After I graduated college, two buddies and I drove 7,000 miles very quickly, with the intent of touring as many breweries and national parks as possible. It all went very well for the most part with lots of laughs, adventures and the inevitable meltdown. It was a helluva trip. That’s not what I’m going to write about.
It’s July, I graduated college in May. I did my blowout, standard celebratory trip. Now what?
So I moved to Santa Fe and became a sous chef. Clearly, the natural thing one should do in my situation.
I only meant to stay in Santa Fe for a week or so while visiting my Dad, who lived there at the time. My mind’s plan was to move to Missoula, Montana, which I had visited in the aforementioned road journey.
Instead of following that plan my Mind said “hey, why not work for a month or so here in town before moving?”You’re living with your Dad, saving money, double down and earn some too!”
Fair enough, Mind.
My mind can be a real funny shit.
The first interview I went to was at a new wine bistro in downtown Santa Fe. The owner was a famous chef around town looking to create her own place with her own style.
I was twenty-three, knew how to look people in the eye during an interview, and had a tattoo of an avocado on my shoulder.
I got the job. Though, I did have some previous professional cooking experience, I should have been laughed out of an interview for a sous chef position. I should never have been granted that interview. Perhaps the first sign of imminent failure, in retrospect.
My new chef Carlos, our dishwasher Eríc, and I busted our asses to get the restaurant ready for opening day. Seven days a week, twelve or more hours a day in our 20X20 old adobe kitchen. There was no AC, but we did have one window that opened half-way, with a little fan blowing in that sweet 90 degree New Mexico summer air.
The best thing about that job was getting to practice Spanish all day.
It wasn’t a terribly hard menu to learn, and within two weeks, we were open. And the troubles really began.
Look, we all have problems. Some people wear too much make up. Some people fart in crowded buses. Some people like to get absolutely wrecked on foreign substances to the body and pretend they have no problem. My boss, the owner, belonged to the latter group.
It became apparent after a few weeks of working with her that there was always an opened bottle of wine in the walk-in fridge. After a few more weeks it became apparent that bottles which were there in the morning were consumed by noon, and replaced with new bottles. OK. Fine. Chefs are notorious for being able to handle their booze and be rockstars, which is why it’s so sexy to want to be a chef anyways.
Then, one day before dinner service, like right before service, I’m trying to get my mis ready. Everything in its place. It’s how cooks make your stupid food and food for ninety others quickly.
She calls me into her office. She’s a little tipsy, but what’s new? I am told to go to her bank and pull out $400 for her. Besides being a baffled as to why (a little weed, she says), I’m pissed. She is, and has been sitting in the office unhurried by anything. I’m trying to run her goddamn restaurant and she’s sending me out to run bitch boy errands for her for weed money (which actually turned out to be coke money).
So, I do it. I get her stupid money and start rushing to get in the flow of the night. I am unaware of the cocaine fueled gigglefest going on in the office as Carlos and I are getting slammed. Trusty El Salvadorian Eríc was deep in the dishes, fighting the dirty fight. We were pretty good, us three. Then comes in the cocaine tornado. El tornillo de cocaína. Don’t translate that. It doesn’t make sense.
Anyways, she’s obviously having a blast and singing snippets of the John Prine I had playing.
“Oooooo” she squealed “John Prine, ohhhh, love it!”
“Ohhh my very first job I said thank you and please, they made me scrub a parking lot down on my knees, but then I got fired for being scared of bees, they only paid me fifty cents an hour.” She sang loudly and coarsely along. A fairly appropriate song, looking back.
Then she sidles over to me and is just being a general asshat. I’m preparing an appetizer when she notices my shirt has a small hole in the fabric of armpit.
“Woop! You got a hole!” She giggled and proceeded to stick her finger in the hole and yank downwards hard, ripping my shirt all the way open. Hell no.
This was my black shirt with a artistically done picture of the cover of Led Zeppelin II. It was a pretty sweet shirt. Damn, I still miss it.
I got mad. Pretty pissed. I am harshing her vibe, so she leaves and I work the rest of the dinner shift with my nipple and armpit hanging out in the breeze.
The next day is Sunday. My first day off in a long while. I cannot explain how much I wanted this day off.
Instead she wants me to come in and watch over the brunch shift, which is already fully manned.
I didn’t show up. I didn’t listen to any of her voicemails. I went to Montana.