12.07.2007

Mama Said There'll be Days Like This...

And Boy was she right. Today was one of those days. It started off deceptively calm and serene. We foolishly convinced ourselves that we could make it with just three on. There were several moments throughout the morning where it was just me, Evan, and Tim in the cafe. We stamped cups, practiced the art of the spatula-less egg-flip,made espresso for more Thai ice coffee ice cream batter, discussed Bush's latest flub, talked latte art, more specifically about Billy Wilson's latte art, and waited. And waited. By 10am I was convinced the entire pot of Free Range Chicken Tortilla Soup was a mistake. I had definitely made too much. What was I thinking? It's not raining outside? Why did I make such a ginormous amount?

Evan tried to ease my anxiety, "It's only 10am Babe, people may still show up." And then our peaceful reality subsided. What we had conceived as an unusually slow Friday swelled into a massive tidal wave of a rush, complete with an appearance of aforementioned Latte Artist. Was this really happening? It wasn't until we found ourselves being sucked into a disastrous undertow that we understood that the early morning had been the calm before the storm. If I left the register Tim was stranded in no man's land between the Synesso, the register, and the mob. When I left the kitchen Evan faced dozen of tickets, each with it's special requests: Extra egg here, No onion there. As the Ultimate Queen of Substitutions in a High Maintenance Kingdom (Sally ain't got nothing on me), I never understood the reasons why restaurants request "No substitutions." I really found it quite annoying. I just wanna order it the way I wanna order it. Well, now I get it. It's nearly impossible to get any sort of rhythm or flow going when you hit all of these little speed bumps. Sure, you're removing something, ideally that would mean you're making my job easier; you're subtracting from the equation. However, that something is programmed in my brain to be there so when my brain tells me to put onion on before it tells me to read the ticket to see if you want onion or not it creates a bit of a speed bump. And these speed bumps tend to create a bit of a traffic jam in the kitchen. I get it now, okay? I get it. But I'm still going to allow substitutions just as much as I have grown used to making them myself. Why? Because sometimes the person that knows what tastes the best to me is me. And I surely respect the fact that the same goes for you too. That being said, be kind to your server when you ask. Be patient with the staff if they mess it up. It's not that they are trying to ruin your meal, or delay it. At least not in our case. Our excuse is simple: We're like programmed robots back there, desperately searching for a pattern, a rhythm. Sometimes we are able to process the code, sometimes we're not. Most of all we're trying to ensure that you just really, really like your meal. That I can guarantee.

By 1:00pm we were all feeling like it should be more like 2:45pm (near closing time). But it wasn't. And the storm wasn't over. First we ran out of multi-grain (A First! Usually it's the ciabatta that goes), then came the Texas Toast (Another First--we NEVER run out of this) and then we finally hit the bottom of the ciabatta stockpile. That was it. We had literally SOLD OUT of bread. And it was 2:30pm, thirty minutes still remaining on the clock. I felt as though we had hit an all-time low. What was going on with today? Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse a four top (a super-cute couple with what we assume was their parents) came in. After making one last attempt at this end-of-the-day lunch rush we blew the fuses on half our kitchen equipment and had to refund the money of these lovely people. Who had been waiting...to eat...and for us...to feed them. It was like our kitchen just said, "That's it. I just can't take it anymore." We sent the family away with empty stomachs and a roast beef sandwich on the house. For lack of a better word I was pissed. I felt defeated, guilty, sad, and angry. I cannot give excuses. We ran out of bread. Our fault. Our kitchen blew up. Humm...possibly our fault. We sent good people packing because we couldn't do our job. Definitely our fault. And all of those things combined don't feel very good. It wasn't all bad but it's difficult feeling as though we let people down. We try to take great pride in our care of our customers. At times we feel it's all we have. And when we don't have that well, we don't have much.

However, mama also said this: "Every cloud has a silver lining." The highlight of my day today? Bonnie, a dear customer and friend donated this vintage apron (you see above) to my ever-growing collection. Aside from the act of undeniable generosity, I was particularly moved when I found out that Bonnie's own mother made it. Thank you, Bonnie, for stitching the silver lining on my cloud. I do believe you saved me.

And just in case you were wondering, that entire pot of soup? Well, the very, very tail end of it was given to Tim for his lunch. Which really wasn't a lunch at all. More like a 10 minute wolfing down period in-between coffee orders. Thank you, Tim. You are a good employee and more importantly a good friend to us. We couldn't have made it through the day without you. Literally.

2 comments:

smalltowndyke said...

I so wish we lived near you, i would love to see the chaos.

Tim said...

You're welcome. The soup made it all better. you guys totally rocked in the kitchen today though, even if it didn't feel like it. It really could have been a lot worse (i.e. kitchen appliance fuse blowing at 12:00 PM). That said, it still sucks that we had to send people away hungry. Ah well, we know now that it isn't too fun running the café with 3 on an unexpectedly busy day. Here's to enough bread and energy to make it your living!