Where are my fellow current or past industry peeps?

I was having this conversation with someone and we thought it would make an interesting topic. While working in a restaurant what were some of the best /worst experiences you had with the food?

For myself I owned a Steakhouse and although I Love, love, love steak after 6 mos of steak every night I couldn’t do it anymore. So I switched to my second favorite and far more diversified food choice, pasta. I would actually make a pot of Sunday gravy (serve meatballs as an appetizer special) so I could have the gravy for myself to eat all week.

Needless to say with my carb overload diet, and daily over abundance of alcohol, my weight climbed significantly while owning that restaurant.

So what are some of your best or worst food, diet or meal related stories while working in the biz?

1 Like

The only time I worked at a restaurant is was when I was 16 years old .
Worst : Washing dishes
Best : 16 oz Coors in the walk in that I would throw a quarter in the kitty for on Saturdays . And the boy hood crush I had on a waitress .

2 Likes

The farmers we buy produce from are an amazing group of people. It’s not really a story but my interactions with them have really enriched my life.

1 Like

Please share some examples!

To the best of my recollection:

My first restaurant job was at Cooky’s Steak pub located in
Scarsdale, NY It was a very good chain … I was very, very young when I
worked there, maybe 13. I was a “relish girl” worked part time and ate well when there. I always had the
same thing: bbq ribs and chicken with a baked potato, unlimited salad and unlimited ice cream.
It was while working at Cooky’s that I developed a love of really good house made restaurant salad dressings as well as an obsession with coffee ice cream topped with toasted coconut and chocolate sauce … this never got old. The food I consumed was probably worth more $$$ than what was in my actual paycheck.

When I started College I went to work at another ( new) chain. I worked a number of different positons, one which included my being part of a corporate training team that traveled and opened company stores and franchises … this is where I developed my love of absolute vodka … this love affair, the work hours and the cash derailed college for a bit. There was a lot of vodka consumed during these years … when we traveled to open stores we ate at sister restaurants, usually once a day and almost always it was breakfast. Definitely not recommended when you are working an 80 hour week. When working at the home base store it was usually breakfast as well. When working until closing which was 4:00 am, either eat breakfast at a local diner and then drive out to Jones Beach or drive straight out and grab breakfast at the beach upon waking. When not working until closing it was work, club, dancing, breakfast and beach. I did somehow begin to enjoy preparing food at home during my rare sober waking moments, in fact became a pretty proficient cook. I don’t recommend this lifestyle to anyone over 25 … plenty of dark days lie ahead

When it was time to get the college degree for real, I went back to part time restaurant work. I did not food shop, prepare or keep food in my house at all during these years … I ate and (drank) at work. I did not work everyday and therefore I did not eat everyday … I worked at several different types of restaurants including a couple on the very high end … It did not hurt that I dated a chef from one of them and was treated to some of his spectacular homemade meals as well as some spectacular meals at some really wonderful NYC restaurants … Chef boyfriend introduced me to Foie gras, it was most definitely love at first bite

After getting a “real” job I occasionally would work a catering job. Either in the homes of regular customers I had gotten to know over the years, usually when they would host perhaps a NYE or any other special occasion party or to help out a friend still in the industry … I had two favorites … 1st, was the Japan Airlines-Big Apple Classic golf tournament held at the Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, NY. Those female golfers were a hoot and the spread the club put out was fabulous, I ate myself silly. It was a fun and easy job. 2nd was working for a friend who was a former Rock star turned caterer. Anytime he was catering an event on one of the party boats it was a good time, always terrific food and the best people, a little surprise entertainment and circling Manhattan at night lit up … nothing like it!

4 Likes

I miss that Women’s Golf Tour at Wykagyl. It was close enough to walk there from where I live. And the golfers and the crowds used to spill over into nearby restaurants…

1 Like

Ok. We are in central NJ and although NJ is the ‘Garden State’ people don’t think of it that wa anymore. Maybe southern NJ but not around here - Monmouth County. It’s the burbs. So, most or maybe all of the farmers we deal with are small farms - 40 acres or so. And they’re growing produce which unlike crops like corn, wheat & soybeans is all hand work. These guys work hard. And all of them are working farms that have been in their families for 3 or more generations. I admire and am inspired by their hard work & dedication to the land that their grandfathers firs cultivated. A few years ago the state tried to eliminate the Farm Bureau and the farmers drove about 600 tractors right into downtown Trenton to protest.

They have tremendous pride in their produce and are often amazed when I praise their product & tell them how important it is to us. Because of what they do we are able to make and sell a line of more than 30 items all made with local produce. They love seeing their stuff in jars and sometimes we do some special labels that say “Made Entirely With Produce From X’s Farm” so we can give it to them. For us, the produce has to be damned near perfect, they know it & we know it & they have tremendous pride in producing it. Their generosity is outstanding also. They always give us deals & knock down the price; sometimes to the point I have to tell them that I won’t take it at that price. They really like selling our stuff to. Our farmer, Ben, tells everybody that every strawberry & every cucumber in the jars grew right there on his farm.

A quick story: Last year I was out at the Leola Produce Auction & a young Amish Farmer had brought his first produce to the auction. Now this stuff was spectacular. Every piece was beautiful & everything was obviously packed with extreme care to preserve the quality & freshness of the produce during transport. He was worrying & told his wife he hoped it would sell. Not just that he would get a good price but that it would sell at all. I had to laugh & I said to him 'You take this for granted - you think all produce is like this. It’s not." I happened to see him after the auction & asked how he did. He was ecstatic that people valued his product & he had sold it all for a fair price.

I find that all of these guys totally underestimate how valuable what they do is to the communities in which they live and how much more valuable it will be going forward.

I find all this very inspirational & rewarding.

7 Likes

It’s a great story … and an important and terrific post!

Joe nice story. As a fellow Monmouth County person let me offer you an opportunity to plug your product(s), what exactly is it that you do?

Your words to the wise of not recommending the lifestyle to anyone over 25 couldn’t be more spot on. It’s a younger persons game it honestly is. I will tell you this much though, being a server taught me more about mental organization and calm under pressure than any school or job could. When I worked as a server this was before the incarnation of a food runner, as a server you took the order, fired and ran your own food. If you had 5+ tables going at once, the fewer steps you take into and out of the kitchen dictates your entire night, knowing to marry items from different tables on your tray, Salads for table # 2 with the deserts for table # 7 etc.

I learned so many business and life lessons in the industry it’s truly amazing. Grueling at times but amazing none the less.

2 Likes

OK JR I’ll take you up on that invitation. We have a small (but growing) company called Boheme Foods. We make a line of small batch hand made products from (mostly) local produce. Our products include: Crock-Fermented Sauerkraut; Pickled Beets; Bread & Butter Pickles; Dill Chips; Strawberry, Sour Cherry, Plum, Peach & Cranberry-Orange Jams; Orange Marmalade; Red Pepper Jam, Mild & Hot; Red Pepper Sauce Hot & Mild; Sriracha Sauce; Spicy Brown, Horseradish & Honey Mustard; Pasta Sauce (made from ALL NJ Tomatoes which we all know are the best tomatoes on earth). Infused Vinegars & a bunch of other stuff. I don’t say it’s organic but it’s all natural. I always tell people that it’s not just what we put in it - i’s also what we DON’T put in it. NO preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, no stabilizers, HFCS or any of that crap. You can read every label on every product and you will recognize every ingredient. Now one disclaimer; the oranges in the Orange Marmalade do not come from East Orange. We mostly use California Oranges. Also the mustard seed ( which we grind ourselves) while not from NJ - can’t find anybody growing it here - is all grown in the US but we buy it from a bulk dealer in Denver. Otherwise it’s all local stuff and now we have farmers growing especially for us.

Mostly we sell wholesale to farm stands & farmers markets around the area but now & then we do a retail thing and I think we may do more of that this year. It’s a lot of fun, the farmers are great & people really like the products. I had a sort of mind blowing e-mail from our label supplier in Jan. They said thanks for your business last year… Looking forward to business this year… You bought 12,500 labels from us last year. Wow.

And here’s a couple pictures from our booth at the Asbury Biergarten Winter Holiday Market:

Thanks JR

2 Likes

Sorry - here’s the pics.

1 Like

Cool, Joe B.
I’ve never worked in the restaurant biz.
I like eating and eating out so I didn’t want to screw up that fun.
I chose the music/culture biz to ruin my life with instead.
Worked in a delivery grocery store once delivering to rich dowagers in their high rises.
Thank god I liked to smoke dope.

3 Likes

The organizational skills comment is sooo true! I worked in restaurants from age 16-26. I did everything from cooking, serving, bartending and assistant managing. I maximize my time in everything that I do by mentally organizing my next steps. I was actually explaining this same thing to my husband the other day, who never worked in a restaurant.

My food memories- when working in nightclubs, I knew every restaurant that was open until 4am and we always went for food after cash out.

High end restaurants - most of the servers were on coke or “e” at the time. The cooks were always smoking pot. Chefs were usually alcoholics.

Tons of things I’d never touch at a chain restaurant- never order the onion soup at a chain. It generally sits in the steam table and gets diluted with water from time to time. Throw a crap load of cheese on it because cheese make everything better!

4 Likes

& for those of you who are interested, we have a booth @ the Englishtown Auction/Flea Market. Indoors in the Green Building Booth #62. Stop by & say hi.

Good to know, I don’t really make it over there too often but my wife has an optometrist that she goes to there. (No joke)

We are right across from his booth Jr.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold