Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chapter One- Outback Steakhouse

How did you get into cooking?

It sll started for a zitty teenager bussing tables at the hottest table in Charlotte NC in 1991, Outback Steakhouse. The Outback had just opened in what was to become a hip strip of cool small business and culture in this new money city. This is 91 though in the new South. Australian steakhouse with big oil cans of beer and you have ALL the Nascar races live? Two hour waits.

I was immediately taken with the beautiful college student waitresses, huge plates of food, vast amounts of alcohol consumed there, striking hostesses with huge breasts, blond hair, and driving an 83 white t top corvette (Amy I will never forget you), and the intensity of a restaurant that is so popular for a reason I couldn't understand. Did I mention the beautiful women I worked with?
I mean it was good. Everything was cooked from scratch except the bread. No rules. Just right. No bullshit. We were nailing that mantra. But how it happened is where the entertainment lies and possibly the reason Charlotteans were lining up for a piece of it. Is that a fist fight between a man and a woman over a prime time parking space? Your damn right it is. Dis she just spit IN his mouth?

This is all true.

Tuesday is KY jelly night
I don't quite understand this concept as a 16 year old zitty bussboy but it is explained to me in detail by Billy the saute cook and my friend Swift, otherwise known as the Salad Shooter. Billy's raging mullet, loud mouth, and skills to out gun any cook on the line makes him a force to be reckoned with. Not to mention his girlfriend is CK, a very beautiful waitress who easily uses 3x more hairspray on her bangs and tired perm then any other staff member. Sweetheart of the rodeo, for sure. Kind, soft spoken, and the "victim" of Billy's sodomy every Tuesday. I should and will stop there. Billy didn't and my sexual imagination never fully recovered.

Dine and Dash
The call went out from Dave our super cheap manager. All the cooks grabbed a knife and ran for the front door. I was on their coat tails as we rounded the corner of the restaurant to see a car backing up the street with no lights on. AS the crew of knife wielding cooks (and one excited, skinny bussboy) came around the corner it threw on the lights and gassed it. Unwilling to give our lives for the Outback cause the crew moved to the sidewalk but not the owner. He stood there like a statue, hand outstretched, denying them escape without running him down. They didn't give a shit. There was no way they were paying for that blooming onion. Thankfully the heavyset (to put it kindly) grill cook Darryl dragged Dave out of the path of the speeding car at the last second and the villains were apprehended later by the police. I missed the roll call when the cops returned with the morons and Dave paid out of pocket to press full charges. Curfew spoiled the full experience. I DID get a beer for my honorable charge, though. To the Light Brigade! Kind of.

Smoking in the boys room
All I wanted to do was smoke. Trash needs to go out? I'm in. Bathroom needs cleaning? I'm in. Pick up butts outside? No problem. I'll just be burning one while I'm doing it. Back then you could smoke anywhere. There was a non smoking section but was it really? No. Jesse Helms was still alive and kicking ass for tobacco rights, which NC was hell bent on, so smoking was the going order. Joe Camel was the coolest thing I had seen, period. I wanted Camel cash, Camel t'shirts, and was saving for a dreamy Camel pool table to put in my bedroom at home. Victim of a campaign targeted at kids? No way. I was 16 and knew damn well what I was doing and everything else about the world for that matter. Including how to run a restaurant.

"Would you chaperone a group of 16-17 year old raging hard on teenagers at a beach house in a family beach town during their high school spring break? Job includes buying lots of beer and liquor for minors, signing for the rental property, a hundred dollars cash, a free place to stay at the beach for week, and young minors in bikinis all around that even looking at them wrong could get you thrown in a deep dark Southern rural jail cell."
Outback employee of the month. "Sure. Sounds cool."

When it all went down there was one guy you could always count on. Kadi the blooming onion cook. He was deaf, portly, honest husband, and proud father of a daughter. He crushed the onion station, and it sucked.
When Swift and I got destroyed at the Christmas party where this machine called Karaoke set the place afire Kadi was the one who kept us away from the group dismantling the fountain and called us a cab. Kadi, even though he was deaf, knew what Billy was talking about in reference to his girlfriend and scolded him with loud barks and some bold sign language. No one crossed him though. You think a deaf Albanian has fought himself out of a couple of jams? Your damn right he has and you can see it in his eyes. Kadi, your the man.

I wish it was more dramatic. Just came in one day and I wasn't on the schedule.
"Hey, Dave, What's up? I know I was away for a week at Dead Shows but I'm not on the schedule. What's up, dude?"
"Delicious, I'll talk to you later."
Well I wasn't going to take that. This was my world, damn it. Take this job and shove it. Heads, I quit, tails I stay. Heads it is. Tell Dave I quit.
Oh, and by the way I will come back with James my fellow bussboy and eat dinner while Dave busses tables and have a burger at employee discount rate.
Dave just grinned as I did it. If only I knew he was probably carrying that Gloc 9 James found in the office a month later my heroic adventure could have been cut short. Angels have always looked upon me.

Next- Summer Camp. Beaver Cross!!!