Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Toughest Job in the Entire Restaurant Industry is.........

OK smarty pants.....

What is the toughest job in the Restaurant Scene?

I've been hanging out with you guys for over 11 000 blog hits, and if I've learned nothing guys are full of opinions lol.

So I'll ask you again, one last time.

Whats the toughest gig in the Food Show?

A couple days ago I receaved a call from a chef that I have serviced for close to a decade at numorous venues that he has worked for.

The guy is high profile, and been in charge of some of the most notible concepts in the Twin Cities.

Dude most recently was at a major hotel by the Mall of America that changed ownership. this is pretty common in the Hotel industry.

When it happens, the kitchen staff scrambles, but as a whole sale baker, I don't need to track them down, slowly but surely they resurface at their new locations and shout at you once they get set up.

So this guy I'm telling you about landed a gig at a hotel in the northern business district of the metro.

I know this place because I serviced it for years.

During the 90's and into the new millenium, this joint was the bomb.

Every day the 200+ suites were booked, there was conferences galore, the place was a gold mine.

But I think Springsteen said it best when he bemoaned........

"Everything dies baby, and thats a fact, but maybe what dies will someday come back!"

Yeah, thats right. between the recession and numorous ownership changes, this once fruitful cash cow now became a pittance of it's former glory.

My buddy decided that in lieu of multiple job offers, he was going to sign on at this crumbling concept, ressurect it....and bring it back to it's former glory.

My job at this point is to throw together a "promo" (several racks of my standard products) drive across town, track Chef down in his kitchen, hand off the product, and them see if he can pitch it to whoever his F&B (Food and Beverage Director)and see if our bread line will get some love.

So now I'm pulling into the parking lot of said chef's hotel. I swear that there must be 5 fooball fields of parking stall options.

I always circle a buildings exterior like a vulture, but instead of looking for a carcass, Klecko just looks for big green trash dumpsters.

99 out of 100 times those dumpsters are next to building doors which will be unlocked, and close to the kitchen.

I probably shouldn't give you guys any ideas, but if you're wearing a dish washers snap shirt and carrying a rack of bread, all of you to do is act like you were invited and nobody ever stops you.

Think about it, you can have acsess to any building on earth!

After slithering into the bowls of this monolith, I tried to feel or connect with the past ghosts of proserity, but babe....I wasn't feeling a thing.

Instead I marched down a crooked corridor that had a Sea Foam Green floor made out of concrete, but the middle of the walkway was worn from years of purveyors pushing their wares on pallet jacks.

This action had stripped the paint from this middle area, almost creating a path. I felt that if I didn't start constructing some kind of bread crumb trail....well maybe some beast from the Sea Foam Green perimeter might jump out and eliminate me.

The walls, lets me tell you about those.

I know after I select my service floor to be a nice shade of Sea Foam Green, naturally I'd want to do the concrete walls in a 2 tone motif right?

Let's say oh....maybe Robin Egg Blue on the bottom and Canary Yellow on top?

You can't make this up guys.

So as I'm winding down this kaleidscope trail to Oz, I start smelling a smell that I hadn't smelt since a Super Bowl party I had attended a decade ago.

It was cocktail weiners and cocktail weiners sauce smell lol!

OMG, what was happening, had this lush facilty stooped so low?


Praise Polish Jesus, it just turned out to be some girls in a break room eating their noon meal.

After hijacking a freight elevator, and rerouting a couple wrong turns. I found myself in the kitchen of this former Twin Cities juggernaut.

Chef came over to shake my hand with a strong "Baptist Preacher" shake, none of that Hippie backwards grip, and before you know it, the 2 of us were camped out in his office.

For a Hotel that once drove a grinding fear into it competitors, I found it hard to believe that there executive chef should have a monitor for their office computer that was smaller than the lid from a Nike shoe box.

when I pointed to this and smiled....chef just grinned and said.......

"Klecko, that's nothing, just nothing at all. What I am about to show you, you simply won't believe it."

So the tour starts and chef points to the tiled floor that was barely held together with grout that was a dark gray...

"When I got here, that grout was black, jet black. We scrubbed each aisle with specialty brushes.

Over there, on the line. see those rails attached underneath?"

When I nodded in the affirmitive he continued....

Thats supposed to be refridgerated. it's shot, all of it. This oven is dead. This oven is fried, and this oven works, but just barely.

That stove is broken. The A.C. doesn't work. The oven in the bake shop is running, but the proofer is dead.

When I took this job, the staff was rotating like a carousel. Chef's working when they wanted to, some coming and some going, some never coming back, it was a night mare."

So I have to be honest, I was floored at how deep the Titanic had sunk, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure why my friend took this position.

He's a talented cat, and I know he could have his choice of oppurtunities.

You know me, I had to be Klecko and ask.......

"So dude....with that said, why did you crash this scene then? Why not something a little more cush?"

That's when my friends true nature made it's first appearance in his facial expressions that day.

He leaned back in his chair with confidence and offered the following explanation.

"Well, first off there is new ownership. it is being purchased by a person, not a group. This guy made a killing in the 80's in steak houses. He's putting 24 million into the joint, and the kitchen will see about a half million of that.

I was told that today the kitchen is drawing in more revenue than the hotel, how wrong is that?

I called some of my crew, and 6 of us agreed that we were going to take the challenge.

All of us realize that it has a huge level of Risk & Reward, but I'm at that point in my career where I would like to accomplish something tangible.

Any lucky stiff can launch a new concept that gains peoples short term focus, and you know as well as anybody most of those concepts will eventually go belly up, but to restore something that once was great..."

and then there's this thoughtful pause

"I don't think there is anything tougher than restoring a former brand that did well, and then having the balls to say that you are going to make it even better."

Interesting, at the begining of that day, I'm not sure what I would of selected as the hardest thing to achieve in the Food Show would have been, but I think my friend has his finger on the pulse of truth.

Won't you join hands with me and send Polish blessings his way?


  1. I love an underdog story like that. I like the strategy and determination. Good stuff.

  2. i loved this story! here i was all set to say that the hardest job in the food biz is being the EATER but you took the mouthiness right out of me. love your description of the hallway, too.

  3. Thanks Laurie, the hallway was epic.