Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday night disaster - the 'real' cook 19/05/09

Saturday night was a complete disaster. The cook has no idea what he is dong. He still insisted on making the pasta from scratch when an order came in! He has a huge problem with heating up food in the microwave, which is why he wants to make all the pasta sauces from scratch. But you can’t start making the tomato salsa at 10pm when the order arrives. The salsa takes an hour or so to make to stew the tomatoes properly and get the flavour. He even started making the Spanish tortilla in the middle of all – this takes at least half an hour also because you are supposed to fry the onions and potatoes on a low heat for 15 minute before you even start with the eggs. I have never worked in a restaurant before but it is common sense that the microwave will be used to heat up food, and that a lot of things need to be prepared in advance. My suocera came in to help out when she heard about the cook’s incompetence. She is delighted to be back in her kitchen but doesn’t feel like she can tell the cook what to do since he is still claiming to be the professional.

The result of the cook’s lack of coordination was that a couple of tables actually walked out on Saturday night because they had been waiting so long. The shame of it. I had to keep going over and apologising for the delay. Then they passed me on the stairs on their way out. Terrible.

I reported this disaster to the kitchen and shortly after the cook freaked out and insulted everyone, including my suocera the only person in the kitchen who knew what she was doing. He ranted about the space being too small, the stoves being too weak, the orders not being clear enough, the pans not being good enough. The thing is he had had ample time to investigate the equipment and the workings of the cooker, and request improvements if necessary. ‘He insulted my kitchen with his whole performance,’ said my suocera. And all in a perfect Sicilian dialect which he hadn’t used before. He generally hunches over to speak and mutters in a barely audible mumble, with a hint of the Milanese accent about his speech. Often with his back to you and usually without eye contact. All very suspicious. But for his fit he suddenly raised the volume and burst out, not just in dialect, but in deep country bumpkin dialect, said my suocera, nearly wetting herself with laughter. ‘Ah, finally, this is who you are,’ she thought to herself.

On Sunday we met them early in the afternoon to plan and distribute the workload (which we had left up to the cook, but he clearly can’t do it). The cook came out with, ‘Io non sono siciliano, sono milanese’. And the aiuto cuoco, for once, managed to cut to the quick; ‘Si, tu non se Siciliano quando sei Milanese, ma quando ti arrabi, sei puro Siciliano’ … hahaha, perfect, loved that line -(Sure, you’re not Sicilian when you are Milanese, but when you get angry you are pure Sicilian!) Apparently some Sicilians who go to the north of Italy for work are keen to forget their humble backgrounds and acquire Milanese accents to cover up.

I think our menu is too big, that a lot of food will be wasted, and its enormity and scope is part of the reason things aren’t working. I had tried to insist on a smaller more compact and clever menu but since I am the person with least experience in the field, of course no one listened to me … Also, we have been trusting the cook so far when he tells us everything is ready at 7pm, but no more of that. He is so arrogant and overbearing that you feel you can’t say anything to him; also he is the one who supposedly is the expert, and I have no such experience, which makes it difficult to ‘advise’. Plus my husband is afraid he will walk out – and whose fault would that be (again)? But we need to go there with the menu at the end of the night and make a list of all the things that need to be done, as he clearly is not competent.

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