On The Line: Prologue

I firmly believe that anyone who decides to work as a professional cook for a living is a wonderful candidate for a mental study.  I’m pretty sure there are more rewarding careers in sewage.  Now that’s an actual cook, mind you, not a chef walking around a dining room shaking hands wearing a $350 coat with their name stitched in red silk, or sitting at a desk crunching numbers for a mindless, consciousless corporation.  The difference between those two and a cook is about $30,000 a year and a general happiness and satisfaction about one’s life.

The bus doors hissed open and I jumped out into the pouring rain, fishing around in the pockets of my rain coat for the battered, mostly empty container of cigarettes.  The restaurant is only three blocks away, but I’m an hour early for my shift, so I’m going to walk slow and enjoy the freedom while it lasts.  

The trees along the street are a riot of blazing orange, crimson and yellow.  It’s mid-october in Seattle, so the colors are only going to be around for another few weeks.  Against the paper-white sky the leaves are so vivid they look like they’ve been painted with oil. Briefly I wondered if I could get a job as an artist.  I dismissed it after about five seconds of consideration; I’m nowhere near talented enough.  According to the weather app on my phone, the rain is going to die down in a few hours or so.  Just in time for dinner service.  Hooray.

I mentally ran over my prep list again.  I wrote it out three times last night and have been repeating it to myself obsessively since I woke up around noon. Salmon, beets, fennel…

I hear my first chef’s voice screaming across the window.

“Prior preperation prevents piss-poor performance, Yannick! Are you fucking ready or what?”

Thanks Rod.  You fucker.

Sean the busboy is in front of the restaurant in his rain jacket, sweeping blood-red and gold leaves from the walk leading to the wood and iron bound front door.  He and I exchanged nods.  I’m staring down the barrel of a twelve-hour shift; I’m not ready to use my words yet.  The cigarette smoke is cold against the back of my throat.

Saison is one of the oldest restaurants in Seattle, but the owners have dumped a metric-fuck ton of money into the hundred something year old building and made it look like something out of Bladerunner.  Lots of sharp angles, shiny black metal and enormous, floor-to ceiling windows that have a demanding view of South Lake Union below.  The Michelin guide hasn’t come to Seattle yet, but if it did, Saison would have at least two stars.  

That used to make me proud.  I would puff up my chest, telling people things like ‘we’re the best restaurant in Seattle, hands down’, or ‘we eat black truffles for family meal!’.  

Now, I don’t give a fuck.  Yes, it’s the best food in the city.  Yes, we would undoubtedly get at least one if not two Michelin stars if the guide ever made it’s way this far northwest.  But the cost is the lives and souls of the ghouls that work there.

The cooks and servers use the back door, around the block behind the dumpster enclosure.  God forbid we use the front door, we might be seen.  The horror.  I flicked my cigarette butt into the dumpster but didn’t touch the door.  I needed a minute.  

It’s Saturday, around one o’clock in the afternoon, and I would rather get hit by that passing bus on the street than walk inside this restaurant and go to work.  This is normal, right?  Everyone feels this way about their job.  

Quit being a bitch.  Open the door.

I knocked loudly and opened the door.  Here we go.

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