“Well…they can just go f*** themselves…” said one of the chefs. We all laughed appropriately, I guess you could say.
I’ve been working a few Plate & Pitchfork events this summer. Basically, P&P asks chefs from around the Portland area to cook for 100-120 people in the middle of farms in and around the Portland area. Generally it’s a farm, sometimes it’s a vineyard, but it’s always a little tricky. The beautiful part is that people get to see where their wine/food comes from. Right in the middle of it.
The dirt is right under your feet. You can taste it and smell it and feel its breeze on the back of your neck.
The past weekend I worked at Domaine Drouhin – a vineyard a few miles past Dundee, OR. Not only was it gorgeous, but it was hot! Well, Oregon hot (which is about 85-88). I know, right? As a Plate & Pitchfork server, you are asked to show up at 3pm and probably won’t be done cleaning up until 11:30pm. We are paid for this work, but it’s not the reason we do it. There are easier ways to make money, but what I’ve come to learn is that people WANT to do it.
It’s been good for me to see both sides of the business. There’s a big difference between BOH & FOH (Back/Front of House). In the Back of House are the cooks, dishwashers, etc. Front of House are the servers, Maitre d, bartender, greeter, etc. I’ve generally only worked in cafes. So, I’m always both, I reckon’. I’ve never been a server (professionally) in a restaurant and if possible, I’d like to keep it that way. For one, I’m incredibly introverted. Constant interaction is exhausting. But…behind the scenes, I’m a little more capable.
When we have friends over, I sometimes joke that my wife Hannah is FOH and I’m BOH — she can chat them up and I’ll cook for them. This doesn’t mean I’m a hermit, it just means I tire twice as quickly when faced with constant chit-chat/this-that. I love meetin’ and chattin’, I’d just rather be the one pushing out food.
Last night, one of the courses was a crawfish boil. The crawfish came from Timothy Lake, which is about an hour and a half southeast of Portland. They were HUGE! Way bigger than Louisiana crawfish. We were instructed (well, those who had never eaten crawfish) on the “how-to” of crawfish dismembering. “Squeeze the tail and the head. Twist. Take off the first couple ribs of shell, pinch the end of the tail and pull out. Suck the head, if you want!” Which let’s be honest, the best stuff is in the head.
“Table four hates me,” said Jordan, one of our fantastically hilarious servers. “…they said they didn’t know they were going to need to work for their food..”
This is when the chef came over and asked what they had said and let out his perfectly placed F-Bomb that sums up most cooks’ disgust with people who either don’t like the food or who are extremely picky and leave most of it on the plate.
Then there are the servers — “Table six is hounding me for more wine and there’s no more left…” — “Why can’t they treat you like a human, HEY! HEY! HEY! YOU OVER THERE!”
Yes, we whine…but it helps. It gives you a bit more sanity in the midst of a difficult crowd.
In the middle of the cooks crackin’ up, the servers blowing off a little steam and the tables loud with satisfied humans who are full and all a bit tipsy, we sit back and know that they’re leaving happy.
We all shared in an important experience. To see where our food is grown and to appreciate it deep, deep down in our bellies.