Sunday, May 29, 2011

Halloween 1979

Oh, yeah.

Do you want to hear a scary Halloween story? Yeah? Read the card and then we'll talk.

As a cook, I worked one night shift on Halloween and one night shift on Halloween only. And that was just about enough for me.

Having come from the high-pressure, high-volume kitchen that powered the legendary Percy A. Brown & Company's 355-seat cafeteria in downtown Wilkes-Barre, I never really understood why the short-order cooks at Franklin's felt so much pressure so much of the time. Once I got myself acclimated to all things Franklin's, I could handle any and all things thrown at me by the ever-circling waitresses.

I know the great majority of them would have stabbed me if they thought they could get away with it. I know my way of warding off potential distractions during the height of battle was to launch profanities at them. In fact, my brother once claimed that Chef Gordon Ramsey of Hell's Kitchen fame closely copied my foul-mouthed act. Yeah, I was that bad.

But the older waitresses, the more veteran waitresses knew enough to just stay off of my radar screen when the sh*t was hitting the fan in tsunami-like waves. Why? Because they knew that while I was waxing non-poetic all nasty like, the food would come out in a timely manner and their tip income would be maximized.

Long story short, after having toiled away in the high pressure sweat shop of a kitchen at Percy Brown's as long as I did, Franklin's didn't seem like that much of a challenge on most days.

Enter...Halloween 1979.

Whoever it was that came up with the free Big Ben promotion for trick-or-treaters was an absolute marketing genius. Their only shortcoming was, they probably never came under sustained heavy fire while wearing an apron.

That night, for hours on end, the three of us that staffed the back kitchen earned the equivalent of short-order Purple Hearts, Bronze Stars and meritorious service awards not yet thunk of.

The best decision I made was to chase the night shift short-orders into opening the front kitchen (breakfast end), a place they had never before attempted to serve a dinner hour from. We needed the Char Rock (char-broiler), that was that, and all of their many complaints uttered while under direct fire were quickly rescinded. By me.

When I, a veteran of some truly unique kitchen wars, tells you that this was the single most insane shift I have ever worked, that should count for something.

By the Halloween of 1980, the Halloween promotion was altered just a tad. Yeah, in 1980, if you came into the store dressed in your costume, you were given the aforementioned free Big Ben coupon. Most notably, a free Big Ben coupon that could only be redeemed at a later date.

I was there, man. I can't say I enjoyed it much, but I was the kitchen for Halloween 1979.


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