Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. This week, we're dealing with truly horrible co-workers, most of whom received their just comeuppance.* As always, these are real stories from real readers.
First, a quick word about one of my own former bosses. Now, I've had some wonderful managers in the past — a few of them might well be reading this (hi Debbie, Ed, Aurora, Jim, and Karina, if you're reading!), and they're far from the only great managers I've had. For the most part, I've actually been really lucky when it came to bosses and co-workers in general. I did, however, have one miserable waste of oxygen as a GM in Frederick, MD, who fired me for not showing up to work after I had been given explicit permission not to be at work that day by the assistant manager (as in told SPECIFICALLY, "no, we have plenty of people, it's completely cool if you stay home today because of the back pain you're dealing with after the car accident you were in on Christmas Day"). He even tried to stop me from collecting unemployment after he fired me — a process which ended in thorough defeat for him after it became blatantly obvious that the supposed stack of write-ups he'd brought to the Hearing Examination were fabricated after the fact (not one of them contained my signature). As far as I know, he's still stuck working a miserable job he hates, become more and more embittered by the day, while I get to make dick jokes about candy bars for a living and not put on pants for days at a time.
I won, asshole.
Kinja user SylviaBloodBath:
"My boss at the middle eastern restaurant where I worked was the worst ever. He was often very sexist, and was impossible to talk to. He often gave me long lectures on why I should consider Islam and all the reasons why America had corrupt morals. At first, my good liberal upbringing and respect for multiculturalism inspired me to be a good listener and to try to sympathize with his perspective, but soon I realized that the truth was he was just an asshole, no matter the culture.
The worst experience I ever had with him was partially due to my own stupidity. One Sunday he asked me to help him with some minor food prep, something that was not typically part of my job duties. I didn't do it to his satisfaction, so he started saying things like, "How will you ever keep a husband if you can't cook?"
"I don't want a husband, " I replied.
He shook his head. "All women need husbands," he informed me. "You have his children and cook his meals, and he'll support you and give you gifts when you're, you know..." and at this point I swear to god that he mimed having period cramps. His wife used to work in the back sometimes, and he yelled at her a lot. I don't claim to know the inner workings of their relationship, but let's just say that I found the idea that he gave her period-presents extremely suspect.
I tried to tell him multiple times that I didn't need that stuff, but he just kept shaking his head and saying, "You'll see." So I did something very stupid.
I was just so mad, and I wanted to prove him wrong, so I made up a lie. I said, "No, I know I will never marry a man, because I am a lesbian."
I'm not a lesbian. Also it was incredibly stupid of me to think that a man with such a strong belief in gender roles would respond well to homosexuality. I just got mad and let my desire to "win" the conversation overtake my good sense.
"A lesbian? What? You mean you like women?"
"Uh, yeah, I like women and not men. So I'm not getting married," I said.
He shook his head again. "No, no. Don't you see, the penis is meant to go into a vagina, that is how we're designed!" Thankfully at that moment a customer finally came in, giving me an excuse to flee the kitchen. I also texted one of my friends who is gay that day, saying "HEY MAN, DID YOU KNOW YOUR PENIS IS ACTUALLY MEANT TO GO INTO A VAGINA???" to which he responded, "SHIT, NO WAY! GODDAMIT, I'VE BEEN SO CONFUSED!" Yes, we text in all caps.
So, the next day at work, it was just my boss and me (the restaurant did not do well at all, it was empty quite often). He asked me to come back in the kitchen to help do the dishes (our dishwasher had gotten deported and the boss hadn't bothered to replace him). I was already annoyed at this request, as the old dishwasher had gotten paid a lot more than me, so I viewed it as unfair to both serve tables and wash dishes for $2.40/hour. Nevertheless, he was the boss, so I headed into the back.
He handed me a leather apron, which I put on. I reached back to tie the strings, but he stepped up behind me and said, "I'll tie it." I shrugged and let him. I was kind of looking over my shoulder as he knotted the strings, not for any real reason, but he suddenly said, "Don't worry, I'm not going to touch you." I don't know why exactly, but it's insanely creepy when someone, out of nowhere, starts assuring you they won't harm you. It's kind of like, well, if you have to say it...
So he was making me nervous at this point, but I still dutifully went to the dishwashing station to scrub plates and pass them to him. We worked quietly at first, but after a moment he leaned in and asked me, "So how do they do it? How do lesbians have sex?" Seeing my shocked facial expression he went on to tell me a story about how when he first came to America he worked delivering stuff to high schools and when he used the bathroom he was really puzzled by the vending machines in there that dispensed condoms, because he had no idea what a condom was, and that he wasn't trying to be a creeper (not his term) but he truly didn't know, and was curious. I knew this was totally not ok, but I also felt bad for him and wasn't sure what to do.
"Umm... have you ever heard of a vibrator?" He shook his head no. "A dildo?" Another head shake. "Like, you know, oral sex?" Head shake. "Uh, you should really go to a sex toy shop and ask them. They can explain it better." A customer came in then, and I ran out of there as fast as I could."
Kinja user Sid Fishous:
"I worked at a small family owned restaurant for two years, and it had a big raw bar and seafood selection. Every day we would get fresh crabs delivered, and they would be delivered alive. One of the cooks' favorite games was to scare each other by hiding the living crabs in places—the walk in, the kitchen trash, the oven, etc.
We had one particularly loathsome bar tender at the time. We called him the Angry Ginger, and he had one of the worst attitudes I have ever encountered in a work environment. On top of that, he would frequently get totally shitfaced on Fernet while working (there was rarely actual coffee in his coffee cup).
One of the cooks decided to have some fun with him one shift, and put one of the crabs in the bar's ice bin. Needless to say, when he opened the ice bin and saw a squirming live crab in there, he yelled "FUCKING SHIT!" at the top of his lungs in front of a bunch of customers."
Kinja user RedWriter:
"When I was 18/19 and a server, our kitchen manager Jeff, started doing his front-of-the-house training to eventually become a front-of-house manager. As a KM, he had an intimidating aura, but he was rarely unpleasant. I didn't get a bad vibe from him until he started playing favorites. He was very blatant about it and pissed a lot of people off. I wasn't a favorite, but I wasn't on his bad side either, so it wasn't that big of a deal for me. The only thing I did was stay out of his way when he got angry, but he was really scary.
Also, I was going to school and partying extremely hard, and for one particular class, I was almost always late. However, this really nice older lady always saved me a seat next to her and let me copy her notes (she was crazy awesome for doing so). I would give her rides to her car and we would chat. A lot of the times we would talk about her daughter, whom she adored, but didn't get to see much of because she hated her son-in-law. HATED him. Talked so much shit about what a fucking coward he was, among other things. She was not a fan.
Fast forward to a Saturday night, middle of the shift, and two cops show up in full uniforms, standing in our crowded lobby. They asked the hostesses for Jeff. Our actual manager, Jenny, came up twenty seconds later and asked what this was about. The cops said they needed to make an arrest. At this point, it had gone completely quiet and the entire lobby was listening. Jenny said she'd get Jeff and asked if they could go outside around the back to discuss this. The cops agreed and they went out of sight.
It was probably 30 minutes before the cops left, with Jeff, and the staff was buzzing. Were they doing a sweep? No, because then half our staff would be gone. No one had a clue.
Cut to a couple of weeks later, I'm in class and talking to my friend. She had missed the previous week, and I asked what was up. She said that her son-in-law had gotten arrested and she was helping her daughter move out of their house.
"Oh, she's finally leaving him?"
"About fucking time. You know he beats her? In fact, he beat the shit out of her and then went to work like nothing happened. She called me and I called the cops. Had him arrested at work."
"...is your son-in-law's name Jeff?
"Yes. How do you know that?!"
Yep. Jeff was a fuckhat who abused his wife on a daily basis, then one day put her in the hospital and skipped off to work like nothing happened. He never came back after that, for obvious reasons."
Do you have a crazy restaurant story you'd like to see appear in Behind Closed Ovens? Please e-mail WilyUbertrout@gmail.com with "Behind Closed Ovens" in the subject line. Submissions are always welcome!
*I'm aware the guy in the first story didn't receive any comeuppance, although the fact that he'd clearly never experienced a blowjob has to count as a manifestation of karma in the grand scheme, so fuck it, we're counting it.
Image via alexsvirid/Shutterstock.