#10 I Was A Wretched Hostess

Before I go out into the kitchen world and annoy lots of chefs and cooks I will attempt to answer my own questions. Why am I a chef? Here is my top ten.

#10. I was a wretched hostess

My first job at 15 was as a hostess at a coffee shop called Pages on Ventura blvd in Encino, CA. It was a hellishly busy breakfast joint with long waits and surly customers. I was a really mean hostess. Often greeting rudeness with a true deadpan look that would really piss people off.

Raised to this point by an eccentric artist father and a bipolar alcoholic mother–these rude valley snobs had nothing on me. I was precocious, mean, always hung over and wrung out from late night make out sessions with my nerdy boyfriend. Don’t even try and push me man! Patience and charm were not really my strong points. Think disheveled teenager with a headache. The managers never wanted me to work the wait list cause if you were an asshole- I might just cross you off- which tended to create more chaos. And I was better on the till anyway. In fact, after six months the owners gave me the keys and the combo to the safe and I was opening that place on my own. I was as loyal as a pitbull even then. Question is how did they know it? Anyway, the kitchen at Pages was in the WAY back. The chef, a tall black dude named Malcolm, was a real professional. Always in pressed whites and a toque. He was a miracle worker. Pumping out so much food, so fast. And it was the shit!! Stacks of perfect steaming pancakes, patty melts that would leave you smiling and breathless. Best thing about Pages was I got a free meal and that meal was always the cure for what was ailing me. Could be a hangover, a broken heart, family trouble–whatever it was it was subdued by those moments in the Break room. Thanks Malcolm. Never saw too much of the kitchen crew. They were kept away from us young girls. No joke. They weren’t allowed to eat with us or even really talk to us. Malcolm had a firm grip on his crew and they were all well mannered when we were around. I always felt safe in that restaurant.

Now, Kirwins was a different story. This wanna be upscale, semi classy place was in the Sherman Oaks Galleria. It was a mall restaurant trying not to be. The owner was a lawyer who named his place after his bookey, Bill Kirwin. Running the front desk was nuts. Busy bar and dining room. I had a seriously strange GM who used to wear double breasted suits and full wigs. No joke. Some days I would come in and he would have a blond Afro and others he would have a jet black Elvis thing going on. Seriously nuts. He used to hang around me and ask me things like “have you ever seen a Porno?” Really creepy. I know it was the 80’s but come on?! He was always asking me to wear more makeup and smaller outfits. He called me on the intercom to come to the office (in the attic in the kitchen) once and when I opened the door at the top of the stairs he was sitting on the desk with his shirt off! His big hairy bear like body and his gold chains and his wig, wow…..what a site. TerrifIed, i walked out backward mumbling “ah, no thank you” to a muffled “don’t goooo” ….. Minutes later he came back to the floor and we never spoke of it again. I was 17 and he was at least 55. I’ll never forget it.

The kitchen crew was like a pack of wild dogs. Anytime I went thru there it was catcalls and whistles. They were led by this bushy haired, red headed Irish guy named James. He always had a stupid question to stall me in there and then he would try to get me to agree to a date. At this point something (usually a tomato or a roll) would come sailing across the kitchen and hit him in the back of the head. This would send howls of laughter thru the kitchen, embarrass the hell out of him and send him searching for a weapon to retaliate with. I loved that. I loved being in the kitchen with them.

As far as the food–i Remember only the table bread at Kirwin’s. Baked in house, sweet like squaw bread and served warm with whipped cream cheese. It was good. Pretty much all I ever had time to eat.

In any case, hostessing taught me that dealing with the pubilic was not my thing and that I felt happier in the company of wild dogs.

**Click Previous entries for my 1st post  “Living the Dream”

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~ by abmccune on May 5, 2010.

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