Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Culinary Artist

A long while ago I had had a conversation about "what I wanted to be when I grew up" with Farrah.  I told her I'd wanted to be a Flight Attendant and it's a good thing that didn't work out since I'm afraid of flying now.  Back when I had this conversation, Farrah told me she wanted to be a chef (I'd never told her that was what I went to school for) and a singer.  She said, "But mom, what if I don't get to be a chef or a singer?!!"  No worries, I told her.  I explained that I went to school to be a chef and "look at me now!"  This didn't  make her feel very good at all but she did say, "I want to go to the chef school you went to!"
And I proceeded to tell her a story...

My Chef instructor was, well, a douche bag.  Mind you, I revised my story to tell to a child.  Continuing...
Picture Chef Ramsey, but 6' 6" tall with grey hair and a grey goatee and a tall Chef's hat making him a straight 7' tall.  And me?  I was 18 years old and 5' 4" in a man's (if you can believe it) industry.

Anyway, the importance of the two stories here is one was my first time swearing at an "adult" or someone older than me, and once when I stuck up for myself.  They were VERY important moments in my life that helped mold me into a person that can, when needed, stick up for themselves when necessary.  But also, I am a pro at swearing now.

One day, I was responsible for the "Sauce Station" with the rest of my crew.  There were 4 of us (The 'A Team').  We named ourselves...because we'd get As.  So, I was working my station and Chef came up and saw that I didn't have the right size pot to boil water.  I'd gone through several and it was the only one I could find.  He started shouting at me, telling me how dumb I was, swearing, screaming, and finally throwing the pot across the room.  My face was red.  But not red with embarrassment. I was shaking mad.
He finally said, "I think you and I need to step outside."
"I agree."
We stepped out in the hall and he asked me if there was something that I wanted to say to him.  The whole time I was standing out there I didn't realize I was punching my fist into my palm.  Hard.  Finally, I said, "You're such're such a... YOU'RE SUCH A FUCKING ASSHOLE!!!"  I couldn't believe what I'd said.  I had been raised to "respect your elders" even if the person was only a month older than you.  Surely this guy was going to go find a pot and break my skull open with it!  Instead, he laughed.  I think he was testing if I could take his shit.  I could.  To a point.  I was still a pretty sensitive girl.

My final run in with him was my final year.  I had dealt with his verbal abuse and constant outbursts for almost 2 years and survived.  Mind you, they weren't all toward me.  They were toward everyone.  I'd even tell him when he was watching over my shoulder to go away because I couldn't work with someone hovering.  He asked how he was supposed to know I was doing it right, and I told him he'd find out when my product was finished and perfect like always.  It worked and he'd walk away.
But there was a time that it went too far.  We had been preparing for a holiday banquet and so the whole class of 30 students had been busy for weeks.  Well, Chef came up to me one day and told me he had failed me in a rotation.  A rotation is 2 weeks long and the same price as a typical quarter class.  It was because I had spaced turning in paperwork.  I had spaced it to prepare for the stupid banquet.  But an "F" for me was like someone shot my dog...and my whole family.  I'd received all As until this moment.  And I didn't have an extra $450 to take the class again THE NEXT YEAR!!!

I panicked and started to cry.  That's what I do when I freak out.  I cry.  It was uncontrollable crying and I was pretty sure I was heading home for the day and screw whatever I was responsible for in the kitchen.  I went out and called my dad on the school pay phone (no cell phones yet), so people could see me crying.  It was humiliating because not only was I crying (more like sobbing with difficulty breathing followed by hiccups), but I was dressed in my whites (chef clothes with my stupid hat - there's just no way of making that entire mess to look remotely attractive or cute.  Not a hot mess….just a mess.).  I spoke to my dad about what had happened and he asked if I wanted him to come over to my school and deal with it.  I KNEW if dad came there, he WOULD take care of it and I'd come out smelling like roses, but I actually refused his assistance.  I wanted and needed to do this on my own.  I was 19 now, and it was time for me to start behaving like someone who was getting ready to graduate and enter the real world.

I took a couple deep breaths and my friends from class had asked me if I was okay and if I needed a ride home and all that crap.  Nope.  I just needed a moment alone with Chef.  I pulled myself together, checked the mirror to make sure I didn't have a bright red nose and glossy eyes or any aftershocks that I'd always get after a hard cry.  No, I was in perfect condition to confront this situation head on.  I walked into his office and asked to have a private word with him with a smug look on my face.  He said okay and I closed the door which wasn't what he'd expected, but I wasn't planning on being an asshole in front of any passer-byers.  I've never forgotten what I said:

"Let's get something straight.  YOU work for ME.  Not the other way around.  I pay YOUR salary!  This is NOT the god damn military and you can treat me with some fucking respect because I've always treated you with it.  Also, this is a community college, not a university.  You have 30 students, not 300.  So, you can get off your ass the moment you notice that I've fucked up and tell me because you KNOW I will take care of it, instead of waiting 3 weeks after the fact when there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.  You need to do something to help make this right!"  At this time, his face was now red and he was shaking in anger.  I knew I had him by the balls whether I had to do the rotation over again or not.  The fact was, I had just said to him what every student had always said under their breath or amongst each other at lunch.  I made a mental note that there was a bottle of blood pressure medicine on his desk and as I walked out and closed the door behind me, I hoped I didn't just give the man a heart attack.

Well, I packed up my stuff and made an excellent exit, headed home and prayed I hadn't just made it so my year and a half spent working my ass off just got it kicked out of the program.  I showed up the next day and all seemed normal until we were all sent off to our stations and he pulled me aside.  He told me I could double up on my rotation in one rotation, but the highest grade he was allowed to give me was a C.  I doubled up on my rotation and aced them both, but one had to be a C.  Fine with me because I didn't have to pay the extra $450.

Fast forward 10 years...

I had contacted the college to ask them about my certificate of completion or diploma because I'd never received one.  It just wasn't that type of school.  I wanted something to frame and hang in my kitchen.  Why?  Because I'd earned the damn thing.  The lady on the phone said, "Oh, we don't have anything to give you because we show there was one rotation that still needed to be completed."  WHAT?  And which rotation wasn't completed?  The one I bitched about and received a C that was never recorded.

Touche Chef B.  Touche.

P.S.  Leaving out his full name because people would know who he is because it's an usual name.  Also, he'd known he won.
He can never know.

No comments: