My Creations, Places I like

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Little Boxes

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    This post goes out to Martinez, one of the nighttime dishwashers here at Sperry's. Martinez is a hardworking Latino who spends his afternoons dish washing at Max London's before coming to do the same for us in the evening. He arrives around 4 O'clock, makes is way through the kitchen, and says hello to everyone before changing and tackling the sea of dishes and cardboard boxes that have inevitably piled up before his arrival. Most of the time he walks by my station and gives a "Chupa!" shout out before walking to the back to change.

Quick side story: Every table at Sperry's gets a basket of popovers before dinner, which is our version of free bread (my dad is obsessed with these things). You bake them in cone-shaped tins with a little sprinkle of Gruyere cheese and they pop over in the oven; hense the name. Well one afternoon Martinez and I got to talking about the Chupacabra--a mythical creature akin to Bigfoot thought to inhabit parts of Mexico (If you want to know more I happily have provided the Wikipedia page dedicated to the chupacabra here: time a ticket for popovers prints at my station I have to shout "POPS!" and how many so that our popover runner knows how many to put in the oven before running them up to a table (yes we have a food runner who strictly runs popovers to all the tables). I know, where am I going with this? Later that day I noticed that every time a ticket for two pops came in and I shouted "TWO POPS!" Martinez shouted "CHUPA!" from the steamy dish pit. All the food runners and I were baffled by this until I noticed the connection. "TWO POPS!" sounds very similar to "chuPA!" aka the chupacabra when said out loud. Ever since then when a ticket for 2 pops rings in (which is often) runners can be seen in the kitchen yelling "chuPA!". Now when I see Martinez in the afternoon our conversation goes something like this:

Me: MARTINEZZZZ!! Como estas???
Martinez: Nada chico.
Me: mucho trabajo?
Martinez: si, si. Es Chupacabra!!
    Since Martinez only has a basic understanding of English, and I an even more basic understanding of Spanish, the chupacabra is a way for Martinez and I to communicate to each other that today is going to be a busy day.
"Today is going to suck...gringo!"

    Ok, back to what I was originally talking about...After the morning dishwashers depart to enjoy the rest of the day in freedom there is a gap of a few hours before Chris, Martinez, and Jarad (the new guy) come in to fulfill their evening duties. During this time boxes and dishes pile up almost to the ceiling leaving a huge mess for the evening dish washers to tackle right when they arrive.

     As you can see here things really pile up during the downtime between dish washer shifts. This is a photo I took of the back stairs completely barricaded like we are warding off a zombie invasion or something...

     I try to help Martinez out if I have time by breaking down boxes when I am done with them and washing a few dishes here and there before things get busy. Sometimes however, everyone is busy right from the get go, and there is just no time. Martinez looks like he has been around the block a few times so I know he can handle it.
    Its always important to take care of those who clean up after you, whether it be doing some dishes here and there, giving them a fat steak for dinner or from time to time staying an extra hour or two after work to help unload hoards of bus bins to make their lives a little easier. Washing dishes for a living is no joke, especially when we do anywhere from 200-500 covers a night (you can't even imagine how many dishes that is).
     There is an old adage in Football that the QB who treats his lineman the best is often the most protected QB during games. When Tom Brady won all those Superbowls he rewarded all his offensive lineman handsomely for making him look like a hero (and I mean sports cars handsomely). Brady didn't have to do that, but do you think he would have been so virtually untouchable during the Patriots' dynasty days had he not? The same goes for your dishwashers too. If its a wild Saturday night and I have an extra tuna tartar in the cooler or a ribeye comes back untouched you can bet your ass its going to the dishwashers first, no matter how hungry you are. I have found that when you go out of your way to help them out, then they will do the same should you find yourself traveling down shit creek without a paddle. So I have no problem sweating it out in the humid dish pit well after work with the dishwashers after everyone else in the building has gone home. Throw on a pair of gloves, grab a neglected bus bin and start digging. The bin will almost always be filled with uneaten food soaking in spilled water, beer, wine, liquor, and what have you. On occasion plates or glasses will be shattered requiring you to delicately pick out all the broken pieces so as to not cut/severely hurt any of the unsuspecting crew. Do this and your good deeds will not go unnoticed.

    Sadly not everyone in the industry (or even at Sperry's for that matter) understands this fundamental principle: treat those beneath you with the same care and respect that you would your head chef, or boss, or friend, or family member; not to expect anything in return, but because that's what being a responsible individual entails. I don't expect anything in return but if I find myself  in the weeds, desperately in need of sauce ramekins for the raw seafood bar, I can almost guarantee you that the next cycle to go through the dish washer will be a rack filled with porcelain ramekins. That's something no culinary school in the world is going to teach you. You just have to have the prowess to understand what is going on around you...

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