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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Homo-Hetero-Retro (Russian Tour 07)

I would like to think that Danny Klecko is noble, fair and trustworthy.......but if I've learned one thing about anything in the last few years, its that everybody has a point where they will sell out, even me. As a Master Bread Baker who has been in the "Show" for 30ish years, I get people approaching me constantly to whore myself to levels you'd never guess a baker could stoop.

Sure I didn't cause irreparable damage by consenting to making those dinosaur head hamburger buns, or create trans fat filled buns for school children like a local meat company tried to pimp me into doing..........

I have had some of the biggest corporations lock me into their sound proof booths to scribble musings that would later have to be presented to a boardroom of suits......I can't tell you the company since I signed a confidentiality agreement, but rest assured, they are a front runner in the Global Feeding System, but the proceeds sent my son to Washington D.C. (funny....I've been to the Kremlin twice but never the White House)

Another time I was doing bread lectures at a State convention and some wily cat sidled up to me. He told me that he thought my presentation was fantastic, and then he proceeded to ask me if I would be willing to do some international consulting.

"Hells Bells" I told the guy, I'm a middle aged man with HBO and 4 dogs, why would I want to go anywhere.

The guy looked flummoxed and reminded me that my unique skill set may offer me opportunities to go ANYWHERE in the world that I desired. When I realized the guy was serious....I handed him my business card and issued instructions that I only wanted Poland or Russia.

2 days later my phone rang and I received an opportunity to tour Moscow, Novosibirsk and then the Asiatic Arctic diamond city of Aikhal......but that will have to be written about later. It was the most intense journey of my life, my own "Apocalypse Now" and I will have to pray about which details I will share with you.

My 2nd excursion led me to a city called Gelendzhik which rests on the Black Sea, these government "scopes" are queer because you never are certain as to who really is sending, financing, sponsoring your task, and even stranger....you are never told what the fruit of your labor will be plugged into.

My understanding is that in my tours the United States government sent funds to Russia, and they in turn contacted me and hired me out as an independent contractor. I received special clearance to places that most Russian citizens were not allowed to go. Quite thought provoking when you stop to consider that I've attended around a dozen short term jail visits over innocent misunderstandings.

During the Spring of 07, I was sent to the Gelendzhik Bakery with the mission of looking at their Moline Line and discussion theories concerning exponential growth.As far as the Moline Line went....the Administrator was tickled pink that they got it at a reduced price to knock out croissant and Danish pieces. The only problem was that the unit they scored was really meant to work with doughnuts. This put me in an awkward position......if I corrected this mishap....somebody would have to answer for being a dumba** and buying that rat trap.

The highlight of these scopes tends to be the relationship I develop with my interpreter. The Russians will usually assign an educated woman between 20-25 years old. These women are bright and will spoil you rotten. I think for them their street cred raises when they walk through a town with the sole "Americone."

My Black Sea attendant was a young lady named Jenya, she was 20 and was unusual by the fact that she had actually done some study in NYC. She hadn't been there in over a year, so much of our time was spent discussing Hip-Hop and Reality TV. The first couple days we hit our mission pretty hard. Direct instructions are seldom issued, typically you needed to unravel truths and be very willing to adapt.

At this point I started hearing about hotels and other concepts going up at a record pace around this region. It was explained to me that the Russians were battling the Austrians for the 2012 Winter Olympics bid. Most thought that Salzburg was the front runner, but Sochi (the district which I stayed in) was pushing hard and had a lot to offer. On any day of the year the conditions made it favorable for skiing, but yet when you came down to the Sea...it was warm enough to swim in.

Most of the gossip I picked up was in an Ukrainian Cafe, but when Jenya found out I was hanging there, she just rolled her eyes and mentioned "If you want to be with pigs....it must be so". Many younger Russians are not supportive of counties like Ukraine or Georgia for breaking away from the Republic. They view them as unpatriotic.

So that's pretty much how things went down, but now that you know the WHO-WHAT WHY....let me discuss my first day on the job. It was May 9th and in Russia this is known as Victory Day. This is where all of Russia celebrates the defeat of the Nazi's in WW2. Putin is shown in Red Square with tanks, war movies rotate throughout every TV channel, Vet,s squeeze into their uniforms and march through the city streets, I mean I'm telling ya kid....the whole country shuts down.

You gotta remember the Russians stood chest to chest with the Gerry's years before Uncle Sam got involved. In the Motherland...every family, not some....every family suffered numerous casualties. Even beer guzzling punks, and skater kids take time out of being rebels to honor their fallen during this holiday celebration.

So now that the history had been revealed to me, Jenya told me that on this day off we had a situation of importance, so I followed her down to the boardwalk where she told me to take a bench. Even though I am not a smoker...I was handed a pack and was told that we were going to play that game that they play in New York. I squinted with a look that indicated my ignorance and Jenya said....

"Surely you know the game, I thought you worked in a restaurant, when I was in Brooklyn we played Home-Hetero-Metro."

After assuring her that I was unfamiliar with the rules she informed me that basically you just sat in one place and smoked cigarettes, then one person might say to the other...."Girl in Green dress" or "Dude with flip flops" and the other person would attach the appropriate label to them.

Anybody who seemed generic received the Hetero tag. guy's that wore shorts registered as Homo in her book, but to be honest........anybody who could be deemed weird by any culture were Metro....and she would say it with such abject glee "Zis vomen with zee blue streak in her hair...PHEW.....zo Metrosexual - no?"

In Russia many of the people use words like faggot and nigger as common slang. There is no political correctness, and even less people who will show disdain towards such slurs.

But I believe that many of the people who make these off colored remarks, or cruel comments are perceived as being malicious. I would never endorse such names or condone there use, but in my opinion, those horrible names have no malice attached to them. The definition is different over there. When Russian decide to gather a collective hatred, you can make book that both barrels are pointed at gypsies.

As this day of celebration came to an end I was told that a climatic fireworks display would conclude the evening. Thousand's of people lined the boardwalk....then one after another, what mounted to be individual bottle rockets were shot off.....POP.........POW.........POP, and then for the grand finale.....they snaked like 5 or 6 at once and everybody jumped up and down like they were watching JON BON JOVI live in Jersey.

BTW......the Russians did get the bid, so when 2012 rolls around and you are watching the Winter Games...just remember who brought that sourdough to the host country.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bosses, Vegas, and Officer Friendly

Have you ever met somebody who owned a business, or had a top spot in its management chain and wondered....."How on Earth did this idiot get that position?"

As a young grunt worker, these people always befuddled me. I couldn't comprehend how such incompetence could align with success, but as I've gotten older, I do believe with all my heart that 1/2 the people who hold positions in the world are bumbling dolts.

This doesn't mean that these folks are bad, it just means that they stumbled onto an acorn that fate has relegated to them. But, fate can be a cruel mistress, and often times shes willing to take things away from you much quicker than you obtained it.

Back in the day, I was working at a shop that was run by a collective of entrepreneurial people who couldn't make a loaf of bread if their life depended on it. The concepts platform was really strong (for a small business) but unfortunately the owner died of a heroin overdose.

Within months,the company was purchased and the son of the biggest cash cow in the ownership group smiled because this said purchase landed himself a baking position.

We'll call this guy Jimmy Stone, and Jimmy was in his mid 30's, father of 2 and certainly had a case of halitosis like I had never or since seen.

Nobody was really certain of his employment history, and since all he wanted to talk about was his turbulent past which consisted of a series of years that were divided by chasing personal whimsy, while gang banging on the West Side of Capitol City.

Jimmy Stone didn't mean harm to anybody, if you caught him on a calm day you could actually have some fun. The following are just a few of the events in his life that we found entertaining.

OFFICER FRIENDLY

One day I came into the shop and told the boys that the Saint Paul Police Department sent Officer Friendly over to my sons elementary school and they did a demonstration that was geared at raising young kids awareness of drugs.

The cops had a 10 foot long table set up in the lunch room and it was covered with all kinds of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Jimmy Stone had a glazed look on his face when as I mentioned this. When I asked him why, he just shook his head while panning rolls and told the crew about a little mishap..........

"You know Klecko, those dopey F-ing cops came to my daughters school. My kids go to Catholic school ya know, so there was teachers, Nuns and a bunch of parents from the neighborhood at that God-D drug presentation right? One of the officers opens a bag weed and stuffs it into a big a** bong and lights it up so the kids can smell it. When the s*** starts flaming, they started fanning the smoke across the auditorium while telling the kids that this smell means trouble, and if you smell it...you should run and tell your parents or a law official. Then out of the blue one of my daughters raised her hand, and when the cop asks her if she has a question she just says "No I don't have a question, but I am going to have my dad call you because he goes down into his woo dshop ever night and that smell gets into our house. I don't want the bad guys to get my dad."

Klecko, the F-ing Nuns were on the phone pronto and I got my a** called in and I had to lie my way out of my daughters comments, I'm pretty sure they didn't believe me,but how were they going to prove it. I really hate that F-ing Officer Friendly, I think it should be illegal for him to pester our kids.

THE FAUST THEATER

In Minnesota, snow can drop hard, fast and wet. Often times if you have an important engagement you'll want to leave much earlier than usual to compensate for the unknown conditions. Your E.T.A. won't just hinge on the level of the weather, but what part of the winter it is, and how much money the city has budgeted for snow removal.

On one night like this we were short a couple people who were still en route. Those of us who were there worked at a reasonable pace, our thought was that we didn't need to burn ourselves out, there was a good chance we'd be snowed in, so why not get paid for it huh?

The only conversation I remember from that evening was Jimmy Stone telling us of one of his famous sexual exploits.

"You guys think it sucks getting stuck here, that's nothing. I'll tell you whats really nerve racking, try get stuck behind the Faust Theater."

For those of you who are not familiar with this place, it used to be a porno theater on University Avenue in Saint Paul. The neighborhood is run down, and for decades this part of the city has been home to our cities newest immigrant groups that will be forced to wade through the Twin Cities politically correct caste system..

Prostitution and drug sales were always strong in this neck of the woods, and coincidentally.....this iconic show hall rested within the shadows of our proud state capitol.

Stone continued......

"Sometimes I'd tell my family I was going off to work, but I'd head over to the Faust and spend a good chunk of time (and cash) there. I remember once when it was snowing out at a really good clip. I went in to see a movie, but ended up watching a double feature. Afterward s when i decided to leave, I went back to the alley where my car was parked. There was a whore standing back there, and she told me that she would give me (some attention) if I would give her a ride to her place. I decided to do it... so we went back into my car, but after I was done and it was time to go, my car was stuck.I tried everything but I couldn't get it out. The b**** was really pissed at me, but what can you do. Usually for s*** like that I call my brother in law, but you can't call him when your parked someplace like a brothel. I ended up calling a tow truck, but I ended up having to wait another 3 hours and spending over $100. I'm just glad I didn't buy the sex, I wouldn't of had anything left for the tow....then I would have really been F-ed"

VEGAS

One day as our shift started Boss Man came in and told us that he hired 2 experienced bakers from a rival bakery that went defunct. The Boss Man marched them into the production area (much like you would live stock) and introduced the new hires by name while reminding us that hours were limited, and nobody was guaranteed a sure 40.

The shop wasn't union, and tactics like this used to be common. If you wanted to keep your position....you were always pressured to maintain excellence. Although I was never in the school band, I imagine it was a lot like trying to hold the top chair for trombone or clarinet.

When Boss Man was walking away, he stopped turned around facing us again and pointed to the shorter of the 2 and told us that he was a pretty good card counter in Vegas, and was really sharp with numbers so basically each and every one of us were getting called out.

When new guys get dropped on you, the baking standard is that current employees don't really talk to them, include them, or God forbid help them. These pricks are like scab umpires in the MLB, if all parties concerned stayed in the same shop, it wouldn't have been unheard of to not talk to each other for years.

Stone hated newbies more than anybody. No matter who flew into our nest, he knew they would be a better baker than him. But, with that said, you still have to run the shop in a fair manner, so when the new guys join your crew it is only right to show them there tasks and at least give them the briefest instructions, but Jimmy Stone had something else on his mind.

"Hey card counter, so you're a Vegas guy huh? I don't play a lot of cards, but I like to go to the Chicken Ranches out there. Do you ever visit the ladies, or are you just about the money?"

The card counting guy started rambling off a list of every house of ill repute and every woman who was employed by them in the state of Nevada. Stone was so impressed by this that he Judased the crew and ended up hanging with those 2 clowns for the rest of the night. When the card counting dude found out Stone was married he asked how he molded his wife to let him spend so much time alone in Sin City, Jimmy's answer was so Jimmy.

"S***, I never go alone, I always take my wife, but just like in cards I imagine, you gotta have a system. What I like to do is catch an afternoon flight, by the time we touch down and check into our hotel she is pretty tired. So then I push her into going to the buffet where I encourage her to try a little of this, and indulge in some of that. After desert she can barely keep her eyes open. So that's when I tuck her in and encourage her to take a nap. I tell her I'm going to do some low stakes gambling, but actually I have a limo waiting for me to take me out to my date."

As he told the new guys this, it wasn't said in a bragging kind of way, just matter of fact. I gotta admit I thought the system was flawless, and in a sick way I was impressed. Not so much because I wanted to try this, but because this immoral ruse actually took some thought, and I had worked with Jimmy Stone for awhile and he stilled struggled putting 2 dozen rolls on a pan.

So the next time you start a new position, or even a new career, remember just because somebody else owns it, or has a title, it doesn't always mean their skill set is stronger than yours. Who knows, if you're in Capitol City.....they might even be related to Stone, he has a large family.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Story by Klecko

Many years ago I was working at a bread plant in small town, and my start time was 3 a.m. When I'd show up the mixer had 1000# doughs spinning for pan breads. The other guy who would be there was the bread machine specialist whose name was Trugnut.

Trugnut was a big biker looking dude, who would take the dough and place it into a huge hopper (he had an automated hoist which would assist him in this) and the dough would run through a machine that was as big as a McDonald's restaurant.

The whole process was automated.... dough scaled, rounded,run through a Ferris Wheel looking contraption, so the bread would relax and become more pliable, then it was run through a series of rollers, formed and panned.

Trugnut stood at the end (which he called the butthole)and this is where these finished loaves would get "pooped" out.

Trug was probably 6'2" and easily 300#'s, but when that bread came firing down the line that big man moved like a ballerina.

I was a bench hand "Roll Mole" at the time, so while the higher paid people did important things, I carmeled - Carmel roll pans, ran folds in the Danish and croissant slabs, or tied knots out of 1 1/2 ounce burger dough pieces.

One morning at about 4:30 Trugnut started screaming, at first I thought he got his hands caught in the rollers or something, but as I got closer I could make out his voice over the droning of all the machines in the bakery

"Dude-owwww-owwww-owwww get over here, I got to go take a s***! I was drinking rum last night!!!!"
The place we worked at was huge. The bathroom was about 2 blocks from where he was standing.

So I jumped in and started panning. I had messed with this machine before, but always at a much slower setting. When Trut broke away, I told him to reduce the speed setting, but he just turned his back and B-lined towards the toilets.

Within seconds loaves started stock piling on the bread panning tray, and I must have looked like a bad out take from the I LOVE LUCY show.

Super White Velvet loaves were bunching up, getting caught in the delivery shoot, falling on the floor. As embarrassed as I was, the sole fact that brought me any solace was that only the Mixer, Trugnut and I were in the plant.

There was nobody of significant stature to witness my shame.

When the run had expired, I did my best to straighten up the mess. Just about the time when I had completed this task, Trug came marching in with a grin on his face "You haven't finished yet huh?" before I could offer any excuse or explanation he was quick to show his gratitude by sharing

"Well, I wouldn't worry about that at all. I'm the one who should be embarrassed. I s*** myself before I even made it to the crapper. It took me so long because I had to switch uniforms."

Dude laughed as he shared this horrible confession.

It was at that point that I came to the realization that certain people are done trying to be cool. Middle aged folks seemed a lot more forgiving of themselves than my twenty something demographic.

Next, a guy named Snuffy came in. They called him that because he looked like the Snuffy Smith, that hillbilly cartoon character. Snuffy was easily in his 50's, but unlike Trugnut, he really thought he was cool. He wore a black motor cycle jacket and used Vitalis hair tonic to grease his hair back into what he called a duck a**.

He also wore tight T-shirts that were somewhere between white and gray, and his little pot belly would pop out. Since the bottom of the shirt seldom touched his belt line, Snuffy was often guilty of sporting severe plumbers crack.

I'll never forget the day Trug stumbled into him (and while doing so lodged a quarter into his butt crack) and whenever the Snuffy walked by somebody they say

"Play me a song Snuffy" or "Don't play B-17. It was our song, it was his song, but its over".

The old man was just too cool to ask in on the joke, but working in a bakery as long as he had, he knew he was the victim of something. It actually took a couple hours, but when Snuffy finally realized the source of attention....Holy Mary - Mother of God was he pissed.

We all had him in are peripheral, so when he stormed Trugnut we saved him from an a** kicking. one embarrassment for the day was enough.

Nobody liked Snuffy, but no one really hated him either, so a 1/2 dozen of us ended up holding him back as he made threats against Trug. I seriously doubt the threats were not meant to be taken literally, dude was just trying to save face, kinda like when a wide receiver drops an EZ touchdown pass. Instead of popping up and rushing back to the huddle, they almost always lay in the end zone clutching an ankle to make us think that this alleged injury was the answer to their failure.

But I digress, back to the dealio. Me-Trug and the mixer are by ourselves at the plant. It is Thanksgiving Eve and now Snuffy pops in. He has oven mitts hanging off his wrists and doesn't say a word to any of us.

Instead of helping me with prep like he usually did each morning (before the dough was ready in the proof box), he walked over to 6 - 55 gallon drums that were filled with pecans. He opened them all, dumped them onto sheet pans and placed them into a couple of roasting ovens (this process is usually 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes) When the last pan was in....he ran outside to have a cigarette, and worse yet, he didn't tell anybody.

Shop protocol is to scream out "Mixer is taking a crap" or "Ovens out -1 cigarette" or even "Ovens out -2 cigarettes" and that way if some bizarre Incident occurs where you can't get back, a teammate can assist you, but for whatever reason Ol' Snuffy ended up staying out too long and when he came back.......he was greeted by an oven load of burnt pecans.

Now I know that Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, but I'm willing to bet that even the Messiah would agree that once a nut is scorched....there is no resurrecting it.

Snuffy had a sick look on his face and quietly he dumped the burnt pieces back into the drum. Jeff the Mixer came over and did his best to offer kind words, but Snuffy was just sick about it. Most people in the Food Show take pride in what they do, and in Snuffys case he just fumbled on the goal line.....during the Super Bowl.

The only question remaining was would he get fired....and we had just entered the holidays. they wouldn't dismiss a family man at this time of year, would they?

Boss man wouldn't be in for about another 90 minutes so everybody just worked in silence. when he finally entered the shop, he smelled the foul odor immediately.

The scent stuck out like a French whore in a tree fort. Boss man waddled his little pudgy torso over to Snuffy, blasphemed Christ, and then fired him loud enough for all of us to hear, and then he turned back around and left Snuffy standing alone on a warehouse floor....all alone, in a space that was the size of 5 or 6 football fields.

A couple other bakers had just come in so they, Jeff and Trugnut went over and shook hands and said stuff, but I was so far away that i couldn't hear anything.

I didn't go over because I was the "Shop Kid",so i figured that it wasn't really my place to issue anything to an elder,and to be truthful, I didn't really care for the guy that much, but when all that was finished, Snuffy walked all the way over to me (which was in the opposite direction of the way he would eventually leave) and he reached out his hand.

When I shook it he said "Listen kid, you are really doing a great job. I know you don't get to hear that very often as a new guy, but I've really enjoyed working with you. Learn a lesson from my mess up today. an oven man just has to stay alert, that was my bad this morning, and there's no excuse for it. I cost the company a lot of money, but I'm sure I'll work with you again somewhere down the road. Take care and have a great Thanksgiving with your family."

I just stood there in shock and I am certain I felt worse for the opinions I had been holding about Snuffy, a guy that nobody liked, but nobody hated.

I never saw him again.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hector the Cuban

If you are ever going to succeed in the Food Show it's best to learn one thing, be a team player! For those of you who equate that with a** smooching, all's I can say is grow up. If your'e going to accomplish goals in a restaurant,bakery,hotel or casino......every single day you will need to rely on the person next to you in your culinary fox hole.
About a billion years ago I was spinning doughs in a shop when I heard that we had a new employee that was Cuban. I wasn't exactly sure what that meant, did that mean he was fielding ground balls in Havana with Fidel or was he one of many sweet roll bakers that left the East coast to pursue a more slackened pace of baking?
Within the first hour I aknoledged him with a comment that would let him know that he was welcomed aboard, but at the same time that wouldn't mean that I wanted to be friends with him. Whenever you are the "New Guy" you know that part of the acclimation period consists of taking a little flack. Your new crew is basically just elvaluating if you are thin skinned, or if you have the ability to let bullets bounce off you.
Hector the Cuban must have determined that he wouldn't subject himself to inspection because for the entire week all he would do was answer "Yes" or "No" and if he wasn't spoken too he bacame an inanimate object.
At lunch time he never ate, while employees stowed away in a mutilated breakroom, he continued working. When it was hot, he never drank pop or water.He came across like some pompus yogi who was designed by some robotic firm.
One winter evening everybody was working under typical circumstances when all of a sudden there was a knock on the shop's back door. The entire crew was perplexed because it was way past delivery hours, and our personal guest always entered through the front enterance.
When several cops marched in all authoritative, you could just feel everybodys adreniline spike. You could just sense something was about to take place that we would gossip about for months to come. They asked us if "So and So" worked here, none of us knew the name, but all of a sudden they pulled out a picture, just like the private dicks do on TV series. The guy in the picture was Hector the Cuban, but in a split second it occured to all of us.....he had vanished.
Two of the coppers split up and covered the entrances while the crew kind of joined them in the man hunt. The shop was small so it only took us seconds to finally realize he was in the break room.
When Hector was being read his rights, everybody shut up because we wanted to see if we could hear what crime he commited.
Just as they prepared to cuff him, Hector the Cuban mentioned it was below zero outside and therefore requested that he could go and grab his jacket. It was in the mens restroom hanging on a series of hooks. The breakroom was unGodly, and you actually felt safer putting your personal items in a room where the entire staff room crapped and smoked pot.
The Saint Paul cops are usually good guys, so they granted the request w/o much thought, but as Hector the Cuban calmly opened the door, he snapped it shut and locked himself in immedietly.
The Heat freaked out and starting yelling into walkie talkies, the biggest dude kicked in the door only to find that the culprit had vanished into thin air.
All of us bakers kinda wanted to laugh, but most of us had been on the wrong end of a police baton at one time or another so we just smiled in silence.
The big cop looked up and pointed that their suspect removed ceiling tiles and was trying to escape through the ceiling. Every cop in the house fled out of the building to set up a perimeter around our shop. We all ran back to the center of the production area, and you could hear loud scurrying coming from the above our heads. The volume would have lead you to think that there was a legion of rats in the rafters.
At the very peak of excitement......BOOM!
The ceiling burst open and Hector the Cuban spilled out onto a tall tower of bread meant for a casino account. He's blessed that he landed there, it broke his fall. A foot to the left, or the right and we'd certainly be talking broken bones or much worse.
Just like a cat on it's last life, Hector the Cubam sprung to his feet and ran towards the walk in cooler. Just before sliding in he turned to us and flashed pathetic puppy eyes and pleaded for our compliance.
Within seconds a cop rushed back in and asked for any knew developments.In unison 10-12 bakers all pointed to the cooler. They drew pistols and went in and grabbed their man.
As Hectot the Cuban was being hauled out he mumbled how he had been Judased, but a bench hand named Helmutt reminded him "This isn't the God "D" Anne Frank story".
Later that night i think I had to spin a couple doughs to replace the sqaushed casino loaves, but who's kidding who, it just gave us extra time to laugh like harpies!
The excitement was discussed for months, and when things got slow in the shop we'd talk about who we'd rat on and who we'd take a bullet for.
One of our oven men named Pee Wee (who eventually got sent away for drug dealing) would scream out "Stiches for Snitches - Stiches for Snitches).
But using hind sight, I'd be willing to bet that if the cops would have gone after anyone else in the shop that night, we wouldn't have impeded their prograss, but we sure wouldn't have pointed to the cooler with smiles on our faces.
When you work in the Food Show, there are know 41k's, retirments plans or incentive bonuses. All you get is a paycheck, and the respect of your peers, and in hospitality that respect is never manditory, its earned.
Nobody is an island in the Food show, you are only as good as the crew that supports you.

The Pastry Chef, Seduction and the Robbers


The names have been changed to project me from getting sued, but I swear to Polish Jesus not an iota of this story has to be embellished, c'mon......if you work in the Food Show long enough, you don't need too

When I was in my early to mid 20's I took a job at a bakery where I was working the bench. during the last 3 hours of my shift each night a woman named Doris came in to do the Pastry. Doris must have been in her late 30's and she had that special "Aunt Bea" quality about her.
I'm trying to be nice here....can I say that she was portly, or is that an adjective best used with male torso's? OK then....Doris was pretty fat, had long straight hair, about the same length and color of Susan Day (back when she played Lori Partridge). Her vision was horrid, so she had to wear glasses which were made from the same kind of wire that math teachers and youth pastors choose.
For a couple months we didn't talk much, but when we did it was usually focused on our days immediate tasks. That's why I was shocked on a mid November evening when she called me over to her station. After offering me a treat from her finished pieces, she pulled an envelope out of her purse. The contents were a pile of photos that was as thick as a stack of I-Hop pancakes. OMG how I hate moments like this, It could have been tolerable if I thought there was a remote chance that I would be featured in some of the shots, but I knew that just wasn't the case.
During situations like this I typically rifle through the pack as quick as possible and make generic comments that let people know that I really don't care, but at least I fulfilled my minimal social obligation.
However - However - However....LOL, on the top of the stack there was a picture of Doris posing in prostitute like clothing (not that I know how brothel attendants dress). I chuckled out loud. I was shocked that Doris had a fun loving side to her. Remember.....we were just a couple weeks past Halloween so I assumed that these were pictures from a party, but when I got down to the 8th or 9th shot.......she had a plastic ball bungee corded into her mouth, and a big out of shape man was lording over her with things in his hands this i have since mentally blocked out.
I swear to Caesar I blushed so hard, so fast that I had Casper feet within seconds. My eyes must of shot out of my head like Buckwheats used to in the Little Rascals because at that point Doris didn't wait for me to resume looking at the pile, she gently took them from me and put them pack in her purse.
I did my best to act all cool and unaffected, but we both knew I'd need to run for shelter.
During the next couple days nothing "David Lynch" like happened and I just kinda figured we'd ride the moment out together on an awkward wake, but then when nobody was close by she called me over. I figured she was either going to apologize or delude her previous actions......BUT, SHE STARTED UP WITH ME AGAIN!!!!!!!!
"You know Klecko I was talking to my husband, and I told him that I showed you our pictures and he said that he'd love for you to come over after work tonight and he would share me with you. He works security and gets home around midnight, so we'd have about 1/2 hour to get started without him!"
HaHaHa, I don't know what freaked me out more....the invitation, or the fact that these people even thought I was in their league (you gotta remember i was a young Golden Adonis at the time).
I didn't say anything, I just turned my back and she issued the question....
"C'mon Klecko.....Yes or No"?
I swear I didn't know how to respond to such a thing, as much as I hate to admit it, Danny Klecko has always been a naive rube. I ended up turning around and stretching out my arm (palm facing her) and said "I rebuke you in the name of all that's holy!"
I stole this quote from Mr Rourke on Fantasy Island when he got into a 2 episode conflict with Roddy McDowell who wore a black suit / red tie and represented some sort of Satan character.It was a "go to" phrase in the neighborhood I grew up in when somebody really pissed you off, but you could only use it on special occasions that denoted urgency.
Doris kinda freaked out after I rebuked her, and then I followed up with some other phrases that I won't repeat. By this time our co workers started to mill around, and when my supervisor came to investigate I yelled out loud enough for all to hear that Doris was trying to "do it" with me and her husband at the same time.
The supervisor turned and looked at her and asked her if the allegations were true, and to the ol' girls credit she said "Yes-yes they are." and then she punched out, went home and never came back.
A couple weeks later on a Tuesday night (i remember cuz i always had Saturdays and Tuesdays off) I was watching the news and they showed video surveillance film of a bank robbery. The culprits were Doris and her husband. They got caught and ended up getting sent away for a long time.
When I look back there is an element of disbelief in my mind, but w/o a doubt the hospitality industry introduces you to such a diverse element.
For awhile I kinda felt bad and painted scenarios as to why Doris still had some redeeming qualities, but as time marched on. I became content that in all journey's you're going to get weirdness placed in your path, how you respond to these situations (not if you resond) will define your charactor.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pastry People

The following question was sent to me by an industry friend "Hey Klecko, are all Pastry people temperamental?"

The source wasn't looking for an answer, as much as looking for somebody to commiserate with. He was working on project with a collegue and apparently the two of them got into a knock down drag out. The first thing you need to realize is that the pastry camp is huge.

If somebody asked you if you liked birds...what would that mean to you? Your perception might be the cute Red Robin that graces your lawn plucking earth worms from the;earth on sun filled mornings. The person who asked it might have had a Pelican that spends have it's day pooping sardine looking stuff all over their favorite boat.

I don't have all day to erase ignorance, so let uncle Klecko split Pastry People into 2 camps first (and remenber, these camps could be split again, and again, and again) and perhaps later if the spirit moves me, we can take the topic deeper.

Pasrty Worker and Pastry Chef

The Pastry Worker often times executes their pastry menu in addition to other menus such as bread and / or cakes. they often times spend the first couple years of their training on a sheeter where they prepare Sweet / Puff Pastry / Croissant / Danish doughs.
When this task is complete and often times it will take up 1/2 a shift) the Pastry Guy / Girl will do doughnuts, coffee cakes, muffins, tie figure eights, roast nuts, and pretty much attend to the production of wares that you might find in grocery stores, gas stations or diners. If you had to make a general charactorization of this person....they are affable, hard working but not intense, have varied interests...and maybe most importantly, won't finish their career in this field.

The Pastry Chef often times (more often than not in fact) will not even work in a bakery but in a restaurant. Many of these folks have culinary educations and have to have the ability to work hard w/o being supervised. They are the only person in the building who knows how to do their job. Very few concepts can afford more than one Pastry Chef or a person with the itteligence to direct them. In my opinion this indavidual has to be more diversified than anybody in the hospitality industry.
As a bread baker there just is not a huge difference between making a German Rye and a Whole Grain basket, but in the world of preparing peoples most coveted treats......the menu changes often. Pastry Chefs also have to come in to their space and do most of the work prior to the Chefs coming in or their need for certain pieces of equipment will collide. Therefore Pastry Chef is stuck alone listening to Talk Radio by them selves as they stir compotes or bake high end scones.
The down side to being a Pastry Chef is that there are a lot of people doing it, this has really deluded their pay scale. Although there are not a lot of proficient people in this market...managment typically has the upper hand. They flaunt (through inuendo and akward silence) that they have raw talent banging at the door.
Yes my friends...if you find a talented Pastery Chef, hold onto them with your life. Like an honest mechanic, they are hard to replace.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dead Dogs, Elvis Concerts, is Kevin Bacon Gay?

Their is a hierarchy in bakeries, at some point we'll get into this in more detail, but in most cases, on a bakers first day on the job, they usually will have to work the bench.
Working the bench can mean anything from scaling doughs to hand forming a variety of different dough shapes (i.e. hoagies, steak buns, bagatini's, hamburger buns, baguettes, boules, batards - etc).
A valuable Bench Worker (also known as a Roll Mole) typically has fast hands and is good with numbers.
Throughout history a bench worker has been known as a Bakers Apprentice. This entry level position can be most critical time in a bakers career, people above you will watch you during this time just to check your attitude and aptitude.Only 1 in 5 bench worker will ever advance.
Bench Workers don't work 8 hour shifts.....they work until the job gets done. 10-12 shifts, and 6 or 7 day weeks is pretty common.If you can't handle the bench, you'll never make it as a mixer or an oven man
To get through such drudgery one has to strengthen and empty their minds at the same time. The best way to do this is for whoever is bench foreman that day has to pick a topic of the day. Once they have....it will not necessarily be the exclusive topic of the day, but the main one.
Listed below are just some of the day long topics I have heard discussed -
Dead Dogs
Elvis Concerts
Is Kevin Bacon Gay
Black Irish People
Where You've Done It
Puking Out of Your Mouth and Nose at the Same Time
Guns & Roses or Motley Crew
Devil Worshipers
Kirby Puckett's Girl Friends
Best Pop 
Who Your Gay Boyfriend Would Be (the crew proffesed to be straight)
Slugging People
Hands or Feet
Ginger or Mary Ann
Who On the Crew Would Be the first to Die
Stabbed or Eaten by a Wolf
If You Were on a Island (Would You do It with Susan Lucci?)
Warner Brothers or Disney
DC or Marvel
Which One of Charlies Angels (and where would it happen)
The list goes on. The list I shared with you is pretty tame, there were some topic that even made Danny Klecko blush, but if you ask anybody who has worked awhile in the Food Show, I'm gonna guess they would laugh at this un politically correct list, because they probably have had many of the same discussions.
Sigh.........just wait till you hear what goes on in the minds of the mixers and oven-men. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

The French or New Yorkers, who should we hate more?

Talk to anyone you know that's worked in a bakery for an extended amount of time and ask them "Who do you hate more.....the French, or the New Yorkers?" More often than not, if you find somebody who is willing to lift the lid off this question and answer, you'll end up delving into a discussion that can go on for an extended period of time.It can be light hearted and fun, or sometimes it leads to toss manhole covers.
Before I tackle this question further, I'm just going to tell those of you from Paris or the 646 to chill, This post is being written in the spirit of fun, and directed primarily at the bakers from said areas. OK....lets get started!

Danny Klecko hates the FRENCH because..........

First off, the French bakers that I have talked with not only in my community, but at IBIE shows or at the AIB pretty much seem to think that they should get a free pass on things because their "system" has been anointed by God and they are his elective.I should point out that most of my experience has come in the field of bread and not pastry, but I could easily write 50 columns on why you should make fun of pastry chefs no matter what country they come from.
Both the French and Italian bread bakers think they are more accomplished in their field than one another, and certainly the rest of the world, but to be honest, both groups pretty much spend the majority of their time in camps that work almost exclusively with lean doughs (flour-water-yeast-salt). Their flour of choice is almost always Canadian Patent, and with that said you can be pretty certain that the protein levels are low. 
I've always felt that the Germans were technically the best bakers. They use all types of wheat and a range of rye (and the ancillary ingredients that attach to them) that surely necessitates sweetening agents like honey, molasses and so on.
If you go into a baking convention you'll find that most ethnic groups will start off amongst themselves, but as the event goes on..... coexistence is certain to unravel. Don't be surprised if the Dutch guy selling ovens has a cig in the parking lot with a sale rep from Toronto, or I still remember a pack of Czech guys talking smack to the Pollacks by the Urinals at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The French are different though. They always seem to show up wearing matching uniforms,they covet neckerchiefs and they love to talk really loud at their table, that is until an American or German sidles up and then crickets jump out of the woodwork.The second the interloper leaves, the festival resumes.
Now I'm sure some of you will shout back at me that you knew a sweet guy named Henry at your coffee shop and he made greatest croissants on Sundays and he was the most affable guy you'd want to meet. My response is that Henry's probably lying, he's actually Swiss, think about it......who wants their Sunday morning croissant to be inspired in Geneva?

Danny Klecko hates NEW YORKERS because.........

First off and most importantly they are allies with the Yankees.Short of Nazi's....I hate the Yankees. In fact that has been one of the hardest bakes I've ever had to endure. A couple years ago when they were in town for the play offs (the year Gardy threw Nathan for 3 innings and we lost) we had to bake for their hotel. Sure a guy wants to do unmentionable things to their product, but you just can't, there are ethics that even cover the boys in pin stripes to the right to indulge in meals w/o fear of being harmed.
If you've ever worked in a bake shop out side of New York with some cat who comes from New york, I 100% guarantee you that on his / her first day on the Job, he/she will walk through every department, find the supervisor and in a condescending tone tell them "When we make these in New York" or "In New York we like to do these a little differently, let me show you." Its as if it's the only place on earth where every single person in the city has as much cache as Bono. How can this be?
Years ago I worked with a guy named Mastersimone. He came in and talked to owner ship and bamboozled them with his east coast confidence, and to his credit....they fell for it. They hired him on the spot at Journeyman's wages w/o making him showcase his abilities. Dude was reckless, he over mixed his doughs, underproofed his pan breads, and threatened to kill us all when we refered to him as "Jersey".
I remember on one particular payday, the bakery was having trouble clearing it's payroll checks, so our shift headed over to the casino when we got off, they'd cash anybody's paycheck. Most of us dropped around $20 -$50 each during the first hour, but our good buddy Mastersimone lost everything. He literally started crying and asked us to loan him some cash so he could win his money back.
Most of the boys offered the same response "In Saint Paul - we don't like to lose our bankroll." I'll bet 8 of us fed him the identical line. He ended up getting pissed off and started panhandling random gamblers by the slot machines.Needless to say, security gave him the boot within minutes, and I never saw him after that.

For those of you who have a history with Danny Klecko, you know he usually is about the love, but every once in awhile your senses are peeked if you attach yourself to a worthy nemesis and with me its always been the French and the New Yorkers, I'm not certain which group I like less.....but if you want to offer suggestions, I'd certainly love to hear them.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Do you think the Twin Cities is a major food city?

I've heard a lot of people talk as if the Mpls / St Paul food scene was almost as successful as some of the coastal cities. I think we are miles behind, but I would value hearing your thoughts!

Poem #1 Chef IV by Gilson

One of the things some of you guys are going to find out is that Klecko loves poems, not the ones were people whine and complain about their pathetic lives...but the poems that people write to understand themselves better. The following was given to me years ago by Gilson who is currently my pastry chef, but I think when she handed it over to me, she was working at Que at the Guthrie. Enjoy.........

He tells you, first thing, that he is a genius
He licks the cake batter from the tips of your fingers
He walks into the kitchen as though he is Louis XIV walking through the Hall of Mirrors
He uses the pastry cooler as a sound proof booth to speak confidentially
He will come for a hug of mutual support before the days battle
He rests a dead chickens foot on your shoulder for laughs
He stands in the stairwell to think about his crazy mother
He says he knows you better than anyone else
He states as fact that which he wishes were true
He needs you to tell him that you have a plan
He believes in his mind he is Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront
He smokes pot on his front porch after walking the dog
He carries your summer pudding up five flights of stairs
He kisses your cheek when you have done all that he asks
He lost the truth in his forest of lies
He's afraid to look in your eye
He cries for you only once
He holds up the pill that keeps him sane
He throws it in his mouth, turns and walks away
He got you into this mess but he will not get you out

God - Abortions and Huey Lewis Kaiser Rolls

Was it the early 80's when I was running that Custom Bread shop?Back then, everybody who was on my crew was either alcoholic or fueled by crank. You'll never imagine the delight I experienced when this Howdy Doody red head strolled into the bakery.

His name was Pirk, and he talked with a drawl, but it wasn't a cool Texas drawl, it was more hillbilly, like as if he grew up at the foot of the Appalachian mountains. To this day I don't know how he heard about us, but Pirk was a seminary student at North Central Bible college, and he was looking to pick up some evening hours.
I've always been on the Jesus team, so you just can't realize how excited I was.
On the first night that Pirk worked he mentioned that with his first paycheck he wanted to buy his wife something really special for her birthday. As we egg washed and scored dinner rolls I threw suggestions out to him........

VCR -
Jewelry -
Boom Box -
Cutlery -

But Pirk just stood their with his trademark Opee Taylor grin "Nahhhh, I just think I'll get her a pill box!"

I waited for the punch line, but he was dead serious, and I guess that might be a nice gift if you were old and spent free time at the Walgreen's pharmacy, but dude......we were like 20-24 years old.

Through our work shift we often quizzed each other on Bible verses and reminisced about classic Ben Hur scenes. I'll never forget when one of the bench hands named Pee Wee chimed in........

"Did you guys know that the dude who played Masala told the cast members that he was going to play his role all homo erotic, and act like he wanted to be Ben Hur's beeoch? But, nobody was to tell Heston this cuz he would go all Right Wing on somebody and kick their a**!"

These kind of comments got Pirk really dislodged,and the more angry he became...the brighter pink his skin would become. On several occasions I tried to explain it was nothing short of death to be so reactionary in a bake shop. If you expose your weakness to the mob, they'll crucify you with glee.

I mean it was to the point that if the crew had the stereo on (which was pretty much constant) certain songs pushed Pirk into the abyss. AC / DC's - Highway to Hell and the Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil would actually be enough to force him out of the building. Eventually I'd have to go and find him, and he would be languishing all stretched on in our neighbor Myrtles yards. He looked like one of the Old Testament prophet's that rolled on the ground yelling at God and the demons.

Remember though....as much as I liked Pirk, I was in charge, and things finally got to a point where other bakers would go out and roll in Myrtles yard as well. I'd go go to assess the situation and Grap would say "I have an aversion to Billy Joel" or Schmidt would mention his Jewish roots and run outside with a pack of cigarettes every time Kraftwerk's Autobahn came on, and how long was that song, like 24 minutes?

Well.... we did have a pow-wow and I mentioned that we really needed to separate church and state in the production area, and Pirk was a good guy so I figured he'd get a grip on his reactionary demeanor, but.....and you knew there would be a but here didn't you?

One of our casino accounts had a special Kaiser Roll order for Huey Lewis and the News who were playing the following day.

When you prepare to make Kaisers you hold a special metal stamp in your hand that is shaped like a 5 pronged star. then you dip it in canola, slam the stamp into 4 pieces, redip and continue the process. When all these 3 ounce pieces are stamped......then you proceed to egg wash them and top them with fresh onion, sesame seeds or poppy seeds.

If I recall the order was for 50-60 dozen and Pirk was in charge of of the Kaiser prep, so just when he started the stamping, the dough mixer guy (a coke head named J.D.) started arguing with Pirk why he thought abortion should be legal. within seconds Pirk shot out of his skin.

J.D. was a pot stirrer, he'd pose thoughts and ideas that would piss people off and then he'd attach his most efficient poker face, drop another bomb, and then go back to his mixer.

"You know Pirk. I got 3 kids already with my girlfriend, so when that bi*** got pregnant again, I told her we couldn't afford it, so we just aborted its baby a**!
Don't you think that's more responsible than keeping some kid around that I can't afford to take care of?"

BOOM....Pirk was out the door and on his way to Myrtles yard again, as I crossed the shop J.D. threw his hands in the air like a robbery victim and exclaimed "I know - I know, I'll shut up, I was just trying to pass a little time."

When I got to Pirk, he was dug in like a tick coated with super glue. I told him that Huey Lewis would really be pissed if we over proofed his Kaizer buns, and Pirk did get up, but tears were streaming down his face now and began pleading to me.....

"I have to listen to these inconsiderate people spewing their sinful nature at me, mocking me every moment, and the second I make a stand for Christ, I'm the one who get's admonished, not the baby killer in there. I demand that you use your authority to bring justice into our workplace!"

I cant remember being in such a surreal situation, I loved Pirk - I loved Jesus, but when I was at work, I really felt my job was to honor my employer. Pirk might of had a case if he exercised prudent judgment and made himself wiser than the serpent, but he didn't, to my dismay he put a bulls-eye on his ego instead. And maybe the thing that he didn't realize more than anything else was......he was working in a bakery. These guys didn't hate him, they were just dysfunctional people who engaged in immature ribbing to break the monotony of a life that is usually attached to a person who is void of opportunity or confidence.

Pirk thought I totally Judased him, I know he wanted me to be like Moses running to Aaron s side when the Israelite's concocted their golden calf, but you'll hear me say it over and over.

I get paid to make the company money, and when the boss man comes in the next day he just doesn't want to hear that God-Jesus-Satan or Paris Hilton cost us money. If that does occur only one thing happens....Danny Klecko gets held accountable.

In the aftermath one learning lesson did occur. During Pirk's raging experience that evening, he messed up his topping counts, so at 3 a.m. when the packers realized this...they called me up and I had to get dressed and go back to the shop and had to remake much of the order and didn't get out until 7 a.m.

In other words a 16 hour shift. I didn't say anything because I was really pissed and figured if the topic was revisited.....I'd probably slug somebody. Somebody must have enlightened Pirk how I spent these additional hours though because he came up to me and offered to resign and apologized for his unprofessional behavior.

I told him he was forgiven and I really hoped he'd stay, but just not be such a freak. Pirk stuck around for another year or so and was never attached to another zealot like incident.

I hope Huey Lewis & the News choked on those Kaisers!

Slugging Retard Buys 2 Day Suspension

Years ago I worked for a guy who owned a bakery, but didn't know anything about production or the hospitality industry. He was a former politician who actually was called in to sell the concept when the original owner died of a heroin overdose. When he saw how much money we were making, he just bought it for himself. The guy had a good heart, but like many people....he couldn't leave well enough alone. He was going to get involved!
 I was the night shift foreman at the time. In many respects this is a lot like being the king of Turd Island. In wholesale baking only the feeble, unwanted, and heathen work the night shift. More of my time seemed to be focused on conflict resolution than baking.
When the sun came up and the admin rolled in, they didn't want to hear that Billy was getting high in the proof box and a rack of steak buns fell over and snapped his collar bone, or 1/2 the Hmong packing crew fled home because the bakers hid behind evergreen trees and howled like ghosts......that's why know matter what occurred, when I walked up to the boss mans desk, I'd light up a cigarette and say "I made you money last night", and then I'd punch out and go home.
It must have been around the 4th of July, cuz I remember it was scorching hot, I got called into the office and the boss was sitting with a man who literally looked like a bear. He was 6'2"ish, maybe 280#'s. Dude was bald and had a thin "John Waters" type mustache and cross eyes. Usually when you see somebody who is retarded (or mentally challenged - I am not sure what the P.C. reference is) their appearance lets you know that they are different than others, but this cat was so fricking hairy that these other features went unnoticed. The office receptionist and company accountant had smart a** grins on their face and I didn't know why, that is until boss man explained to me that the government had  programs where company's were showered with incentives if they hired "gently worn individuals" It's nothing to brag about, and I don't condone it, but if you've ever worked in the hospitality industry you here references to "Tards" way too often. The first thing that came into my mind was I would have to spend my entire shift each night shielding this guy from the wolf pack.
I received a formal introduction from the chap, his name was Johnny Reebok.
When we shook hands,OMG it was like inserting my fingers into a hydrolic vice. Johnny starting laughing when he realized that he was crushing me. As little foam spittles rested in the corners of his mouth. The boss started laughing too "Johnny Reebok is one strong son of a bitch huh?"
He could tell I wasn't pleased, so he decided to get away from me by taking Johnny on a tour of the plant. When they slid out the back door the account told me that the boss was such an idiot, he originally hired Johnny to be a route driver. He was actually going to send some retarded guy across the city each day in a bread truck.
I went back into the plant and explained to the crew what we were up against. One guy who we called Helmutt started laughing and pointed out that this Reebok guy would probably have the highest IQ of anybody working the bench.
For the next couple weeks Johnny Reebok showed up to work each day and did his best to do his best, and to be honest....I think the boys behaved themselves pretty well, but when you're working production in a tin building with no windows in July....patience grow thin fast.
Tony, Helmutt, and Reebok were at the end of the bench hand molding hoagies while I was pulling burger buns out of the ovens. Everybody had been in a crabby mood for a few days so I didn't think anything of it when I heard voices raising, but when I became more aware, I noticed that Tony and Helmutt were now screaming and throwing faulty pieces that Reebock had attempted to roll into a pile. There were another 6 or 7 bakers working too, and everybody converged to the conflict. Just as I was pulling the last few pans out of the oven I saw Johnny running out of the back of the building. He was sensitive and the verbal thrashing he received crushed his confidence.
After about 10 minutes he returned to production, so I pulled him back into the pack hoping cooler heads would prevail, but now Johnny Reebock started pulling random hoagies off sheet pans that Tony and Helmutt had done.
At this point control was lost. It was apparent to me that something had to be unplugged, so I told Johnny that he was going to have to go home. He became furious and turned his bottled up anger on me. When he started exclaiming that he would kick my a**, my co workers were now having their monthly highlight and encouraged war.
I was disgusted by the turn of events, sad that Mr. Reebock had been placed into a position where who could succeed, I mean lets face it, only 50% of able bodied / able minded applicants can cut it in a bakery. at this point we were 20-30 minutes behind schedule so I walked across the shop, removed Reebocks time card from the holder and clocked him out. When the ink hits the card...it makes a loud popping noise. When this happened everybody looked at me as I yelled across the bakery for Johnny to go home....then just like in the movies, everything slowed down. Johnny's face turned darker shades of red at a rapid pace, and then "BOOM"....like a bat out of hell he came flying across the bakery. He moved faster than I could of imagined, but I would be lying if I didn't tell you I was kind of freaked out. His body moving like that made him look like one of the zombies from Night of the Living Dead and he was coming directly at me!
At this point I quickly ran 2 options through my head. My first thought was if I hit him, I'd get grief about this forever.....Klecko slugs retarded employees. My second thought was if I didn't, by the look in Johnny Reeboks eyes, he'd rip me apart.
Now Johnny's 10 or 15 feey away and closing the gap quickly and Helmutt screams out "Watch out Klecko - when tards get pissed, they can flip F-ing buses!!!!!"
Then the unthinkable happened, I did it. I popped him twice. Once in the cheek and once in the jaw.Conflict over.
The following day the boss man called me into the office and informed me that he talked with the social worker and it was determined that our bakery was a poor fit for Johnny. Then to his credit, he did apologize for placing me in such an awkward position.After reminding me about the companies 2 day mandatory suspension for fist fights, I stood up, lit a cigarette and reminded him how I made him money last night, punched out and went home.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chef's / 50 Year Old Prostitutes and Purple Rain

Whenever Sue McGleno asks me if I have plans for the weekend, I cringe. It's not that I don't like her, but revealing that I was planning to lay on the couch with 4 dogs usually won't impress her. A couple years ago, Valentines fell on a Friday night so I was told to prepare to embark on a romantic adventure.
At first, this sounds enticing, but the older i get I've realized that sometimes middle aged men and women have a different perception of romance.
Anyways, with the same twinkle in her eye that Mary had when she revealed to Joesph that she was with child, Sue McGleno could hardly contain herself as she blurted out "We are going away for the weekend to the Medina Ballroom!"
If you don't know about this joint, it is on the outskirts west of Mpls, like an equator between cosmopolitan living and savages.The place is huge. It has an event hall the size of a stadium and a tacky hotel next to it that would rival Norman Bates digs.This is a venue that bands hire out after their lead singer OD, and they haven't had a current hit on the radio for 20 years.
Throughout the day epiphanies were explained to me, like "Oh....and we will get to dance all night! Boogie Wonderland will be there all evening."
For those of you from Guam or Madrid, Boogie Wonderland is one of those bands that has 62 members in it.They dress up in 70's attire and rotate singing songs from a set that usually last 9 days.
Well, on the night of the dealio, I pulled into the parking lot and decided we should check in, get something to eat at the "progressive in house restaurant", and then go and dance the night away.
OMG! My room had stains on the carpet like Jim Bob changed the oil from his Trans Am in there w/o placing cardboard on the carpet, but worse yet....my TV was the size of a Nike shoe box, and these Cretans didn't even offer HD.
When we went to the restaurant, the place was packed. Our server must of been 20, and she was smoking hot. I asked her "Hey kid, how can such a pretty young person be working on Valentines instead of celebrating?"
The server thumbed through her tablet while informing me "You're not from around here. If you were you'd know that there is nobody worth loving. Can I start you off with drinks?"
When I looked at the menu, i swear to Caesar they had 2900 options. I hate when concepts do that. You never know if you order something like calamari of key lime cheese cake if it's been in there freezer for months. When the server came back, her and Sue McGleno did their thing, and then I just asked if she could give me w/e was the house special.
My trust in her opinion expedited our bonding experience,  at this point she seemed to ignore the other 8-10 tables in her section and she leaned onto my table top "Our Executive Chef really takes pride in or Hawaiian Salad. I'm sure thats what he would recommend."
Funny, I've been servicing the Twin Cities hospitality scene for decades, and if my recollection isn't foggy, I think even 10 years ago we only had around a dozen EXECUTIVE CHEFS in the entire metro. Now....everywhere I turn an Executive Chef seems to pop up - Dairy Queen, Apple Bee's, Lunds / Byerlys, and even some of the hipster coffee shop! Polish Jesus save my soul!
So after a lengthy discussion where i was trying to dodge Sue McGleno's questions about feelings, like a soldier walks through a mind field, our server came back and proudly set my plate in front of me.
LOL.....in a million years i'd, or...how will I convey this? My Hawaiian salad was Dole lettuce slapped onto a plate with 8 wedges of those Mandarin oranges that came out of the can ( $10's says your Grandmother has a can of these in her pantry as we speak)a couple nuts and coconut flakes loosely strewn across the top.
H'mmm, so this is the Executive Chefs pride dish huh? I mean seriously, even in most dives a Sous wouldn't have touched this, I mean not even a line cook would.....OK I regress, but the men and women who really are Executive Chef's work hard for that title and if (OK- i feel a tangent coming on so I'll step off this soap box and move on.)
When we walked into the dance hall. I'll bet there was easily 1000 people. No embellishment, usually when somebody tells me 1000 people were there, I secretly tell myself that that means maybe 600 peeps were at he joint, but there really was a thousand people there, most of them coupled up.
You got your cocktails from bartenders who were serving weak a** drinks from those long card tables that are in the basement at your church. Sue McGleno ordered a Long Island Ice Tea, but i had nothing. I didn't want my senses altered until I realized what I was up against.
The dance floor was the size of a football field, and was filled with people that were twice our age. Dude, how creepy is it when you see pocket fulls of 80 years old gentlemen clutching the buttocks of their 50 year old pay date while a disco ball bounces colorful images off their shame? I didn't know if I should laugh or cry, but i was saved by Boogie Wonderland. They were in the midst of playing Purple Rain. In the band which is pretty much made up of middle aged white guys, a hot young chick in mini pants, and a black dude who looked like James Earl Jones who sported a cross necklace that was about the size of a rake.
The James Earl Jones guy was singing. If you ever saw the movie, remember when Prince gets all melodic and goes "Ooooooooh Oooooooh Ooooooh - Oooooooh Ooooooooh Oooooooh - Ooooooh Ooooooooh Ooooooooh?" Then every body in the audience of the movie slowly started swaying one arm in the air, like a waving motion, well I did that from the dance floor, and I'll bet I was 80 yards from the stage, and James Earl Jones guy sent "Solid Love" to me and called me brother. Sue McGleno rolled her eyes, she wasn't impressed. I tried to handle her like the 80 year old guys were handling their dates, but was told that would require another Long Island Tea first.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chefs VS Bakers

Chefs are crepuscular, Bakers are nocturnal, but their differences run deeper than that.

When chefs stroll into work, they enter a concept that is at the verge of crescendo. Plates clanking,conversation buzzing, whiles lovers exchange oaths over the glow of candlelight!

A baker awakes in the still of the moment, that his / her city will never get to know. Their shift will begin when they enter a tomb that is made up of cinder block, with spaces void of windows.

Chefs work on a line, and covet the attention that is expected from their subversives. They often hang together, when their work is completed, it's customary to smoke pot in somebody's basement.

Bakers are loners, socially retarded from too many imaginary conversations. They don't embrace their colleagues, they just value their ability....to do their job correctly so they can go home.

Chefs are Picasso, they imbibe in the arts, and create things that may reach their standard.

Bakers are Dr. Frankenstein, engaging in science, so they can manipulate their demographic.

Grap

Years ago I worked with a guy who everybody called Grap. He was a biker who always showed up to work wearing denim and leather. The thing that struck me funny though, was after working with him for several years....I never saw him on a motorcycle.
Grap had a swastika tattoo on his left bicep, and over it arched the words HARLEY DAVIDSON. Except the "i" in Davidson was omitted by the tattoo artist. We'd bust his balls all the time about this, but his patent response was always released with pride......."Not a big thing, I still got the better of the deal. I only had to give the guy a 1/2 bottle of speed for this ink".
When years passed I ended up working with Grap at another shop. He was in his early 50's but looked a lot older from all the Meth he'd been doing. One Sunday when I went in, I found out that he had a heart attack and got sent to Regents Hospital.
After doing surgery, Grap was placed into a private room. A couple girlio's from the bar stopped by to check on his recovery, The girls were kinda freaked out because Grap had all kinds of equipment hooked up to his body (like Martin Sheen did in the movie Wall Street), but when the nurse left the room...Ol' Grap asked his lady friends if they had just a taste of weed. The girls insisted that they wouldn't contribute to ruining his recovery process, but Grap was real insistent.
Within moments, one chick pulled a "ONE HITTER" out of her purse and Grap took a huge draw off it. Before the smoke could be exhaled (and I forgot to mention that he was underneath his blanket that he was using as a makeshift T-Pee) bells and whistles started sounding off LOL!
The nurses came flying into the room as the 2 women hauled tail out of there. Our buddy Grap went into another heart attack, this one was massive. I heard the doctors were just a little bit pissed off.
When it was time for him to be released the medical staff felt it was best for somebody to pick Grap up,it just was advised that a guy should troll home after having his chest split open, but for most of the day when they called his home.......nobody answered. Finally they called our shop line and filled us in with details and I went and got him.

Klecko Land Revisited

Hello Kids,
Have you ever wanted to get into the mind of a Polish / American baker who............
Has fed an entire city for 30 years?
Baked for world leaders from across the globe?
Designed a sourdough loaf that put an end to the Cold War?
Wrote a dog biscuit cookbook for the Minnesota Historical Socities Press?
Gave Pepper loaves to a Munchkin from Oz?
Has more tattoo's than David Beckham?
Has his Ronald Reagan tattoo named one of the 10 worst ever by Huffington Post
Toured the entire country of Russia three times on government scopes?

Then put your seat belt on my friend and prepare to let me become your secret indulgence.