Thursday, May 31, 2012

Highwood Story, Kitchen Fight!!!

I used to work for a notorious restaurant in the North 'burbs, where the Chef/Owner's temper was nigh near legendary.  He worked for 4 Michelin 3 star kitchens back when it meant something. His kitchen was the most militaristic, intense place I've ever had the um... pleasure(?) of working.  Cameras were everywhere, 16 in the kitchen areas, plus one webcam that the public could watch.  Which was nice for my wife, as she could tell when I was done working by seeing us clean at the end of shift.  Bad for the cooks though, as Chef had a habit of watching (even on vacation) and would call back to chew out the staff if he caught something out of place. 

I have a feeling there will be more than one blog about this place, but I'll start with this story.  Kind of ease back into it, see if there's any response.

So one day right before service kicked in, one of my cooks has an issue with a busser.  The cook was Fernando, who I believe was lying about his age to work.  I think he was honestly turning 16 years old halfway though his employment.  Acne riddled his face; he was prone to hormone addled rage at anything and everything.  He was a quick learner though, and was one of two main cooks on the pasta station.  Angry at the world, chip one his shoulder, and hadn't had his ass kicked hard enough yet.

The busser was Ishmael.  Twenty one years old, Ish was a full 4 inches taller than Fernando and ripped.  Ish was training to be an amateur lightweight boxer.  He could also clear more plates than most men could carry, with one hand.  Sweet guy though.  Softspoken and very polite.  I wouldn't want to start anything with him though, I doubt I'd win a fair fight (emphasis on the word fair). 

So the two get into it verbally, I pretty sure Fern told Ish to go have sex with his mother in an uncomfortable place, and it wasn't the back of a Volkswagon.  More words were exchanged and a small shove or two commenced.  They agreed to take it outside and I started to follow.  Except they never made it outside.

Ish had gone first, and as he reached the stairwell before exiting the back door, he swang the service door into Fernando's face.  Hard.  His hand then shot out and pulled the cook by the neck into the small area at the top of the stairs.  By this time I'd ran past the dish station to follow while calling out for the General Manager at the top of my lungs.  I cleared the door and confronted the two workers, who were now fully punching each other in their respective faces.  With 13 stairs leading into the basement right at their feet.  Idiots.  Someone could've died there.  Not thinking any further, I grabbed both of them and pulled them apart, all while calling for the GM, who came in time to see me holding the two apart by their shirts.

The best part of the whole thing was that it had been entirely caught on camera.  I was able to watch and replay the part where I broke up the two a good half dozen times later that evening.  I also had no issues with the kitchen staff for a few weeks after the incident.  I guess they thought I was a little crazy or something.  I think they were right.  

I ran into Fernando earlier this last year.  He works at a Garden Fresh market, his acne cleared up, and his English is better than mine now.  I'm glad to see this was just a phase or something and that he turned out okay in the end. 

A pic from said restaurant. 

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