A kitchen work journal of sorts.
You can’t half do restaurant work. I have tried to circle the periphery with merely a love of cooking and desire for a good bacchanalian gathering. But the rigor and physical demands of a professional kitchen is not for a casual dalliance. Eventually, I think I found a way in that sated my hunger.
Restaurant work started for me with my very first job as a teenager in southern Minnesota. I worked as a hostess at Vincent Wang’s. I was thrilled to work at one of my favorite restaurants in town but alas, Vincent was a creep. So I quit and became restaurant-adjacent as a Sandwich Artist. I kept this up through my move to New York City, where I worked at a Subway near NYU. Fresh from Minnesota, I was smiley with a midwestern pace prompting customers to ask, “where are you f*ckin’ from?” I stayed until the day we got held up, and my young coworker got fired for setting the whole thing up. The injustice was too much. Even if he did do it, jeesh Jared, let him take the cash!
Still restaurant-adjacent, I worked at Starbucks slinging coffee to the hoards at 6th Ave and Waverly. It was your average Starbucks job, easy regulars, jerks, people shooting heroin in the bathroom, and others taking dumps on the floor. I decided something a little less chain-oriented would be nice, so I started a job at California Pizza Oven, a rip-off of CPK on the southern edge of Union Square. I don’t remember much except bringing pizzas back to my dorm and going merengue dancing with the staff. We ordered flaming shots called Cucarachas that when sprinkled with cinnamon made a small firework at the table. To drink, you shoved a straw through the flames to suck up the steaming Bacardi 151. Good times?
The real restaurant work began after college. I was in a severe creative slump and depressed, cooking always gets me through those periods. I got REALLY into the Food Network and the desire to be (or be around) a hot, surly, tatted chef who parties like a rockstar took hold. I got a gig at Superfine in DUMBO a still up-and-coming neighborhood in Brooklyn at that time. This restaurant would soon move to enormous new digs in the neighborhood, but for now it was in a bar share situation with a local pub. The incredibly cool owners of the joint took a chance on hiring me and I was sure this was my entrance to the world of kitchens.
The staff and restaurant were (and are) part of the DUMBO art and music scene. Then it was klezmer punks, art…