A series of anecdotes with or without any connection to the running of a restaurant.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

A pig's ear!

After I dropped out of Naval Architecture, I decided to find work in a bid to save enough money to get back to computing.
Most of my student friends held part-time jobs in local restaurants. They all bragged about the money, the free meals but most of all the abundance of female customers desperately ready and willing to throw themselves at hot-blooded Mediterranean gigolos.
Being a guy who liked to dabble with food, I decided to give it a go.
After a washing-up stint at an Italian Pizzeria in Newcastle I landed a job closer to home working for an Englishman, who by virtue of his Italian wife thought it essential to change his name from Ralph to Raffaele! He constantly played Mario Lanza in his pseudo Italian Village Trattoria to reinforce his Latin filigree!
His self-proclaimed photographic memory helped him remember a handful of Italian words. He was aware that, as I had worked with a few Amalfi expats, I too had picked up enough of the Roman lingo to sound like a Sardinian according to a fellow Italian waiter.
Often, in front of his influential friends, local councillors and factory chiefs, he addressed me in pidgin Italian urging me to decipher and understand his pathetic babble! Keeping a straight face, I usually carried out his commands very loosely, pouring him a glass of red wine instead of white knowing full well that he could not refuse it for fear of being rumbled by his admiring free-loaders.

To his credit, he was a generous guy if a little forgetful. On Christmas Eve afternoon he presented every single member of the staff with a 12lb. turkey...frozen so solid that it only thawed in time for a June barbecue...

I will always remember the centre piece of the famous buffets Ralphie laid on New Year's Eve and other illustrious occasions such as the Mayor’s Ball.
Tables were laden with all kinds of foods, from turkey to salmon, lobster to roast beef...
The Centre Piece was a succulent suckling pig!
The pet suckling pig!
Ralphie loved him so much that no one was ever allowed to take a bite off him.
The reason was only obvious to those of us insiders who knew that immediately after the buffet tables were cleared, Piggy quietly slipped back into hibernation in a chest freezer at the back of the cellar.
Piggy lay there in silence and darkness till the next banquet when he was once again thawed back to glamorous stardom.
In his frozen, brittle state, Piggy was sadly prone to losing various parts of his body when inadvertently knocked. He often emerged from arctic rest with a missing ear.
Whenever faced with such an unfortunate accident, unfazed Ralphie donned his make-up artist’s hat, got the superglue out and calmly carried out a face-saving graft many a Harley Street plastic surgeon would give his right arm for!

Thankfully I didn't last very long in that job!

It was a case of ear today, gone tomorrow!

Jobs you wish you never had???


Blogger Wendy said...

Funnily enough, the one I could have done without was running my own restaurant in Argentina. It had always been my dream..I love food and I love cooking. But the reality was a nightmare. And even stranger, is that before reading your post I was starting to compose my next post - about my restaurant! And I will still do it because I have a lot of memories...brought back by going through heaps of photos this weekend.

8/1/06 10:09 AM  
Blogger L'Oiseau said...

What a great story. I can quite picture Ralph at work on the pig!

I didn't have any really bad jobs... even though I was the queen of weekend and summer jobs between the ages of 14 and 24. I've sold entry tickets an aquarium; provided change in a penny arcade shop; been an auxilliary nurse to alzheimers patients; walked the trading floors of an international bank, checking the traders' notes before inputting into the back system; an au pair for an italian family, bar maid and kitchen assistant in the local pub.

I think I was young enough to enjoy the variety and the fact they were all temporary. I certainly met some characters and it helped me know that I didn't want to do these types of jobs forever!

8/1/06 12:14 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Fabulous story... yet this didn't put you off restautanting!

My worst job? The unpaid annual picking of dandelions for my mother's dandelion wine - she had hayfever so "delegated" this side of it. My hands were stained for ages afterwards. And I was too young to be allowed to find out whether the wine was worth it...

8/1/06 3:08 PM  
Blogger annie said...

Oh. My. Lord. This story makes me glad I'm a vegetarian ;-)

Working in a Berne Inn as a teenager was not much fun. Being a stroppy moody teenager, having to be polite to customers,and wear a white shirt and look tidy was So Uncool.

8/1/06 6:02 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

Funny!!!I could tell some tales of a restaurant where I once worked. The owners were two eccentric old sisters. (I don't eat there now!)

9/1/06 12:34 AM  
Blogger Hayden said...

I love this story, especially glueing the ear back on. Life is so fabulous - you can't make this stuff up!

I've had jobs that I hated, and jobs that left me marked - but never one I wish I had not had. Every one of them taught me something, even if was just deep appreciation for not having to do that job longer. ehhh, its the writers mentality. anything I can squeeze a story out of is worth doing. Once.

9/1/06 2:20 AM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

this was a wonderful story cream! the pig part is alwmost hard to believe!!!

the funniest job i ever had was as a teenager i was hired to paint all the unusual houses and buildings at a miniature golf. I was fired after a week. The owner said what I painted in a week he could hire a guy to do in a day! but he said i did a beautiful job!!!

9/1/06 5:37 AM  
Blogger DCveR said...

That suckling story resembles an old tale of a rich aunt who kept presenting the same delicacies to his heirs, but knowing how tight fisted she was they never dared to take a bite, and the feast was thus presented over and over but never got eaten...
Even though I am still being owed money from consulting done some years ago and in spite of the fact I didn't like teaching at a private university for some time, I don't regret those two part-time jobs. As for main job, I got into a research team when I graduated and left that team to get my present job, no regrets.

9/1/06 9:50 AM  
Blogger Hayden said...

btw: have taken a lot of people in to see your blog recently - all are absolutely struck by the fresh, interesting look of your art. Yesterday it turned our conversation into a rant against people with MFA's in writing - the lock down of the possible into a regimented "how things must be done" - I wonder if you are using the same sorts of measure when you think of your art.

9/1/06 12:37 PM  
Blogger Julie Oakley said...

Wonderful funny story. Worst jobs - spending a couple of weeks pretending to file because there was no work to do. Shop assistant in a shoe shop in the sales in Oxford Street - we had to charge up twenty foot wobbly ladders to retrieve the right shoes and I'm scared of heights. Cleaning in return for lodging with two big hairy bullying matriarchs in batas.
However all valuable experiences.

9/1/06 1:06 PM  
Blogger Kingston Girl said...

I spent a summer as an 'archive reproduction technician' once... which meant that I did photocopying. The worst part of the job was that it was based in an achive just off princes street in edinburgh and we could hear the bagpipes inside... all day, every day.

9/1/06 1:10 PM  
Blogger Guyana-Gyal said...

Hahaaaa, Cream, and I thought we were bad keeping that leg of cow or lamb, the one we had for years, uncooked in our freezer :-D

Worst job I had...actually, the job was not a job, I did NOTHING. And I got to hear the office cleaner's daily love saga so that worked out fine, hahaha...

9/1/06 8:35 PM  
Blogger cream said...

Gigi, your Heirloom post sparked me to write about Ralphie! The chef asked me to get him a bag of frozen peas! I nearly died when I met Piggy for the first time!

KG, many people would give their right arm to work in Edinburgh and to listen to bagpipe music!

Julie, I am sure you felt like Imelda Marcos in her wardrobe!

Hayden, what are MFA's? You are right that one learns something from anything one does in life.

DC, did you inherit your aunt's riches? I am still waiting to get paid by the Greek shipping company I worked for in 1979. Came back to Britain and its London office had been turned into a Kebab shop.

Val, you're too artistic for that kind of work! Good job it didn't put you off painting beautiful houses!

Janet, you'll have to tell us about the two old sisters' restaurant!

Annie, I am sure you know that restaurants are not keen on vegetarians! We are! Costs less to feed them!

Caro, working for Ralphie was a godsend! I made sure that I didn't do anything he taught me and the only way was up! Dandelion wine! Skip the salad, just gissa drink!

L'Oiseau, I think when you're young you'll do any job for pocket money and I really believe doing so makes you appreciate life better! Most of our staff start when they're 16.

Wendy, I read your post and agree with you that the restaurant business can be very hard! Especially if people eat out at midnight!

9/1/06 9:55 PM  
Blogger Hayden said...

Masters of Fine Arts = MFA A degree program very popular w/ writers.

10/1/06 2:51 AM  
Blogger Hayden said...

or should I say, people who want to be writers.

10/1/06 2:51 AM  
Blogger crosshatched said...

great illo! the sun is unique and lovely...

11/1/06 6:18 AM  
Blogger cream said...

Crosshatched, Thanks for visiting.

11/1/06 8:16 AM  

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