round, seven instead of the usual six. They brought Bill, our production guy who works days. He's older, so he mainly keeps to himself.
"I was talking to him earlier today, and we were hanging out when you buzzed," Ben answers about the extra. Shots come, clanking of glasses together, and shots go.
"Wow," Bill notices me keeping up with the guys on each round.
"Yeah, Patty's just a dude with long hair," Ben drunkenly tips his glass to me. Drinks flow, the hours fade, and soon it's closing time. Hugs all around, and we all go our separate ways.
I walk in the next day to a bunch of cooks working off some heavy hangovers. We're all dragging a little ass, but nonetheless, I start prepping the line for the night in a quiet corner.
"That was fun last night," Bill comes up behind me.
"Yeah, except for the killer hangover." I'm cutting away, not even paying attention.
"We should hang out again sometime," he whispers.
"We'll probably go out again tonight. We pretty much meet up after service most nights." I'm still not paying attention, more focused on the long night ahead.
"Oh yeah, def," he stutters, "call me tonight. Let me know." I blow him off and keep going. Hours later, he approaches me again.
"I'm headed out. Call me later," he points to the schedule chef keeps all our numbers on. Apparently, everyone else saw this.
"Ohhh, looks like someone has a crush," Ben teases.
"What? Who?" I'm clueless.
"Bill's digging you. Ha-ha," Dan joins in.
"Whatever," I give them both the finger.
In and out of service, clean the kitchen and run to the bar. The guys think it's funny to stragically sit me next to Bill. After a few drinks and some BSing, the night ends. Hugs all around. And the cycle goes on night after night.
Then came a screeching halt...
"Whose number is this?" I yell out in the kitchen. I just received a text asking me out for dinner.
"Who is it? What does it say?" Dan comes running over out of curiousity. Neither one of us recognizes it. I return the text with the inquiry; turns out it was Bill on his day off. Dan sees this and starts laughing.
"Not funny! I don't really need this right now. Hostility in a hot work environment with knives everywhere -- not a good thing," I explain to Dan.
So I reply with a simple, "working tonight. Thanks anyway." The typical work night routine. Awkwardly, Bill's with the guys.
"Don't worry, I got this," Dan takes the lead placing me between him and Dave. Dan runs interference all night. He even bypasses the hug on the way out.
At first, it seemed like the message was received... until I start receiving random texts.
"I want to know you, I want to know your heart," Bill sends me. I show this to Dan.
"OK, I've tried to be nice about this, but now I'm getting pissed off," I rant.
"Ew, this is just weird." He no longer sees the humor.
"I was trying to be nice, but I gotta tell chef, right?" I ask. Dan and I debate this. Of course he would get fired, and that made me feel a little bad about the amount of work that would fall on the rest of us because of it, leading to the guys possibly resenting and isolating me.
"I don't know, Patty. If you want, I'll talk to him," Dan offers, clenching his fist.
I laugh, "No, I got this." I send a definitive "leave me alone" message. Apparently, it's not received. A couple of days later, we decide I need to talk to chef.
"Did anything happen to encourage any of this?" chef asks.
"No!" I reply.
"Well, I know how you all go down to the bar and get drunk together...," he replies.
"NO!" I raise my voice. He explains he has to speak with the owner, then Bill, and follow procedure, exactly what I knew was coming. Now as all this goes on, I'll be stuck in an uncomfortable situation.
Later the next day...
"OK so we've spoken to Bill," chef sits me down. "I'm going to apologize for him. He's been warned that if he contacts you even once more, he's fired."
"OK..." I'm not surprised by his decision.
"Patty, you know how old guys can be -- especially around young girls." He's trying to comfort me, I guess. The matter is "resolved," and there's an awkward cloud that hangs over the kitchen.
Later at the bar...
"I just got an apology text from Bill," I tell Dan.
"Aw, I almost feel bad for the poor old guy," Dan winks at me. I almost do too... until much later that night...
"Your little bodyguard, Dan, doesn't scare me. I just wanted to know you, I wanted to know your heart." From Bill! I don't care that it's late; I forward the text to chef. He calls me first thing in the morning.
"I got your text," chef says. "That's what Bill sent you?"
"Yes. What are you going to do about it?" I ask.
"All right, I have to call the owner." He hesitates.
"What?" I demand.
"Well, we have so much going on. I don't know how I'll do things without...," he whines.
I interrupt, "You're kidding me!"
"Maybe let me and Dan talk to him," he argues with me.
"What if this was happening to your wife? You wouldn't tolerate this, and you definitely wouldn't tolerate it from her boss either," I yell. Chef apologizes. He knows I'm right.
"I'll call you later." He's a little ashamed.
We hang up, and I'm thankful it's my day off. I call Dan; we meet for coffee.
"Really? Chef said that?!" He's a little disappointed in him too.
"Yup," I nod my head. I replay everything over the two weeks with him.
"Yeah, it had to be done," he agrees with me. "Well, I better go. I know we'll be behind today. You coming in?"
"I would for you guys, but I'm pissed at chef right now. Let him deal." I'm a little bitter.
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"Wow," Dan raises his eyebrows, "I wouldn't want to piss you off."