Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Arizona Stories, The Ballad of Lonely Bob

I used to work for a five starred, five Mobile Diamond resort on the west side of Phoenix.  It seems to be the source of most of the stories I retell over and over (much to my wife, family & friend's dismay).  I'd like to share a few of these choice gems that I've been polishing, as most of you won't get the chance to hear them in person.  And if you have heard them in person, well, quit whining.  I'll write about you next.

The property was huge, including three professionally designed golf courses, an incredible spa, a killer pool, over 365 rooms, three high end restaurants led by an ex-White House chef, and had a considerably large area to house workers and interns.  I was one of the latter during my internship from Kendall College.  I worked through every kitchen and station I could over two seasons, eventually working in their four star, four diamond ode to Southwestern cuisine.  We did everything from scratch.  We made our own bread, desserts, butchered only prime meats, and carried the biggest chip on our shoulders for doing this on a day-to-day high volume basis.

I saw an extremely large number of cooks flow though the line over a short period of time though those two seasons.  One of those I shall call "Lonely Bob".  We named him this because there were too many Bob's.  I should know, I was one of them.  My nickname was (still is) Shaky or Shakes.  I drink a lot of caffiene.  Lonely Bob got dumped by his girlfriend for a fellow cook.  Thus the lonely moniker.  Well, to put it kindly, Lonely Bob sucked.  Royally.  The culinary school he'd applied to said that he needed atleast a year's professional experience before they'd let him into their program, and they set him up with us.

Good 'ol Lonely quickly found himself on night shift duty.  It was the consumate bitch shift, 7 pm to 7 am.  The job entailed a few key tasks; to strain and cool the stocks, perform general prep, grind butcher scraps, set up breakfast for the main dining room, and to cook employee meal for the the night cleaners, bakery, & security staff.  Two days in, the night cleaners logged a formal complaint.  He'd marinated chicken in raw white vinegar and then cooked it with peppers, calling it chicken fajitas.  I swear every time a hispanic person walked by him they muttered a death threat under their breath.

The evening before Thanksgiving, Lonely was given the task of cooking turkeys for the next morning.  He was told by the Executive Sous to cook 8 turkeys to 135 degrees, and to set them up in a closed door speed rack with 6 sternos on a sheet pan on the bottom to keep them warm for the next morning, when they'd be brought up to temp before lunch service. 

For those of you who don't know how sternos work, they're the little cans of gelled, napalm heat that are placed under pans on buffet lines.  When lit, they burn blue flame.  They're effing hot.  Well, good old Bobby has never used them before, and interpreting the directions literally, takes the gel out of the cans with a spatula and smears the goo onto the oversized cookie sheet.  He puts it on the bottom, lights the pan, shuts the door, AND WALKS AWAY.  Now usually only a small surface area burns with these things.  He's multiplied this over tenfold. 

Long story short. my friend, a night baker comes out of the pastry shop and sees flames licking the outside of the cart.  Wide eyed, she runs to the dish area, grabs a mop & bucket, uses the butt end of the mop to open the cart's latch, and throws the dirty mop water over the fire frantically. 

All of the turkey's were ruined.  Blackened by Metallica comes to mind.  I remember the smell vividly as I walked into the kitchen for my morning shift.

Lonely had burnt a hole through the sheet pan.  No shit.

We had run to Safeway for more turkeys.  Lonely didn't last much longer after that.


  1. Ah lonely Bob. He was a jackass, and yes I dumped him. Deservedly so, and still with the fellow cook I dumped him for. Your stories are awesome! Keep em coming!