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’ve got restaurant employees who ran out of fucks and just couldn’t help themselves from giving in to their inner smartass. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
This took place several years ago in the town of Fayetteville, AR, at a restaurant known as ROTC (The Restaurant on the Corner). The waiter in question, we’ll call him Simon, was a waiter who earned the favor of regulars by being efficient and direct but made no attempt to be pleasant just to fish for tips or, frankly, for any reason whatsoever. Curt, typically scowling, and on weekend mornings and afternoons and almost invariably severely hung over, he could be a nightmare for newcomers not prepared for the no-nonsense approach he took to the job.
One Sunday brunch, I and some friends were dining there when the table besides us, a family of five or six people, flagged him down. Now, they weren’t especially rude, but it was a very busy morning and they weren’t his customers (their waiter had been gone for several minutes). “Young man,” the matron of the group said to him, indicating the baked potato on her plate, “I’m afraid there’s been a mistake. I ordered hash browns. That is a baked potato.”
Simon stood there for a few silent seconds with a blank expression, like he was only slowly able to process the events taking place before him. Then with a look of genuine confusion, he leaned over and eyeballed the potato. Slowly, gently, he reached over and lifted it from her plate. He stood again and inspected it, holding it above his head to check the underside, turning it around to investigate every angle. Then, seemingly satisfied with his evaluation, he returned it to her plate, turned to her and replied, “You’re absolutely right, ma’am, that IS a baked potato!” Then, leaning down in an almost conspiratorial fashion, he pointed towards the kitchen and said, “Don’t let them fool you!”
With that, and before the shocked and confused customers could immediately respond, he made off to the back, leaving them speechless and our table trying to suppress muffled giggles.
I was working in a confectionery stand/bar in a small theater. It was opening night for Rocky Horror and we had these flashing daiquiri cups that we used to serve, well, daiquiris. We served them in all our previous shows too, and the amount of parents who would get upset when we said their children couldn’t have them because they were not “slushies” was disturbing. “But little Johnny wants it.” “Yes, but I can’t serve a child alcohol.” “But he wants it!” “I can put coke in it if you like, and he can have the cup.” “No, he wants a slushy!” “We don’t serve slushies. You can buy the cup and go to 7-11 afterwards?” *entitled parental rage rant* And so it would go.
This night was particularly special. Post-show, we didn’t serve drinks, and the tills were already packed up, so I was closing down the bar. I was usually always so polite, but I had become a broken woman from years of daiquiri-slushy meltdowns—and I had been screamed at twice that day by D-grade ‘celebrities’ who were attending the opening. Being an opening, champagne, beer, wine and soft drinks were free. Our infamous machine-made daiquiris, however, were not, since management wanted to try and make some money out of all these nobodies.
A severely drunk man approached the bar and grabbed a cup.
“I’m just going to take this.”
“Cool, but then I’m going to call the cops straight after.”
“Oh no, it’s fine, I’m friends with the owner.”
“Great, I hear he buys his friends expensive gifts, so you can ask him for this cheap cup instead when you next see him then.”
“Do you know who I–”
“No. Have we met?”
“You’re really cheeky.”
“You’re really entitled.”
“Excuse me? I’ll have you fired.”
I handed him my phone. “OK. Why don’t you call (owner’s name) now since you’re such great friends and ask for the cup and get me fired because I’m doing my job and not letting someone I don’t know steal his stock?”
I called security over, got my cup back and the guy got thrown out. Turns out the cup was broken anyway so I ended up just throwing the fucking thing out.
I worked there two more years and got several promotions, so I guess they were best friends.
(Editor’s Note: Holy shit, Dani is my fucking hero.)
This didn’t happen at a restaurant, but in the office of the preschool I worked at in AmeriCorps. My coworker and I were in our early 20’s and working out of the office, which was actually the kitchen where we cooked food for the kids (all allergy friendly, no peanuts, no dairy). So I was unable to bring my go-to lunch, the classic PB&J, and would regularly bring leftovers or a frozen meal if I was super lazy.
About the middle of the year, my coworker got really into crossfit and paleodieting and would constantly tell me that I was fat and lazy because I ate things like processed food or cheese. CHEESE. One day, he showed up with a bunch of hamburger meat, and at lunch proceeded to lecture me about the benefits of raw food and how we’ve evolved to eat raw food and we’re just fooling ourselves by cooking everything. Then he proceeded to eat about 3/4 a pound of raw ground meat. I was absolutely disgusted and told him he was going to get sick.
He left early that day saying he wasn’t feeling well and was out for the rest of the week. When he came back, I had this playing on his computer.
He never lectured me on the merits of raw food again.
I was working drive-thru at a charming Mexican cantina chain with a talking Chihuahua for a mascot (we affectionately called it Toxic Hell), when a man sporting the local Tennessee drawl pulls up and asks, “‘scuze me...? Do y’all have burr-ee-toes?” I recall clearly that we had more varieties of burrito on the menu than any other kind of fake-ass TexMex “cuisine” (even more than the namesake product). Further, note that, in the drive-thru, there’s a board that spells all that crap out.
I don’t know where my response came from, but it made me believe in angels or the collective subconscious or whatever.
“No, sir. You want Burrito Bell. They’re right down the street.”
He paused, said “Okay,” and drove off.
I worked at a Greek place for a while. We had a mother and daughter (who were part of the richest family in town) come in weekly and never tip. They always ordered souvlaki, but always complained that it had a stick in it. The waitress would ask if they wanted it without the stick, but noooo, they wanted the stick in it so that they could send it back to the kitchen to have the stick removed (because they couldn’t do it themselves). They were also of the age where the cold grasp of the grave prevented them from feeling any warmth, so everything had to be sent back to be reheated several times.
On her last night, one waitress grabbed some brandy that we used for saganaki on her way back out to the table with their re-heated food. She threw it down, lit it on fire, and said “Is it hot enough now?”
She was truly a hero.
I worked for a very small, independent coffee house throughout my undergrad. The place was well known in the city where I lived; employees and customers alike were quite fond of it. We were in a wealthier part of the city, so I dealt with a lot of upper-class white ladies in expensive yoga pants who ordered really complicated drinks, but I wasn’t bothered by them. The obnoxious customers were the coffee snobs who would want to huff and chew the beans to make sure they were “fresh enough” (we roasted all our beans a few blocks away), or guys who would stand over us while we did a pour-over, timing it on their iPhones.
One day I had an middle-aged gentleman come in who liked to think of himself as an expert on all things beverage-related. He had recently decided to become an expert on teas. He was testing my knowledge with a lot of questions that led me to believe he didn’t actually know much. I didn’t mind him too much at first and went along with it, trying to gently explain the difference between white, black, green, and other teas and how they all aren’t the stuff that comes in a bag from Lipton. He made a comment about how he liked their tea; “it’s clean tasting.” and I said something like, “It’s funny you mention that, because I just read this article on black teas in The Economist—”
And before I can even finish, the guy is throwing back his head and belly-laughing. “Oh!” He says, fake-wiping a tear from his eye, and in a really condescending tone goes on, “Did you accidentally pick up your husband’s magazine?”
In an equally shitty tone, I just responded, “Would it make you feel better if I said I’d read it in Cosmo?”
I work at a casual Egyptian restaurant in Ontario that specializes in Middle Eastern cuisine like shawarma and kofta and the like. One day I get a couple who are clearly noobs, so I go out of my way to explain the menu, bringing them to the display and explaining to them the difference between chicken shawarma and shish tawouk and what tabbouleh is, etc., just to make sure they know what they’re ordering. They hum and haw over the menu (which is, admittedly, pretty extensive) and seem to become almost irritated as the items continue to sound foreign to them. I finally manage to pique their interest when I get to the manaeesh—an Arabic-style pizza—which is pretty straight-forward and customisable. We’re still using ingredients like shawarma, akawi cheese and zataar, but you can also just design your own. After musing on the idea for a moment, the husband finally asks:
“What’s the most Canadian style you have?”
It took a lot of self-control not to reply by giving him directions to the closest Pizza Hut.
Kinja user moistgroinsupper:
I was ambushed into my first real cooking job at White Wolf Lodge in Yosemite National Park when one of the cooks decided wandering off drunk into the forest was better than working. I got a crash course in cooking from the simple sauces, how to make a roux and use it, how to flip an egg, clarifying butter, etc. After about two weeks, they were ready to have me run a dinner shift on my own and our “senior” waiter Dave overheard me getting the go ahead for that night.
As he heard this, he decided he’d try and make a statement about our cooks inability to make anything without garlic in it and how much he hates garlic. Funny thing, this camp had an unwritten policy. Fucking with the cooks would get you without food real quick, or at least on the receiving end of hell to pay. I looked to one of the cooks I trained with and he said “You know what to do. You are ready.”
So I happily prepped away at my premiere solo dinner for the rest of the day. The dining room opened around 5pm, and I had just finished writing the menu for the chalkboard on our porch, and then I waited…
“GOD FUCKING DAMN IT!”
There it was. My menu:
WHITE WOLF LODGE’S SALUTE TO GILROY
Pasta – Aglio Y Olio – Angel Hair pasta tossed with Browned garlic and Olive Oil
Seafood – Shrimp Scampi
Chicken – Garlic Roasted Half Chicken
Vegetarian – Roasted Whole Garlic and Pasta
All dishes served with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes or Garlic and Herb Rice
Veg of the Day – Green Beans sautéed with Garlic and Almonds
Soup – Roasted Garlic and Potato Chowder
He never complained again.
I was about 21, working in a liquor store at the entrance to a shopping mall near my hometown. It was no secret that our prices were a little inflated due to being under the thumb of a larger chain of supermarkets owning the label. There was a smaller ma’n’pa-type bottle shop just across the parking lot—about 30 metres away—and it wasn’t uncommon to hear people remark among themselves that the prices over the road were cheaper and then to quietly slip out so I wouldn’t get offended—as if I could have cared any less regardless. I’d often send nice customers over there anyway for a bargain.
But this one day I’d had run of jerks, as well as an attempted shoplifting (idiot ran headfirst into the locked outer doors while trying to steal a really shitty bottle of bourbon), girlfriend troubles...the works. I was restocking cask wine, having just taken a call from the employee who was supposed to be closing the store saying he was sick so I’d have to do it myself, when a woman (who had been in before and was always supremely rude to the staff) marches over to me practically blowing steam out her ears with one of the pricing tickets in her hand.
“Do you REALISE that THIS cask of wine OVER THE ROAD is SEVEN DOLLARS CHEAPER than you? Can you EXPLAIN to me how you JUSTIFY this?”
I take a deep breath, place the last of the casks onto the shelf, turn to her, look directly into her eyes, and say:
“Well madame, I’m glad you asked, actually, because as an advocate for the Pixie Endangerment Society, this issue has been playing on my mind for quite some time. You see, all the casks here are sprinkled with a rather healthy dose of pixie dust, and in this cynical age, the failing belief in pixies has lead to a tragic decline in their population, thus sadly forcing our sprinkled wares to a premium. HOWEVER, if you were to stay right where you are and clap your hands while chanting ‘I DO believe in pixies!’ I believe that you may, in fact, be able to watch the ticket price fall before your very eyes!”
She gaped like a landed fish.
“OR, you could walk the thirty fucking metres across the carpark and save yourself the seven dollars that way. I don’t really mind.”
After she composed herself, she demanded to see the manager.
“Lady, I AM the manager.”
She left, unable to string any more words together.
The next day I arrived to work and the ACTUAL manager was on shift, saying he received a rather severe phone-call that morning from a customer who was outraged by the way she had been spoken to, and he wanted to know what had happened. I recounted the story to him, watching mild horror and some amusement creep over his face. He asked if I thought I overreacted a little, and I said, “Well, yes, but I’m sick of that woman and she caught me on a bad day.”
He thought a moment, and described the woman back to me, questioningly. I confirm.
“Oh thank fuck she won’t be coming back, then. I can’t stand her. But you’re still in trouble. Sort of. I guess. Ah, never mind it. Just don’t get into a habit of things like this.”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
We never saw her again.
I used to work at a theme park (not Disney). Everything was hideously over priced, it was full of rude teenagers, and the customers were always about a hair’s breadth away from a mental breakdown.
One time, a guy comes up to the till and asks for “one of those, what do you call it? Motchas?” My co-worker is pure evil. So he jumps in like, “Sure, one motcha coming up.” I swear in the space of about two minutes, he manages to use the word “motcha” about 7 times to this poor guy, who’s totally oblivious. I’m trying to serve him and sort out the rest of his order without cracking up. My co-worker comes up with one last “Here’s your motcha, sir,” and I have to fake a coughing fit and run into the back room.
Sorry, motcha guy.
My husband were at our favorite diner one super busy Saturday. As we were waiting to pay our bill, we got stuck behind a 20 something kid from the table right next to the register. He had been seated in a large 4 person booth with a 30 something woman and a baby in a high chair, and there were only dirty dishes in front of the woman. The kid hadn’t eaten anything.
It turned out he was refusing to pay his bill, complaining about the seat charge that had been added for him. It’s printed right in the menu, if you sit and don’t order anything they charge $x (I forget how much, it’s less than lunch but more than a drink). The owner was on the register and was just calmly sorting through receipts telling this kid over and over again, sorry, that’s our policy, printed right in the menu, sorry, you gotta pay, etc. The kid tried everything—I’m gonna leave a bad yelp review, I’m gonna tell all my friends and you’ll never get any business again (ha), cursing him out, etc. I don’t think he knew at first that he was talking to the owner, who just kept shrugging and reminding him the policy is printed in the menu.
Finally, this happened:
Kid: So, you just make up whatever rules you want?!?!
Owner: Yeah...it’s *my* restaurant.
Ha. We love him.
I don’t know what came over me, but this loud, obnoxious jerk (who was in a rush, of course) came running into my restaurant, he kept asking me questions, then interrupting when I tried to answer...and I just lost a little self control.
Guy: I’ll take a burger with lettuce and tomato.
Me: We don’t have lettuce or toma—
Guy: YOU’RE A HOT DOG AND BURGER PLACE AND YOU DON’T HAVE LETTUCE AND TOMATO???
Me: (fed up) No, we’re an alligator and party hat place, and today we’re giving away KAZOOOOOS!
...and then we just stand there staring at each other, because neither one of us knows what the fuck just came out of my mouth. Then the girl standing behind him just starts LOSING it. Like, laughing so hard she can’t breathe, so I start laughing, and now we’re just laughing in this guy’s face.
Guy: .........I guess i’ll have a hot dog.
Do you have a crazy restaurant or other food-industry story you’d like to see appear in Behind Closed Ovens (on ANY subject, not just this one)? Please e-mail WilyUbertrout@gmail.com with “Behind Closed Ovens” in the subject line (or you can find me on Twitter @EyePatchGuy). Submissions are always welcome!
Note: I do not want poop/vomit stories. Please stop sending me poop/vomit stories. Also, if your stories are not food-related in some way, I am unable to do anything with them. Sorry.
Image via Liv friis-larsen/Shutterstock.
Contact the author at WilyUbertrout@gmail.com.