Friday, August 22, 2008

New Orleans Restaurant Rumors

Po-boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Restaurant Confidential
That Man’s Nuts! Grab ‘em!
Okay, by now we all have graduated from Gossip Central and are ready for courses in Rumor Control. Soon you’ll be able (with my help, of course) to move on to Hearsay University with, shall we say, impunity; to go forth, unchallenged among the unsuspecting, with insider traded information about local eateries.
I’m not talking about the basic skinny on restaurants like underpaid kitchen staff, lack of health benefits, tough working conditions, chefs that can go from zero to ballistic in four seconds, bounced paychecks, alcohol and substance challenges (not abuse, only the challenge of keeping supplied), and wait staff that are required to come to work ready to kiss everyone’s ass from the dishwashers to the Chefs before they even get to the customers.
I’m talking about, for example, this conversation that I had recently with a cab driver friend that is Professor Emeritus of Hearsay U.
Moi: “So they shut down that brothel on Canal St. and the Madame is gonna name names, one of whom, rumor has it, is a local Chef. I wonder who he’ll turn out to be?”
Prof: “What do you mean HE? It could be --------------! You know She’s a nymphomaniac, don’t you? It could just as well be her!” (You know who that is don’t you? Not to worry, the answer to these and other gems will be given towards the end of this sermon. I promise)
Okay, now that you’ve cheated and found out who the nympho chef is, let’s get on to some more juicy stuff. Test your knowledge and ability to pick up the ‘whisper on the street’ by answering these:
1. Name three French Quarter restaurants that have just or are about to lose their leases and close.
2. Name the restaurant that, when the waiter thinks that the customer is a bit drunk, will add drinks and food to their bill (to be shared by the waitstaff).
3. Name that place that as a prerequisite to being assigned to lucrative table sections, sex with the owner (or his son) is required.
4. When installing the new computer system, at this high profile joint, it was necessary to teach the staff to read and write as some had been actually drawing pictures previously. Where is it?
5. Where do residents go to peer into windows, after closing, to watch the rodents frolic on food counters?
6. Name the restaurant that the management takes a percentage of waiter’s credit card tips (off the top) and if you complain….you get fired.
7. Where do they lace fried chicken with lye as a rat poison?
8. Where is it a common kitchen occurrence to see the ceiling drip into the salad dressings? The soup?
Now, you see, if you ask a waiter those questions they’ll probably look at you like you’re stupid and rattle off at least three answers, for each question, right off the top of their pointy heads. Ready for more?
9. Where are insects such a common factor that if you watch the kitchen as they send out your lunch, you won’t be surprised to see the waitress flick a roach from the cutting board?
10. Smoking while cooking? Sweating into your food? Spitting into the trashcans? Excessive drinking on the job? Paying off the health department? Not having current licensing to operate? Too easy!
11. Discrimination by gender, ethnicity, age, or the size of your-------? Where have you been?
12. Sexual (and other) conduct that can be viewed as ‘misconduct’? That subject goes so deep that you’d have to have a seminar to explain to the uninitiated the complexities of social and sexual politics that occur behind swinging doors. Neither pros nor cons come into play here (we’ll save that for the seminar), it’s there. Has been. Will be.
13. Is it rumor or truth that the Chef of this restaurant is part owner of that building (on Chartres and Toulouse) that is suffering demolition by neglect? The (possible) answer is at the end of the article.
14. What white tablecloth restaurant’s customers had the occasion to be served by the bartender working in her bra and undies for about an hour a coupla weeks ago and why?
15. Name the latest DWIs, adulterers, breakups? Who am I not talking about?
Restaurants are virtual Galapagos Islands of human behavior and to categorize and extrapolate and rationalize, let alone try to explain that aberrant behavior would take a combination of Messieurs Freud, Darwin and Rodgers (Roy, Fred, Buck and Will). The question remaining is how come that in the year 2002 no one has thought to change that mentality? Answer: It has been tried over the last hundred years to bring sanity to that chaotic world, but thus far, has met with little success. Why? Simple. The restaurant business attracts weirdoes, misfits, transients, runaways, renegades, idiot savants, non-conformers and those of us that are just plain perfect. We know that it’s not Kansas, Toto; but, to a lot of us, it is home.
Well, so what’s one of the main things that keeps restaurant staffs going besides the chance of the elusive hundred-dollar tip, drinks before, during and after work or being gluttons for punishment? Living on the edge, you know, where things happen! Where else can you hear things like: “She got him in the liquor room while he was on the ladder taking inventory and you know how small that room is; took down his pants and did him right there! Said that it was part of his job!” or “Yeah, they (the owners) did a drug test on the staff and they all failed!” or “He came in to work and they had changed the locks, he’d been stealing, from his own restaurant for almost a year!!” or “I swear, I saw it with my own eyes(!), they took the ladle out of the turtle soup, beat the rat to death, you know, blood (?), and then put the ladle back in the soup!” (Guess where this occurred?).
In any case, here’s the answers to the questions (and in some cases, names of places I’ve added to throw you off the track just to keep things interesting): Antoine’s, Arnaud’s, Bayona, Brigtsen’s, Brousard’s, Café Marigny, Central Lock up, Cobalt, Commanders, Court of Two Sisters, Déjà vu, Elizabeth’s, Embers, Emeril’s, Felix’s, Frank’s, Gabrielle’s, Galatoire’s, Giovanni’s, Grill Room, Indigo, Jaeger’s, K-Paul’s, La Crepe Nanou, Le Rouge, Mr. B’s, Morton’s, Muriel’s, Napoleon House, Oliver’s, Outback, Pat O’s, Pelican, Peristyle, Quarter Scene, Redfish, Remoulade, Santa Fe, Vaqueros, Victor’s, Wolfe’s, Zoe or none of the above?
Oh, and our lascivious, lewd, lustful, libidinous, lecherous, licentious Lady? Ooops! Out of space.

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