(Miss A intended to use this word prompt to describe a place, but it inevitably became a character study of a chef named Joe. :))
Every morning, Joe arrives at nine on the dot to open the kitchen and prep for lunch. As the others file into work at ten, he nods and grunts to each one while he pounds and grinds a mound of fresh beef bought from the butcher down the street.
The kitchen transforms into a medley of knives and spoons knocking and clanging against stainless steel as each member of the band arrives at his post around the long metal table wiped sparkling clean. Amidst the music, a dishwasher hisses and steams when crates of last night’s plates roll through its assembly line.
For an hour no one says much. Joe doesn’t mind if people talk, but being he’s a man of few words before eleven, the others tend to follow his lead. Sometimes, I arrive early to watch them slice onions and blocks of cheese, mix dressings, and toss tiny chicken wings in a bucket of homemade hot sauce.
Joe doesn’t like the wait staff lingering in his kitchen, but he makes an exception for me. I don’t whine or babble endless nonsense like the other girls. I keep to myself in a corner and swaddle silverware in white paper napkins, bobbing my head and tapping a foot to the rhythm circling around me.
Every now and then, when I work the dinner shift, I give Joe a ride home from the restaurant. He doesn’t have a car. Rides the bus every morning. It’s amazing he gets here on time. Public transport is always delayed in this town. Joe says he has a “system,” but he won’t share his secret. Thinks too many people might try to use it, and then he might face problems getting to work.
Joe has a lot of systems. Running a kitchen is one of them. Everything goes smoothly while he’s around. Customers rarely complain about the food, and when they do, it’s usually the picky people who’d gripe about winning a million dollars, too. Usually most complaints are about the flaky waitresses and clumsy busboys. Joe can’t help those things. The front of the house isn’t his domain to whip in tip-top shape, but when anyone steps into Joe’s kitchen, they better know he has full reign. Even my managers, who puff out their chests and patrol the dining room like sentinels, cower to Joe when they return a wrong order to his station.
“Waitress messed up,” they apologize meekly.
Joe scowls and grunts, then waves them away while he fills a new plate to amend the mistake.
– Written by Miss A