My Glamorous Life as a Fry Cook, Part I

28 Dec

I work as a cook at my new job. The kitchen where I spend around 30 hours a week is part of a bar/bowling alley/pool hall (which I am inclined not to name should this ever fall into the wrong hands). The fare is simple: burgers, sandwiches, french fries and other simple flat-top grill fare is offered for reasonable prices, provided for hungry bowlers and keno players alike seven days a week.

It’s not a bad gig; I get paid more than minimum wage, and most of my shifts haven’t topped five hours so far (which might change if I start working weekend nights, but money is money, so I can’t really complain). My coworkers and supervisor are very laid back, nice people who I’m enjoying getting to know as the days go by. I don’t have to work overly early mornings or horribly late nights. Fairly peachy circumstances so far.

I mean, I do stumble home with aching legs since I’m not used to standing for so many hours in a row. I have to shower right after my shift because I stink of grease and meat (something my boyfriend doesn’t complain about, but I rather object to). When I’m not cooking, I’m expected to be cleaning, which is somewhat backbreaking in it’s own right.

Cleaning can entail a lot of things. Yesterday I had to clean out a ketchup pump, which involves taking an awkward plastic mechanism apart and running hot water through it until the worst of the actual ketchup is gone. The smell lingers though, there’s no way around it, and I discovered splattered ketchup on my clothes and hair on more than one occasion over the course of that twenty minutes. Glamorous, I know.

There’s also the prep work. Keeping the kitchen fully stocked is a prime concern for day shift workers, since the night shift involves more people and more food being served, so when I work the day shift I enjoy the thrills of preparing various food items, including taco meat.

One day of making taco meat and I remember why I’m a strict vegetarian.

Here’s what we do at work to prep taco meat:

1) Allow ten pounds of beef to thaw.

2) Fill multi-gallon pot with about 3 to 4 inches of hot water.

3) dump meat into the water.

4) reach in and begin breaking up the meat with your hands. At this time the water and meat will begin to cool. Pull your hand out. See that? That’s fat that’s gotten stuck to your hand. It came from the meat. You now look like a horror movie extra from the elbow down. Tasty, no?

5) When meat has reached desired consistency (no big lumps), take the pot and place it on the stove. Let it sit and cook for at least an hour.

6) Drain the meat using an old colander. Mix meat with taco seasonings. Place in storage. Clean out colander, which will take at least fifteen minutes since the tiny meat chunks will get everywhere.

7) Prepare to smell taco meat everywhere you go for the next twenty-four hours, as the scent gets stuck in your nostrils and refuses to leave until you replace it with ketchup smell.

Things like taco meat aren’t prepped every day, just when we run out. Tortilla chips are made almost every day. Veggies need slicing. And we don’t have a dishwasher, so I spend the bulk of my day doing dishes.

Like I said, clearly this is a glamorous, prestigious way to live. I work for hours and scrape the meat and grease smell off of me when I arrive home. Then I get up and do it all again the next day. I come home sweaty and exhausted, unwilling to do anything but lie down and stare blankly at the television.

And that’s only after day shifts.

Today is my first taste of the Night Shift, which is reported to be more about cooking than cleaning, and that part makes me nervous. People are never less anal than they are about their food. They get up in arms about it if it isn’t just perfect, and that’s the danger of working in food service. Yesterday a lady sent back a bowl of chili because it wasn’t hot enough. It certainly felt hot enough to me, since I burned myself on it twice pouring it into the bowl, but apparently she was aiming for a reenactment of Mount Vesuvius in her mouth with this stuff. Who knows? My point is that people can be complete dickwads about their food and how it is prepared, and having to deal with that is nothing if not stressful.

So that’s my life. When I’m not dicking around on the internet or lazing around thinking about how behind I am on my Christmas Commissions, I’m slaving over a hot stove. Or washing dishes. Or scrubbing the same spot on the floor over and over again because I should always be cleaning. Always.

Guess I’m Cinderella now.

Time to finish this commission, find my hat (that still smells like bacon no matter what I do) and head for five plus hours of fry cookery.

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