Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Jeannie Jonston Pub

The last restaurant I worked in before hanging up my apron for good and retiring from professional food service was the pub at the end of my street. I was still kind of recovering from my broken leg, and wanted some part time work while I continued on with school (for the computers), so I walked on down the street and asked if they were looking for help. The bartender seemed very eager for me to fill out an application, but they were out, so he asked if I could come back later, which I did.

I rolled in again around 5:30 and the owner Hank had arrived, they wanted me to start right then and there! Okay, I said, why not, let me just get my tools (knives, spatulas, etc., I kept it all in a toolbox from my hotel cooking days), and we'll get this party started. You see, the head cook of the pub had gone MIA (turns out he was in the poky) and the owner had been cooking for the last 3 days.....and he ain't no cook, believe me.

It was a trial by fire, the kitchen was a disaster area, food was unwrapped and unlabeled, meats had turned, in short, it was a shitshow. However, I am a professional, and I cleaned up as I went along, threw out the bad foods, and wrapped and labeled the good, all the while cooking up a menu that was brand spanking new to me (not THAT big a deal, since it was pub grub, but still, when you don't know where everything is it can be hard, oh, and I also had to do the dishes too, the kitchen was literally too small for another body to be in there doing dishes).

A few days later the full time guy got out of jail. The owner told me since I helped him out of a pinch, that I could pick which days I wanted to work, I chose Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and noooo weekends (I had school on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every other Saturday), for awhile there life was sweet.

The head cook, however, was a slob...oh, and a crack addict, and he didn't like what I was doing to his little world. One day I stopped by for a beer on one of my off days, and he tried to tell me to stop wrapping and labeling the prep work on my days because it's too difficult for him to unwrap it for use!!! I just looked at him for a few seconds, and then said "yeah, I can't do that".

Let me tell you something about myself, in the kitchen, I am a bit of a control freak. It's my nature to fix what's wrong in a kitchen and get the ship steering right, this was not to the liking of the head cook, so he did what any sane person would do, smoked a ton of crack, beat his wife and got thrown in jail for 6 months, problem solved!

I told the owner Hank "look man, you need a head cook, school is wrapping up for me, let me do one year here for you, fix your kitchen, fix your menu, and make this a place where people would want to eat", he was happy to take the offer. That following year I did all the ordering, cooking, cleaning and menu retuning for the pub, it was a pretty good time, and when my shift was done, he let me drink for free, which was HUGE (well hugely dangerous, I kinda drank too much during that period).

All told, I worked there for one year (plus a few months extra as a favor while we looked for a suitable replacement), and still drink there to this day, in fact, less than 24 hours ago to be exact. I met people who I will be friends with for life, and some folk who I never want to see again, all told it was a fun year, and a great way to hang up my hat on the cooking world. I will leave you with a picture of me, in the window of the Jeannie J, screaming to be let out (you can see this photo and more on the Jeannie Jonston's web site where I am still (it's been 3 years now Hank, change the site!) listed as an employee...I am Unkle Joe)


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Cool story. I'm the same way in the kitchen, I'm a control freak when I cook and it pisses off my girlfriend but since I do 99% of the cooking at our place she's gotten used to it.

Whiskeymarie said...

I think you need to be a control freak, to some degree, to make it in a kitchen.
I love that picture. I felt like that most days at work back in the day. Now I only feel like that maybe once a week. Well, o.k, maybe twice. Or maybe...