During my first baking tour of Russia, I spent a lot of my time in the Arctic.
My job was to go into concepts, evaluate their operations, and figure out if their production methods were profitable.
Whenever I toured facilities in a professional capacity, I always had an interpreter sent along with me.
Now I've worked production long enough to know that that if some "specialist" came into my shop, and furthermore....if that cat can't even speak my language,I'm pretty much gonna hate them.
Odds are they are going to do nothing but spew false wisdom to my superiors, and I'm the one who that will end up getting buried under their avalanche of opinions.
Keeping that in mind, as the specialist, you are doing the peeps who set you out globetrotting a disservice if you become overly friendly as well.
So me and and my Russian voice named Mosha were sent to an Arctic cafe/restaurant that opens for specially catered events. In some respects its the Siberian equivalent to a V.F.W. or American Legion.
This place, like most Russian concepts was inspired by French cuisine, but the front of the house was throwing off an old world Oriental vibe.
The entire staff was made up of women.
There were cooks and bakers at this place.
The cooking crew was comprised of locals, while the bakestaff were trasplants from the southwestern part of the country. Their skin tone was darker, and if i didn't have a Russian airline ticket in my pocket, I might of been duped into thinking I was in Greece.
Throughout the first couple of days, I would hear laughter through out the building, but then when I would enter the room where the merriment was coming from.....everybody would dummy up.
Mosha told me that they were nervous that I would send in reports that may cost them their jobs, and in the Arctic, there just isn't a lot of oppurtunities.
The last thing you want to do is watch an operation where people are preforming in fear. it won't give you a true sence of how things truly work there.
What I needed was an in.
I needed to show these people that I was basically (and I say this in complete affection) a loser just like them LOL.
So a little bit later that day when we were in the oven room. I saw an opening. In the corner they had a little transistor radio that blared out Russian pop hits.
The music was loud enough where you could hear it if the baking equipment was shut off, but when machines were turned on, the droning kinda shrouded the music.
I'm not sure if hearing has a peripheral, but in the corner of my ear I thought I heard a familiar song humming. so I told Mosha to tell the women who was mixing baguette dough in the hallway to stop the mixer for a second.
She did, and lo and behold.....Klecko had to smile as he heard.....
"Like a virgin, touched for the very first time.Like a virgin, with your heartbeat next to mine."
When I started to sing along, women from the kitchen even ran into the oven room.
All of a sudden, 1000 hens were clucking at Mosha, who by this time was overwhelmed and laughing in unison.
"What, what, what are they saying?" Klecko asked, but Mosha was still processing sentances from here fellow countrymen.
"Daniel, the women are very excited to let you know that the A-mer-i-cone Madonna is coming to Russia in August. They want to know if she is still a superstar back where you live."
The honest truth was that she really wasn't. This was around the time in her career where she was spending her "creative time" hanging out with 19 year olds and doing yoga and Kabbalah studies.
But I didn't want to break these nice peoples hearts.
Hells-Bells, the concert was taking place in their nations capitol which is what.....like 5000 miles away from this Siberian restaurant? And these chicks were acting as if the dealio was going down in their own back yard.
So now they all go silent,and are standing in a semi circle while waiting for my response.
Realizing that this was my chance to make my in, I smiled at Mosha and issued the following answer.
"Yeah, I saw that Madonna was coming to your country. When I was in Moscow last week, I saw billboards of her plastered all over the city. it looks like it is going to be a big show.
In answer to your question as to whether she is still popular in the U.S.A., not so much. Everyone in America has slept with her by now. We're getting a little bored with her."
This last part made Mosha blush, she almost had a look of terror on her face. She ended up trying to negotiate my response.
"Daniel, I can not say what you have asked me to. it is not proper and may cause offense. May I rephrase your answer in my own words."
I refused to reliquish my statement.
I reminded her that the American goverment was paying her salary, so if I wanted to tell these people that my entire country has slept with Madonna and we were sick of her. She had to comply.
So as you can imagine, the crowd was wondering what the big hold up was and started to demand answers.
When Mosha repeated what I had said.....I heard laughter like I hadn't since I was back in my shop.
Now these ladies knew that I was a moronic food service worker, just like them.
I had earned their trust.