Have you ever worked in a restaurant at some point in your life?

In Jonathan Kauffman Drooling Q&A series, he mentions:[quote=“JonKauffman, post:48, topic:7040”]
I just read that up to 50 percent of Americans have worked in a restaurant at some point in their careers, so a lot of us have spent some time in one.

Have you ever worked in one, even briefly? How was your experience?

I think carefully. No I haven’t.

The closest thing: I have worked on designing stuff for them several points in my life. At 1 point, I needed to do some fish illustrations, I couldn’t find photo references of certain species. The restaurant arranged with the fishmonger and asked me to come to the kitchen to photograph the fish. The restaurant was inside a big hotel, I was still quite young, just out of school. At that age I wasn’t very interested in eating or food. But I remembered walking around in a never ending stainless steel kitchen, it has several rooms and each miles long. No kidding 100 people could work there at the same time. Nobody was in the kitchen, and it was not even lighted. This added more mystery to the impressive space. Was it ever been used?

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Yes. For one night. When I was 17. Hired at a local mid-scale restaurant as a delivery person. I was walking through the kitchen to pick up a couple of orders when one of the cooks dropped a fish filet (I think it was Halibut) on the tile floor as he was transferring it to a plate. He leaned down, scooped it up onto the plate and set the plate onto a prep counter for finishing.

I stood there dumbfounded for a second or two, then asked him: “You’re not gonna serve that, are you?” He laughed, and told me to go get me delivery orders. I finished that nights deliveries, and called in “quit” the next day.

If fast food counts, then yes. I worked at McDonalds for a few months when I was sixteen and was taught their “six steps to customer service.” To amuse myself (working at McDonalds is really boring), I started mixing up the order of the steps and timing myself, until I figured out the fastest way. The manager insisted that I abandon my new, more efficient method and stick with the corporate party line. I did not, and she fired me. Then I went on to work at Roy Rogers, a much less rigid company. So lax, in fact, that one New Year’s Eve the grill cooks decided to work without pants. Lots of interesting stories from that job.

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Yes I have . I was 16 . I worked at a diner as a dishwasher aka pearl diver . The place was owned by a former dishwasher who later became a policeman . All the police used to come to eat there . The owners brother in law was the head cook , Joe . The funny thing was Joe had the walk in stocked with Coors tall boys . We would throw a quarter in the kitty for a Coors . The police would walk in the back door and see me drinking a beer and wouldn’t bat a eye . The good old days .


I worked as a cashier at a Carl’s Jr. in an indoor mall. The walk-up counter was at the entrance instead of at the back of the dining room and faced all the pedestrian traffic. I super-glued a quarter on the mall floor to entertain myself.


Yes, although my back of house function was as baker (breads, bagels, desserts). We were rowdy AF. That much I remember. I also remember envying the front of house staff and others for not finishing a day crusted in flour and sweat. And that was when I was moved to days. My life as a night baker was both fun and weird.
One day I’ll share my few front of house gigs. They never lasted long, though, and were almost uniformly creepy.

But you haven’t lived until an asshole coworker locks you in walk in. Even if just for a few seconds.

That’s not true of course. Certainly you’ve lived without that. But I do wonder if this is a thing.


Yes, for 20+ years, serving, management, cooking, hostess…

It’s a trap, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I have a great read on people now, but I’m also a jaded bitch.


In the 90s, I worked for a kosher caterer as a busboy, and did whatever tasks they needed help with. The only food prep I did was stemming a bazillion mint and basil leaves.

Some odd memories were of the center station for the cocktail hour. I’d bring the “aspic centerpieces” from the walk-in to that station— two frozen blocks of beef ribs covered in a white substance and some colored designs. Yuk. It looked like what flipped over Fred Flintstone’s car or Ed Gein’s idea for a birthday cake. Aside from typical salads and chopped liver, the table had faux shrimp cocktail and caviar, which I’d eat large spoonfuls of on the way back to the kitchen.

During bar mitzvahs, I’d confiscate dinner knives from aggressive boys and listen to them scream when they tried to snatch cotton candy directly from the machine— sugar hurts your hands at that RPM.

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I’ve had a few experiences . . . all in my high school years.

First I worked at Burger King for a few weeks back in the days of heavy polyester uniforms with big bubble caps. I was fired for taking vacation before my six weeks probation period was over. Other than that it was ok. I didn’t see anything weird or unhygienic.

Then I moved on to a local pizza place . . . sometimes on the grill, sometimes making the hoagies, sometimes at the ice cream counter. It was a blast, staffed by teens from the local boys and girls Catholic high schools. Owners lived upstairs and were very cool: the delivery guys would pick up beer on their last delivery that we could drink as we cleaned (but we had to pour it into the red plastic cups to be discreet :wink: That’s also where I learned to make pot pipes out of aluminum foil. Unfortunately, the hours sucked–during the school year we could be there until 1:30 or 2:00 and during the summer we sometimes had to work the day shift starting at 10:00, practically the middle of the night for a 16 yo. Not to mention, you always smelled like onions and grease at the end of the shift. Always cracked us up when guys tried to pick us up on the way home (maybe they were just hungry :confounded: Again, never witnessed anything gross/unhygienic.

Finally, I worked as a waitress at an Italian restaurant run by two Greek families. They were nice but a lot tougher than the pizza shop owners. Quit after about three weeks as the clientele were fond of running the staff around, but not so fond of tipping.

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Except when the kids were young I sometimes felt like a short order cook


Please disclose any affiliation with the IRS before I respond further.

And no, you can’t check my fore arms, hands, or fingers for scars.

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I spent 10 years, ages 16-26, working in restaurants part time. I did all aspects; hosting, cooking, serving, bar tending and managing. I liked bar tending best.

Worst memory was working in a place that made fried chicken. Was always greasy and smelled like fast food when I got home.

One thing I really disliked was being the non family staff member in a family business. Always got dragged into the drama.

At 26 I decided I didn’t want to turn into one of those life time servers and found other areas to work while finishing my education.

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Close. I owned a wine shop/winebar and prepared/served small things like cheese plates, panini, and flatbread ‘pizzas’ there and at a similar place for six years after that. Neither place was ever as busy as a ‘real’ restaurant I’m sure.

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Yes, in my younger days I was a dishwasher, busboy and then s short order cook. I also worked in the college cafeteria as a prep cook and dishwasher.

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Making noodles. Phongdien Town, Cantho City, Southern Vietnam.
Credit: CiaoHo