Dinner and a Show
Kitchen terminology is strange. I’m not referring to exotic appliance names or menu items described in their original French vernacular. I raise an eyebrow at how simple English words can become so convoluted when spoken in a corporate bar/restaurant kitchen.
The word “fire” is a great example. To the general population, it is a noun as well as a verb. My industry however, has taken that verb and created a different verb that means put something over the noun. “Fire one steak” is an order commonly heard back of the house. This does not mean the NY strip will be applying for unemployment anytime soon nor will cutlets be flying from cannons. The phrase simply translates to “please place one steak on the fire”. It makes sense to me until non-flammable items need immediate preparation. “Fire one caesar salad”. No questions are asked, no debates concerning whether the romaine should be served mid-rare or well. The garde manger just quietly begins tossing his croutons. Literally not figuratively.
“Running” or “to be a runner” is another phrase I’ve recently pondered. Restaurants around the country understand “running” to be the act of bringing newly prepared dishes to their rightful tabletops. There are specific food runners whose job is solely to run or servers like myself might be asked to “run” in addition to their service duties.
The term “running” insists one should move in a hurried fashion though no actual physical running is ever encouraged. Nikes are not part of the uniform. The floors are not covered with that fabulous bouncy stuff seen on most Olympic tracks and sponsors like Wheaties and Gatorade are never on sight promoting their agenda. No numbers are worn, no awards given, no news coverage on Sportscenter. No yearly competitions held in the name of “running excellence”. The hot food simply is brought to a guest while it is still hot. In restaurants that can accommodate large groups, the quicker the hot food leaves the window, the quicker more hot food can replace it to feed the next guest, which in turn makes everyone happy: the hungry guest, the busy chef, the server anxious to turn a table, the owner anxious to see a profit. “Running” is to be quick and efficient with an underlying of urgency but with no actual running.
So with food delivery kept at a pace slower than 5 miles an hour, it might not seem possible for clothing to fly loose from the average food runners body leaving them shirtless at a table. My soup running experience though, is proof that it is possible and I have a useless uniform top as evidence.
On a positive note, the woman’s whose soup I “ran” concurred, yes, her soup indeed arrived hot. However, my shirt button that was left floating in her soup, distracted her from total soup enjoyment. Or maybe it was her husband’s eyes locked onto my Fredericks of Hollywood waterbra. Or, it could have been the 40 strange heads that snapped to stare in her general direction, correction my bra’s general direction. Perhaps she found it difficult to eat her soup with her lower jaw dropped open to the position it did. One thing was for certain: with part of my uniform now bobbing next to her garnish, she needed new soup.
Table 801, where soup woman was sitting, is a circular booth that can comfortably seat a party of 6. It’s back rest drops low on either side then dramatically curves up high in the center for an aesthetically pleasing visual and a bit of an optical illusion. At least that was my story- the optical illusion part. How else do I explain the gaping hole where my blouse front used to be to a seated party of 5, the floor manager, the general manager and the large group of wait-listed guests standing 8 feet away in our holding area during dinner rush.
If standing directly in front of table 801 the position immediately to the left is seat 1 or soup woman. Seat one has the low curving back rest that juts out just enough to catch one’s blouse when one leans over to deliver soup, if one is not paying attention. Being a runner I was delivering soup quickly, efficiently and with a sense of urgency and not really paying attention so when the planets finished aligning, boom there I was wondering how all 5 of my shirt buttons could be rendered from the cloth so quickly.
Being a runner I quickly, efficiently and urgently assessed my current situation and chose to do something a runner would never do on the floor.
It was a full Owens sprint back to the kitchen to regain my composure and wait for my manager to get me a new shirt. Someone else was kind enough to run a fresh tomato bisque to table 801, seat 1. It was common knowledge the hungry patron had seen enough of me.
Despite the double duty I performed with dinner and a show my night was far from over. The dinner rush was just beginning, and the restaurant was on an early wait which meant hours and hours of food running lay ahead. First on the list: the tables surrounding 801, all asked for soup.