Sunday, October 15, 2006

jobs held in my town since early 1998

I grew up in Atlanta and moved to Charlotte, NC less than a year after achieving the legal drinking age. There I became a restaurant person, however that happens. Do we choose that job for ourselves, those of us that become lifers, or does that job choose us? I tend to believe that it's more a combination of factors for most of us that we find that this is where we belong. One has to understand the very nature of being a restaurant person to get this, and to the rest of you, I say make up a god and thank him or her that you found something else to do. We are certainly happy that you found something else to do.

And now we are on to the real meat of this post. We learned in early 1998 that Momma was pregnant. She wasn't Momma then as there were no boys then. Big Brother of course was in production, and we had no idea about The Boy. We had no family in Charlotte and felt that, with a baby on the way, some family would be nice to have close. Our choices therefore were Atlanta or Knoxville.

I won't name names here as I list the number of restaurants I've worked at. And for all the places I've worked, it's not nearly as bad as it sounds, considering the actual average turnover rates in the industry is about 300%. There are in every restaurant some small percentage of people who've put in some years at the same place whether it's a gaudy chain store like TGI Fridays or a really cool local place like the Tomato Head. I know I said I wouldn't name names, but these are not places I have worked just yet. I never rule out a restaurant that I haven't pissed off as a potential employer, and I never know when I might end up at one of these places, so I won't say anymore about either.

The first place I worked in Knoxville was a brewpub that wanted to grow into a local chain. As it turned out, the original location in a different part of the state was the only one that lasted as far as I know. I worked here about a year. I climbed the ranks and proved my worth, and I thought that I was in line for a decent promotion. I cared about the place and worked hard. I put in the hours when I could, but I also had a pregnant wife at home. Big Brother was born while I was employed here.

I watched two kitchen managers leave before I achieved any standing as an authority figure, and then I watched the next in line get fired. The next person the company gave the job to had no idea what he was doing. I was constantly fixing problems that he created. One day I'd had enough and yelled at him most of the day. In retrospect it was a real asshole move, but I'd really had enough. The general manager met me the next day. She was getting the kitchen ready, was even wearing chef's whites as if she expected to be in the kitchen all day. Our entire conversation:
her "I didn't expect you to come in today."
me "I don't know why I did."
and I left.

Some time while employed here I delivered pizzas for a while. At some point between the time Momma quit working to have a baby and the time that she could go back to work we ran short of money. Delivering pizzas is easy money, and most pizza places need drivers all the time making it an easy job to get. It's not bad money assuming you are used to not having a hell of a lot of money in the first place and really need the money.

Next came my first downtown job. This was a turning moment in our life in this town. Prior to this we weren't really downtown folks. We hadn't really had a lot of time to explore the town and find our places. The brewpub I first worked at was in a shopping center somewhere to the west of The Strip. The next job was in the Old City which is part of downtown, and since then, I've stuck downtown.

This new place is still there and doing well though under new ownership. The new ownership and I just didn't get along which is why I got fired. The previous owners owned the place for mos of the three years I worked there. They also owned two other stores, though their small chains involved a different state for each store. Their specialty is really good pizza and top quality beer. It's a great place if you ever get a chance, though the guy that now owns the one here is kind of a tool in my opinion. The pizza place is the only one of his places I'll bother to go, and I don't even eat there anymore.

I made pizzas for three years. I still love the concept of the place as I saw it at the time. The emphasis was on the place as opposed to maximizing the amount of money the place can suck in. I really do understand the incentive of profit, but if you create a great place, you can make enough money. Why push it just for the buck? And that's probably why I got fired in the end. I hated what the new owners were about, and I still have a sense of loss. I was doing pretty well for myself at that place, and I was happy to help it along as much as I could. I understood, I think, what the original owners had in mind. This store was the farthest from the home and the hardest to run, so they decided to sell it.

From there I went down the street to a really cool little steakhouse. I actually only bother to go now for brunch. I do want one day to go in and order a particular steak that I made way too many times not to have eaten one myself. The same place mostly unchanged is still where I left it with many of the same staff members. The owner owns a couple of other local places, and I worked at two of his locations during the period I worked for him.

This owner is a decent guy. He's the only restaurant owner that I've personally had the pleasure of working with in the actual kitchen. He still gets in the kitchen and sticks his fingers in the mashed potatoes. He still gets in the kitchen and cuts the beef loin into steaks. He never came across as a kitchen guy to me, but he seems to know what tastes good, and he makes sure sometimes that he gets it right, liquid margarine and all. He's also the kind of guy that you pray wears overalls to that Friday night shift because they hide his ass crack.

As I began working at the steakhouse, I held a week long job at a different restaurant, a short lived second job. Momma wasn't working having gone and had another baby, and the steakhouse job wasn't quite giving me the hours I needed at first. I had to wait until someone got fired or quit so that I could start working more.

The week long employment was at an absolute shit hole in the center of downtown. It's a place to get drunk in, and the food isn't the kind that anyone even bothers to try with. I've heard it described and have described it as Shoney's with a bar. It sucked so much that at the end of the first week, as Momma was dropping me off at work, I actually asked her if she didn't mind if I didn't go back. It was nice that within a couple of days I began getting the hours I needed with the steakhouse owner, because I wasn't going back.

I quit the steakhouse to take a chance. It was going to be the cool new thing. A local couple had opened the new bar that was the place to be. Based on what I thought this place was going to become I jumped ship at the steakhouse and went to work making sandwiches. This job lasted almost exactly a year before I couldn't take the owners' antics anymore. They still own a building that is half finished. The second floor is used to store the supplies that could be used to fix the second floor and a box of umbrellas that people have left.

That job was great fun and stuff, but I soon realized that I needed to get the hell out. I was really unhappy with how I felt that I'd been treated. With the completion of work on the second floor, I had expected that a larger kitchen and some real fun would begin, if they had ever finished the second floor. It took me that whole year to realize that the owners had no intention of every finishing the second floor. In fact, the position that I held as their single cook no longer exists. I wasn't the only cook they ever had there, but soon after I left they completely discontinued the lunch service that I had provided. I still miss what could have been.

From here I went to work at the other brewpub. This location has been a brewpub since we've lived here. It's now the fourth brewpub that it's been since we lived here and the fifth if you count before we moved here. It's a decent place now, and I really hope that it stays there for a while. The brewer is certainly the best commercial brewer in town, though I have no idea how many home brewers there are, so I can't say that he's the best brewer, but he does make good beer, and I'm always happy to enjoy his beer.

The food menu at this place is hard to describe. It's not bad in a sense, though they seem to go out of their way to make things as easy as possible. Almost the entire menu is comprised of prepackaged items that they try to make taste good by adding loads of butter and salt and cheese, and sadly, it works up to a point. It's not especially good, but it's not bad to have with a pile of beers. The beer really deserves better though.

Momma had been making sushi for a while when she got the chance to take a step up at her restaurant. To get the promotion she would need to put in more hours and have some amount of flexibility. To achieve that, the owner was willing to pay her enough so that I didn't have to work, so I left the brewpub and became a stay at home dad. I'm still a restaurant person. I don't doubt that I'll be cooking again at some point.

That's how I've averaged a job a year. It's not really as ugly as it seems. One entire year at the same restaurant is actually a long time. I made pizzas downtown for three years. I was management there even beyond the confines of the kitchen. I sometimes miss the cesspool that is the restaurant industry, but that's okay. I'll be back. These years at home are only recharging my batteries for when I come back and own this whole fucking town!

1 comment:

Frankie said...

Well, this was interesting. I've never worked at a restaurant. For some strange reason, I thought your wife was a nurse. ???

Tell me, master pizza maker, how come I can't make a decent pizza crust at home? I want a pizza hut pan pizza crust and I get homemade she-it. lol

Tell me something else -- which is harder, being a stay-at-home dad or out their in the work force? For me, being a SAHM is harder.