March 17, 2012

Back in black

Just when I thought I was out, they pull you back in.

OK, in truth, I went back willingly.

I spent two decades working in restaurants, both casual and formal. As I mentioned before, most of my friends are people I worked alongside, or are related through one level of separation. My jobs since that time have been a mix of construction and finance, and a big part of me resisted getting back into the restaurant industry. I enjoyed my time there, but I wasn't looking forward to the odd hours and working weekends. But times have been thin for a long time, so I started putting in applications to supplement my income.

Unfortunately, no one has called back. There is no question in my mind that I would do well, be an asset, yadda, yadda, yadda, but I have been out of the game for eight years, and of course there are many more people looking for any kind of work these days. My job search for restaurant work was going about as well as my job search for office work. Nowhere.

And then I got the email. My friend Tami was chatting with a friend who does catering down here in San Diego, and mentioned my name. After a day of playing phone tag, we finally connected last Friday morning. After a quick chat about what we were each looking for, she said she could use some help that weekend. After work, I rushed out to buy a black, button-down shirt that only waiters seem to wear, and was up til midnight laundering, ironing and deciding which dress shoes would be the most comfortable.

I got the call early the next morning to be in at 10am. I showed up dressed head to toe in black, not knowing what I would be doing, or even where I would be working. I had sunscreen and sunglasses in case we would be outside, a notepad and pen in case I would be taking orders, and some folding money to make change or pay for parking.

It was all a bit of a whirlwind, and when I arrived there wasn't a moment to stop and get acquainted. The small kitchen was filled with a crush of people getting food prepped, and the woman who had hired me was busy working on one of the dishes. There was no separation of cooks and waiters, just everyone jumping in where needed to get the job done. I did my best to pitch in and hang on.

As each dish was completed and wrapped, they went into one of the two vans waiting to whisk it away. The clock ticked louder as the deadline approached, but somehow it all came together at the last minute. There were at least three events each day, so as soon as one was over, we had to pack, clean, prep and set up for the next one. Frenetic rushing around followed by slower moments of making sure everything was topped off and kept clean.

I ended up working Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I probably did more food preparation in three days than I had in eight years at the Keg. As the new guy I felt a little clueless, but as the weekend wore on, it all started to come back to me. The energy, the teamwork, the constant need to adjust priorities; the lingo, the jokes, the balance, the rhythm; an old familiar world brought back.

I am essentially on-call at this point, and I will be brought in when there are larger events in town, so I don't know how much work there will be. For now, I will take what I can get and hopefully things will pick up at both places. Like the job itself, you never know how busy it will be, and you always have to be ready to shift gears when take advantage of an opportunity walking through the door.


Me said...

A man has to do what a man has to do right? Who knows where this leads right? Maybe a publisher who needs an editor - just keep smiling.

BTW - I rec'd an email that you left a comment, but the comment never showed up on the blog. It was weird. Any ideas?

tami said...

Back in the saddle again! I hope you get more work from this and can't wait to see you all in a few weeks.