i am in love with restaurants. i love to work in them, i love to go to them, i love to read about them, i love to look at menus and photos of food and wine and drinks and decor… i also love listening to podcasts about restaurants – the eater upsell is really fun, btw. to me, it’s the greatest biz ever. it’s also ruined me for life. why? well… so many reasons, but mostly because of my expectations. as the buddha said, expectation leads to disappointment. i know how things should go during service, therefore when they don’t… well, i get bummed out. and sometimes i speak out. and, for the record, i don’t expect perfection, i only expect effort. i am also pretty sure i used some form of the word “expect” more in this paragraph than anyone in history. moving on… the photo above is from my cousins’ now-closed western massachusetts big boy franchises. so cute, right? ❤ i mean… i guess the restaurant biz must be in the arabic part of my blood. and you know what else? i want those red checkered overalls.
when i was a young worker bee i was all about retail, but my first job ever was as a busgirl in a german restaurant. my uniform was a peasant blouse and a long skirt. omg, so hilarious to remember that. in addition to the usual duties of clearing tables, i had to present the dessert tray to each table. yes. old hard pieces of cakes, pies and puddings – or whatever – are apparently irresistible. gross. one of the tables on my very first night was two couples who had been enjoying a little too much riesling, and one of the guys was a little too sassy. he asked “how much for a slice of you?” and my 16-year-old self was aaaaaaaabsolutely mortified. i quit that night. can you imagine if old hag kerry was the manager of a young innocent? i would have given the asshole the shaming of his life. don’t say stuff like that to a kid, you idiot! anyway… that started the years of gift shops, a record store, art gallery, bike shop, ski stores and rental shops… i even worked in a hunting and fishing store that had a fudge counter. i know, right? lol! i sold bullets, learned how to recommend fishing lures AND made fudge. all under one roof! very efficient. i was living in breckenridge, a ski area in colorado, when i had most of these jobs, and also when i got my real (lasted longer than four hours) first restaurant job – at colt’s sports bar! yeah, baby! it was between summer and ski seasons – when the retail jobs get chopped – and i still needed to pay rent. i was a little nervous because i really didn’t have a clue, but dived right in and figured it out. i mean, what else could i do, right? i fell in love with the business immediately. it was a locals hangout, so we were always busy and i met a ton of fun people. AND i made waaaaaay more money than retail. boom. i still remember the wonderful cherry-cheeked owner, jerry, and two of my co-workers, phil and dawn. phil was the cook. he skied or mountain biked – depending on season, of course – all day every day and worked almost every night. such a great guy. i loved him. and he loved to do shots of tuaca! to this day, i call it tuaca-on-the-wild-side in his honor. dawn was one of the bartenders and a sassy upstate new york broad. she. was. awesome. she had frosted hair, a fake tan, bleached teeth and giant blue eyes framed with incredible, thick layers of black mascara and liner. this was the 80s and to me she was a super babe. she was also a great bartender and had charm to the 100th degree. one day it was really dead, so she decided she was going to get drunk, close up shop for a couple hours and go fishing. she hung a sign on the door that said “gone fishing”. lol. my hero. and… how delightfully literal!
colt’s started my restaurant adventures! i have been incredibly lucky and worked in very special places all over the country. i’ve done the microbrewery thing, the fine dining thing, the neighborhood bar and grill thing, the organic thing, even the food truck thing… so many things! lol. i also worked for a raw vegan culinary school. that was fascinating and definitely needs its own post, cuz… wow. i hadn’t worked as a server for over ten years when i decided that i wanted to really work on a business plan to open my own restaurant. my own breakfast restaurant, actually, because breakfast is the best! i had never worked in that type of place and felt it was necessary for my edification. i lucked into a position at a busy place where a friend was a server and it was… intense. holy shit. breakfast ain’t no joke! everyone moves a mile a minute because they have to. i mean… eggs don’t take that long to cook, right? it was quite a learning experience and it was hard work! the best part of that job – aside from the huevos rancheros and unlimited coffee – was the clientele. this particular restaurant was across the street from a hospital, so the customers were usually a little on the emotional side and you know this crazy empath loves to love and comfort! i met A TON of amazing people but a few stand out… like the couple from nebraska whose baby had been in nicu for almost six months. six months. SIX months. they had yet to take him home. ugh. *sad face* mom stayed in denver to be close to their son, and dad had to tend their farm so would visit every other weekend. once i asked how the baby was doing and she very calmly said “well his heart stopped this morning, but they got it going and now he’s doing okay.” are you fucking kidding me?? can you imagine the stress?? i mean… *sigh* they were so strong and lovely and kind and just making it through every day. my heart melted every time i saw them. recently facebook reminded me about a customer who was in town from massachusetts visiting her anorexic teen daughter who lived in an eating disorders care center. oy. also serious shit. mom was on her way to the center to be trained by a counselor on how to deal with shopping for clothes, food, etc., with her daughter when she was released. i would have never thought about this very necessary step, would you? mom was soooo freaked out. she was so sweet and carried so much guilt. it was very early and very quiet that morning, so i sat with her and we both cried. i was touched by how committed she was to her daughter’s recovery and i SO hope they are now both happy and healthy. i also remember waiting on a mom and her two kids who all started crying at one point during lunch. i found out later that the husband/dad had died that morning and the song that was playing was his favorite. omg. what?? of course i started crying immediately after they told me. you guys! how did my heart survive this?? seriously. on the lighter side, we also had a bunch of regulars who were absolutely fantastic! john the happy and sassy single grandpa who had the best dating stories, larry the tiny texan who was very educated, interesting and had the cutest shy laugh, the sweet nerdy tech guys who were working on installs at the new hospital… cute families, singles, doctors and nurses, and lots and LOTS of cops and firefighters. it was really fun and felt like a giant family. and, as you can imagine, sometimes a big ol’ therapy session! fortunately, dr. kerry is ALWAYS in the house… 😉