My posting has been intermittent of late because work, while not intellectually challenging, is physically demanding and most nights I get home these days too tired to string together a coherent word spoken aloud, much less work the keyboard.
As an example of my sheer tiredness, the other day I got home, took off my pants to change into a pair of shorts and managed to get one sock off before I fell asleep on my bed. Yes, that’s right, pantless and semi-sockless. I am well aware of the image this presents. And now you must carry the image of a bearded wookie in one sock and boxers unconscious on a bed to your grave.
The reason for this tiredness is, as I hope you garnered from the title, because banquet season has begun.
Now, hold on there a minute, you might say. Aren’t you a guy who just moves stuff from one side of the building to another? How could hundred of people working their way through what is really nothing more than a glorified Uncle Willy’s feeding trough (with better lighting and an Emcee, but still) affect you in your ongoing quest for the best place to find a nap?
Yes, I am a receiver of goods. Yes, my job usually requires me to do nothing more strenuous than moving a few thousand kilos of beer from cooler to cooler, or hefting incredibly heavy 8oz boxes of cilantro to the herb shelf. Most of my day (as far as I see, since I generally don’t include physical acts of labor into my worldview since I’m a thinker, nay, a genius, a scholarly scholar and it’s far less difficult hoisting kegs than dealing with a single complaint from an unruly customer who has received a hamburger with the hamburger … yes, you read that right and yes, it has happened … more than once) is spent chatting with deliriously good looking girls, all of whom know I am an absolute horndog and still talk to me nonetheless.
Until we have to do a banquet.
Then, much like the A-Team, I am called upon to do whatever needs doing in the pursuit of making sure that the banquet (food side, we in the F&B Department could give a burning rat’s ass what happens in any other department) goes off without a hitch. This is basically because hosting a dinner party with upwards of five hundred people who are all paying retarded amounts of money per plate for food that (having sampled everything to the point of being filled up on cheeseballs more than once) isn’t all that exciting any more is a major source of both income and prestige for a casino that is sandwiched between a gigantic Home Depot and some kind of crane rental lot. Fuck up a banquet and everyone from God to, well, me is going to feel the wrath.
Why am I, a lowly, nay, a sub-lowly receiver called upon to do the duty of a chef? Because I’m effing awesome, understand the global picture, see the end result days ahead of time, understand the necessity of bargaining for important items like plates with life threatening gestures and, most importantly, where the theater crew hides all the stuff they think belongs to them. Oh, and also, when I’m given a task, I stay focused until it’s done. I can even do three or four things like that.
The first banquet of the season thus far is what is known as a plated function.
A plated function means pretty much what it sounds like. For each person who came to our super-awesome mega-deluxe casino for this particular banquet, there was:
- An entree plate. With all the fancy food that is not only cooked to perfection but cunningly arranged on the plate to give the imbiber the impression that they’re not in Coquitlam but possibly in a fancy restaurant in Paris. On this plate there was a piece of seared tenderloin, some kind of chicken with berry coulis (pronounces coolie and has nothing to do with racist Asian semantics), roasted zucchini and peppers, mini-potatoes and baby carrots. Everything on the plate had to look like a sample plate designed by our Chef de Cuisine.
- A salad plate. With some form of salad with a Heart of Romaine (my least favorite green and leafy known to mankind), two cherry tomatoes, dried cranberries, glazed pecans (Which are unfuckingbelievably tasty), shredded carrots and shredded Asiago cheese.
- Passionfruit Mousse.
Sounds awesome and tasty and not all problematic.
Here is a sample conversation of what I was asked to do:
Chef: YOU! Find me all the plates in the world.
Me: What kind of plates?
Chef: Medium plates for the entree and this size (shows me a plate) for both the salad and the desert!
Me: Um, ok.
That is 480 medium sized plates for the main course because there are 472 people coming and a smart person makes sure there is always more plates than people to account for extra guests or starving Ethiopians who want a deluxe case of heartburn. And that makes 960 plates in total for all the deserts and salads.
Four hours later, after stealing plates from the food court and the restaurant and scowering our banquet storeroom, fighting off silverware ninjas, ancient wizards beyond the pale of death and ignoring glowering stares from the Theater Manager as I clickety-clack my way back and forth as a one man caravan of fine Royal Doulton china, I come to a startling discovery.
Not enough plates. Not for the entree and not for the salads and deserts.
Me: Hey, Chef, what’s rockin’? (he’s currently engaged in the art of ‘not cooking’ because he’s been told due to a shoulder injury he’s not allowed to cook)
Chef: Not cooking! Fucking assholes! When Chairman Mau died, seven billion chinese cried! They had to! They’d be shot! (Chef drinks a lot of soda on banquet prep days)
Me: Uhhh, see, there isn’t enough plates.
Chef: Insanity! We have more than enough. Look again! Steal from wherever! You are on a mission! Tell those malignant fucks it’s for the banquet! Go! Bring more!
I sorta wander around for an hour because I know there isn’t any more. Anywhere. People in the food court are eating with bare hands and the restaurant has enough to serve two tables. I help out some people doing some stuff here and there and come back with a total count. Nearly two hundred short for the smaller plates and just under a hundred short for the dinner plate.
Chef: Mugga Hai! (phonetic spelling of a phenomenally dirty Chinese word) Where the fuck are all my plates! What the hell! Get me plate lids while I ponder the impossibility of this whole not enough plate bullshit! I THOUGHT I WAS A HUMMINGBIRD!! (done with Apu’s voice).
Me: Roger, chef. Will do.
Chef: MY NAME’S NOT ROGER! (he drinks a lot of soda)
Getting plate lids are easy. They’re big and metal and round and shiny. I get them all. I count them all….
Me: Chef, there aren’t enough plate lids for the size plate you’ve chosen.
Chef: Is this a conspiracy? Are you fucking with me, lad?
Me: Not over this, chef.
Chef: I will think about this later. There is cheeseball production to oversee and malignant theater people to make weep. Go home now! Start later tomorrow! Tomorrow you are a cook and you will be my bitch.
Me: Awesome. I am totally super-stoked chef. I think I just peed.
The next day is all about getting ready for the banquet, for realz. Chef ultimately decided to get more plates from somewhere else for the deserts and salads and that we would use larger plates for ‘VIP’ tables (they got more vegetables) so that was all good.
Plating plates for a plated function is the least amount of high-pressure fun you can possibly imagine in your entire life. At one end of the table you have your head chef yelling at people who aren’t doing their particular job (the whole thing is done through a human conveyor belt of food-dispensing madness) properly, yelling at people wandering through the kitchen getting in our way, yelling at the person who is responsible for the total count (in this case, it is always me because I have a voice that can shatter stone and be heard in Lithuania) to give him how many plates we’ve got and generally hustling our asses along.
This is because you can’t plate your food (salads and deserts are done and away because, well, that’s all cold stuff) until around 45 minutes before people start eating. Any sooner and the food gets overcooked in the portable ovens.
Mixed in with that are general complaints from people who know what they’re doing regarding the abilities of the person who had the plate before them to get some fucking carrots on the plate properly, Chef screaming that the only voice he should hear is mine yelling out the count, plates being dropped, horrid cries for more zucchini or chicken or carrots and the response from the cook team, people who are oblivious to the agony we’re in strolling by and saying ‘Wow, you guys are busy’ and other banal comments.
It is endless, it is brutal. It is brutally endless. We think we will never make it on time because we can never really know how much time we actually have (most of the time, we’re too busy to look at clocks and besides, I think chef lies about how much time is actually available to us to make sure we bust our asses).
And then it is over. The massive, multi-limbed beast that is a plated-function-preparing animal staggers and splits into different people, all of whom want to be somewhere else, who haven’t eaten in 12 hours and who really, really need to pee. Those of us who’re done fuck off and go home and pretend to sleep (but really, you can’t, because in my case, I think I drank enough rootbeer to drown a small continent). Those of us who have to stay weep uncontrollably for a second and then go out to face the world.
I much prefer the job of shipping and receiving, but since I’m relatively capable, I don’t think I’ll be getting free of that whole banquet thing this year.
Anything you’ve done that is similar in terror? Let me know!