The Nookstone Café was my favourite restaurant growing up. My family and I used to go there every Friday night for dinner as a tradition. Their fruit cobbler was to die for. They made it with fruit that was in season and it was always served a la mode. I liked having a slice of blackberry cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream after eating a grilled steak or a hot bowl of chili. Comfort food was their specialty and they always got it right for me. I always imagined working there to be so great. I’d be able to prepare food for other families like they did for mine.
And it started out great. All my co-workers were so welcoming including the head cook, Gary. He was a seasoned chef with decades of experience in the restaurant business and he worked at the Nookstone for almost as long as I had been alive. That meant that he was the one who cooked the food we ate every Friday night for most of my childhood. Because of that, I was really looking forward to learning from him.
Then I quickly realised Gary wasn’t interested in teaching me anything.
I knew how to cook but I had no experience working in a professional kitchen. That scholarship competition I won back in high school was as close as I got to a professional kitchen before this job. Some people told me I could just open my own restaurant right away instead of wasting time working for someone else.
But I didn’t just want to be a business owner. I wanted to be a chef – a professional chef – and to do that I needed real on the job training. That was why I took that job as a line cook even though my main responsibilities would be chopping vegetables, marinating and precooking meat, making sauces or soups, and any other clean-up duties around the kitchen.
Quite menial stuff if you consider my skill level but I was promised mentorship if I took the job and now I realise that the owner who hired me made a promise that Gary wasn’t willing to fulfill.
All I did food-wise was clean and slice up the meat and vegetables. He never even let me anywhere near the chef station far less do any marinating or precooking. I was a fast worker and really handy with my knife work so I would always finish the preparations in no time.
I would offer to help him prepare some of the sauces but he’d turn me down and tell me to take out the garbage or something.
I tried to keep a good spirit about the whole thing. I wondered if I was too overzealous and maybe this was his unconventional way of training me. I thought I should show a little patience and then maybe he’d come around and give me a shot at preparing something. So I mopped the floors, washed the dishes and took out the garbage, basically everything he asked.
And then one evening we were swamped. The dining room was packed since there was a gaming convention taking place at the arcade next door. Gary was struggling to manage the number of orders that were coming in all at once.
“Why don’t you let me do the salads for 53 and 57?” I suggested.
“I got it.” He said curtly.
“They’re both Caesar salads, Gary. The dressing is there, the vegetables are there, I can just put them all together and get them out…”
“All of the meals for the order must go out at once. You can’t send out someone’s salad and then have the other person at the table waiting for their food.” He grumbled.
“I understand but you’re swamped and I just…”
“You just stay in your lane missy and do as you’re told. This is my kitchen and I will run it how I see fit. Understand?”
So I did as I was told…which was to restock the stations with clean knives, forks, spoons and napkins which I’m pretty sure is the waiters’ responsibility and not that of the line cook.
This job sucks! And it only sucks because he’s not allowing me to do anything in that kitchen. He doesn’t even let me watch him so I can learn from him because when he sees me watching him cook he then commands me to go do something so I’m away from the kitchen. How can I be a chef if he doesn’t allow me to prepare any food? Surely it wouldn’t hurt if I made a salad or two instead of him. He locks the pantry so I can’t go inside for anything unless he opens it first. When I do get to go in the place is a total mess, everything is disorganized, some of it isn’t properly sealed or contained and nothing is labeled with a date of purchase or date of expiration. I’m hoping he has some kind of photographic memory to keep track of these things but I doubt it. Without labels, there’s no way to know if something has started to go bad until it makes someone sick. If I offer to organise it he balks at me like I have no right to suggest that because to him it’s perfectly fine.
Just the idea of working in a place where potentially someone could get food poisoning was making me sick. In fact, I’ve stopped eating at this place now that I know the conditions under which the food was stored. My favourite restaurant and the only thing I can have here now is the coffee and that’s because I make it and I make sure the pot is clean before brewing.
Most days I get home from work exhausted because of all the running around doing all these little non-cooking tasks for him. I became convinced of Gary’s resentment towards me when I overheard him referring to me as ‘that snobby princess’ and saying that I needed to ‘know my place’. He probably thinks the owner brought me in to replace him which is why he refuses to properly train me on how the kitchen works. It also didn’t fly over his head what my last name is. Everyone in this town knows about my family and our wealth so he probably thinks I’m just some spoiled brat trying to take his job which is so not the case. He probably thinks he’s teaching me a lesson by working me so hard but I already know what it is to work hard.
I got that scholarship through hard work. I graduated in the top three of my class because of hard work. I got this job because I was the best candidate, not because of my last name. I don’t think the owner of the restaurant even recognised the name Sloane because whenever someone recognises the name they would always ask questions about my family. I work hard so I don’t need him trying to teach me how to.
I am not a snobby princess but he was right about one thing. I needed to know my place and it wasn’t at the Nookstone. I’m not one to back down from a challenge but I’m smart enough to know when I’m fighting a losing battle. I needed another job.
I sent out resumes and within two days I received a call from the owner of the Villa Bovine restaurant in Parched Prospect. It was a fairly new place that recently opened. It also had some historical significance to me. This restaurant was built on the same property as the clothing store my grandmother Gemma had owned back in the day. If I believed in that sort of thing, I would say it was fate.
Gary could go right on handling the kitchen on his own. This snobby princess was on to better things.