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.


  1. I've been working in the same restaurant for 14 yrs with women that you either love to pieces or wanna slap up side the head once in a while. When its busy and the stress gets bad we say things we don't mean. But when its over we know we all need each other. We're a family, a dysfunctional family...but still a family.

  2. Bunny.......I couldn't agree more. when you try to explain this to the "PC" world. They just don't understand it.
    I am not saying that they should, but "it is what it is"
    I often think that working in the hospitality field is like living in the jungle. The lion doesn't buddy up to the jackal. At the end of the night the same principal surfaces "It is what it is."
    This is not to say mercy can't or should not exist, it should, but sometimes nothing gets the job done like some screaming and stomping. are quickly becoming a fave in the klecko stable...thanks for shouting my way kid.