Greetings Servers, Kitchen Staff, Hosts, and The Like:
With it being too cold to ski, go outside, or perform most basic life functions, I figured I would dig deep into my mental archive of inappropriate memories for some (your) entertainment. But after keen negotiation with some recreational plant life, I’ve found myself a bit deeper down the rabbit hole, reliving individual acts of perversion so profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here.
Instead I ended up reliving some of the worst staff meals of my life, which are also, as it turns out, pretty disgusting.
Before I begin lambasting Staff Meal, I must give my best impersonation of my father and state, “Staff Meal is a privilege, not a right.”
Of course my Dad is right, but he also touted a maxim about “rights” that, in this case, diametrically opposes my experience with Staff Meals.
“If you’re going to do something, DO IT RIGHT.”
From what I learned throughout my waiting career, Staff Meal is perceived two ways:
• A chance for a young cook/chef to impress his peers and colleagues by making something out of nothing
• A huge pain in the ass
Either way, it is free food. But before I hit Broadway (the floor), I’d rather be running on a delicious meal rather than leftover hot dogs for the third day in a row.
My body is a temple, right? Someone famous with a beard said that.
So here are a few of the scarier categories of Staff Meal that I’ve come across:
Mystery Meat: If you work long enough in the serving game, you will question the composition of staff meal on more than one occasion. Gyros, unfortunately, are the poster child for the fountain of questions regarding mystery meat. Science, you even found a way to create meat without an expiration date. Is it pork, beef, lamb? Is it a hybrid? Does anyone else think this taste like sand? Was that a fingernail? All questions that do not lead to appetizing meals.
Pasta Hybrids: There is nothing like crushing the mountain all day, taking a hot shower and crushing carbs. But, crushing a plate of pasta that includes everything on the staff shelf with cream is like pounding a bottle of Hobo Wine; it takes a piece of your soul that you can never get back. When I say everything, I mean everything. When the aromas of frozen fish, mustard, and cream fill my nostrils I immediately make the decision that I am eating bread all night until I can get my hands on some Busser Buffet.
Was that my third time going to the bathroom in the last 45 minutes? YUP!
Hot Dogs: I am not against hot dogs. No man should be. I am just against hot dogs three days in a row. Hot dogs are the jack-of-all trades meat, but being able to witness a hot dog go from just a hot dog on day one, to fried chopped dipping pieces on day two, to re-fried, re-chopped dipping pieces in pasta with cream on day 3 will make anyone’s wiener retract into their bodies.
Soup: Once that 10 gallon bucket and ladle gets placed on the line, a piece of me dies a little on the inside. No math, statistic, or risk management situation can ever prepare you for this feeling of ABSOLUTE uncertainty. At all costs, DO NOT dive right in! You must first put the soup through a number of tests, the first of which, for me, is the color.
-Is it green? Cream color?
-Oh, wait it is blue. How in Heaven’s name is the soup blue? We don’t have anything in the kitchen that’s blue.
The next evaluation is texture.
-Are those flour clusters?
– Was that last season’s meatloaf?!?!
Ever try a soup made from left over meatloaf? Don’t.
Beware that these evaluations will likely not divulge whether or not the soup will be good. It will just give you an idea of how disgusting it will be.
Before long I turned into an Upton Sinclair inspired anarchist. I would sneak in the kitchen before service and throw away any potential Staff Meal ingredients deemed by my colleagues as unbearable. My greatest achievement was personally escorting this seafood ravioli experiment gone horribly wrong from the building. I was becoming such a Ninja that I was leaving no trace. I would take the possible intestine-destroying Staff Meal possibilities across town and ditch them in random dumpsters. There is a special place for me in the Server Hall of Fame for that move – I know it.
There are rumors of financial budgeting ($1.35/per person) for staff meal, and of waitstaffs being able to order off the menu. But lets be serious, if you are a chef do you want to make 30 more off-the-menu plates when you are about to crush 350 covers? WOOF! And waitstaff, do you really want to keep eating the same stuff you serve day in and day out? Again, Double WOOF! You should know more than anyone that there is enough butter and salt to make your cholesterol skyrocket overnight. Plus, I enjoy my girlish physique and don’t want to ruin it.
Balance, like everything else is key. At my restaurant, life got so much better when the front and back of the house came together in an unspoken unified movement against the tyranny of Sysco and other food purveyors of cheap ass food. Instead, beer, candy and possible makeout sessions and butt grabs have replaced physical currency. Now the ideology of family meal as evolved from a huge pain in the butt before prepping a station, to a chance to earn one’s comrades booze throughout the night. A shot of Jameson is worth its weight in gold! As a server I know I do not mind shelling out a few bucks to help subsidize/inspire others to make something out of nothing! And on the other hand, I don’t mind coming in early once a month to feed my army of battle test warriors before we crush another dinner rush.
My friends, my warriors, simply being fed is a privilege, but it is our right as knowledgeable human beings to be well fed.
Make it happen.
Complaining is easy. And lets be honest, your complaints about staff meal will fall on deaf ears. To some bosses, owners, and managers, we are expendable. If we can’t bear the burdens of waiting tables, they will find some sorry early twenty something that just graduated college who can. Let this little blurb be a rally cry for you the individual to stand up to the bosses and the hotdogs. Find your inner Che’ and come in early to cook dinner for the staff one night. Or better yet buy some ‘treats’ for the folks who are about to create your staff meal. I promise, you will eat better, feel better, and serve better.