Monday, August 17, 2009

Unless on Your Death Bed, Do Not Call in Sick!

I got a call around 3 pm today that said I am needed at work immediately. It turns out someone from work had called earlier in the day too, around 10 am, but the person calling didn't see a point in leaving a voicemail when I didn't answer. It's just as well because I was still at the cottage, two hours away, so I couldn't have gone in at that hour anyway.

Upon arrival I learned that a staff member had called in sick, leaving just me and the Sous-Chef for dinner service. That's it. Just us. No kitchen help/dishwasher was scheduled for the night (which meant I would have do double as dishwasher) and although the hoods were now working, the ovens were not. All we had working for us was the grill, the friers and the burners. You don't realize how often the oven gets used until it stops working. Then it seems as if every order is a pizza, a quesadilla, beef ribs or some other dish that gets finished in the oven.

To make matters worse the temperature in there was unreal. I worked only 8 hours but I feel as if I had been there all day. We did ok as far as cooking goes but in the end, had there been one more order, we would have had to stop and clean some dishes. Every saute and sauce pan were dirty. Every plate, be it a side plate, a soup bowl, a dinner plate or a salad plate, were also dirty and piled wherever the servers could find room. When they ran out of room in the dish pit, they started putting the cleared plates on top of the chest freezer. The line looked no better. There were containers everywhere, all the knives were scattered around and there was sauce splatters even on the wall (yah, we're messy!) . Let's just say the mise was definitely not en place and once again, it took the two of us over two hours to restore order.

I can definitely say today was not a fun day. It was a trying day, but not a fun one. It's good to know that we pulled it off but I wouldn't want to go through it again. I think the worst part though was that pile of dishes I was faced with at the end. I had already started to lose steam and all I wanted was to go home. I was deliriously wishing that, when I went back inside after the break, someone had miraculously cleaned everything up. That thought was followed by "what if we just left everything?" Well, our asses would have been fired, that's what. So you tough it out and get through it, one tray of dishes at a time. Don't look at what time it is, don't look at how much you still have left and definitely don't stop to go out in the cool air. You heard me, I said the cool air. The outdoor temperature of 27 Celsius feels like a frigid blast when you've been working in temps of 40 Celsius. You start wondering why everyone is complaining about the heat outside. What heat??

The day's learning experience was the huge impact that 'calling in sick' can have in a kitchen. Especially a small kitchen in today's economy when the schedule is made with the labour cost in mind and when only the minimum amount of staff is scheduled. If you've already stripped down the kitchen to bare bones staff, it can be devastating to have even one person missing.

I know one day I'll be able to look back and laugh about today's nightmarish dinner rush, but that day isn't today and it probably won't be for a while.

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