Friday, October 14, 2011

Singing the Dishwasher Blues

It's been a rough few weeks in the kitchen lately, for Kevin and his crew.  The dishwasher cog, both night and day, has been seriously disrupted.  It's not a totally new situation, and certainly wouldn't usually be headline news, but it has been a little more difficult for one main reason: we lost Lavonte. And we are devastated. 

As I have reported earlier, he has a new baby girl who was born prematurely and needs a lot of care, from both of her parents.  They moved out of town, which made it hard for Lavonte to get to work, since he has no car.  (If someone could explain to me why they put subsidized housing out in the middle of a cornfield, miles from the nearest job opportunities, so the residents who need help paying rent also need to be able to afford a car if they are going to be able to work so they can pay said rent, I'd be happy to listen.)  First he gave up his dinner shifts.  He became a little erratic at keeping up with his day shifts, so we hired someone to work the 9 to 12 part of it and Lavonte began to cover the noon to five part of the day.  But even that became too difficult, and on Tuesday he called it quits.  It is a terrible state of affairs, for both Lavonte and Brooks Tavern.  Lavonte was not only the day time porter, he was a prep cook, a stock clerk, an ice cream sandwich maker.  He could and would do a little bit of everything around our kitchen, and do it well and with pleasure.  He was the one who could tell you where the funnel was when it went missing.  He hefted cases of wine and beer for me, into the storeroom or out into the dining room.  He helped the girls lift the ice tea bucket, break down trays, put away glasses if need be.  He was our number one employee, no doubt about it, and probably the only one who could be considered irreplaceable.  Sure, we can fill his shifts, but I don't know if we'll ever find someone with his grace, honesty and ability.  He is leaving a gaping hole in Kevin's work life.

So, as we've been going back and forth with Lavonte for the past month or so, we've also had to deal with the typical difficulties that occur with the night time dish schedule.  Poor Debbie, who works both weekend nights, has not had a regular partner on Saturday for the past three weeks.  We've got a couple of names we call when a regular staff member calls out, and sometimes we get lucky, sometimes we don't.  This past Saturday I made the mistake of saying to Debbie, "Well, finally Debbie, you are going to have a real co-worker tonight, first time in weeks."  Why was that a mistake?  Because Alex, the scheduled 6PM co-worker,  called out for a family emergency soon after. After trying to find one of our usual suspects to come in as a substitute, Debbie ended up getting  one of her daughters to come to her (and our) aid.  And it's not the first time that has happened.  Speaking of Alex, he is the newest member of the night time dish crew and after starting in early September with two dinner shifts, he now is covering 4 dinner shifts and 4 noon to three shifts...he is awesome.

Of course the story doesn't end there.  We managed to cover Lavonte's shifts this week - at least some of them - with his replacement working her usual 9 to 12 the first part of the week.  We thought we had arranged for her to be here until three this week, but unfortunately that didn't work out, plus she called out for today and tomorrow.  No problem, one of our subs had just called us yesterday to say he was home for a couple of weeks and would love to pick up a few shifts.  I got him on the phone and he agreed to do today and tomorrow's day time slot.

Yeah, that was a short lived victory.  He just called - five minutes ago - to say he wouldn't be able to make it today and wasn't sure about tomorrow.

Every one who has ever worked in a restaurant can tell you that the dish crew is key, and a good dishwasher is worth their weight.  To have so many issues in that department creates that much more work for the rest of the crew.  It happens, we are rather used to it actually, but this downward spiral of late is more than even we can believe.  We are pretty lucky to have as many dependable and hard working employees as we we do, who don't mind picking up the slack, but we'd rather have a few more dependable and hardworking dishwashers to join in.  Here's a tip - it might not be a good time to make a joke about forgetting your wallet, and offering to do the dishes as payment, if you get my drift.

Ugh.  Let's get off that topic.  Let's talk burgers:

This is last night's special burger - that juicy St. Brigid's Farm grass fed, fresh ground beef, capped with a roasted portabella mushroom and slathered with Kevin's newest invention - Bacon Cream.  Oh. My. God.  It made a believer out of a lot of people last night.  That bacon cream would be good on anything.  We had 29 burgers to sell last night, and at 8PM the last one was ordered.  I can only marvel at the way Burger Night has re-invented our Thursday nights - going from the slowest night of the week to one of the busiest.  Seats that would have been empty a year ago are now turning over three times.  And it's a damn good burger to boot, so maybe that's a win-win.  It sure makes a lot of people on both sides of the table happy, and that is the main thing.

But not everyone orders the burger.  Some people had the veal breast last night, another St. Brigid's Farm  item, that Kevin filled with his Italian Sausage and roasted for four hours.  When I checked on tables who were eating this, they looked up at me with a sort of stunned expression in their eyes, as if to say "how could anything be this good?"  That was nice.  And we have been serving hake this week, a new fish for us, which has looked awfully tempting with it's oyster garnish and sprinkling of fresh cut chervil.

Yes, I said the magic word.  Oysters.  Soon it will be oyster fritter time, about which I have replied to numerous calls and queries.  It's October.  Where are the oysters?  We got a few in this week to see how the quality was shaping up.  I imagine that soon we will be devouring the most popular dish of the winter that only Kevin can produce, and I am one of many who simply can't wait for that change of season!

Is it the weekend yet?

No comments:

Post a Comment