DISHWASHER

The importance of the dishwasher in any restaurant…

***

The manager starts to look for forks and knives. He discovers forks and knives bundled in napkins hidden in the different rooms in and under the flowerpots.

…the tale of those
DISHWASHERS
Never mind that it’s foggy, it is Saturday night. During the summer the visitors from all over the world visit the Central Californian town. There are many reservations on the book. It’s getting closer to opening time. Both dishwashers at the four star Dinner-House have not shown up. “Please! …any night but not tonight!” is part of the chef’s reaction to being without his dish-washing-crew. He himself is washing some sauce pans which, as he well knows, he will need soon again. His “I really wonder what happened to them?” question to the passing by hostess shows that he cares. The chef has every reason to worry. These two dishwashers have never been sick, never missed a day of work in over three years. Not coming to work at all, on a busy night, is not their style.
The two dishwashers are hard working Mexican nationals and well liked by everyone. The hostess mentions to one of the waiters “They might not show up at all! I think they are getting a free bus-ride. A one-way-ticket in an INS Bus back home south of the border!” Somebody tells the story to the chef, who thinks it is a matter of fact. Irritated the chef calls the book-keepers, inquiring about the legal status of his help. The lady in book-keeping is able to calm the chef down. She knows for sure that one of the missing two workers has all the required papers. About the second one, she thinks he is legal but cannot find his file.
The chef asks his cooks and the waiters if anybody knows someone who could do tonight’s dishes and glassware. It’s going to be a full house. Everybody expects a busy night. The absence of a dish-washing-crew is becoming an important issue. Usually those guys are overlooked. They do the lowest paid job. They are hidden from the customer’s eyes and always kept busy with cleaning duties and the operation of the dishwashing machine. True on a regular night a waiter or a cook could easy fill in and do the dishes. But tonight every hand is needed on the floor and all cooks will have their hands full all night long.
Some of the waiters put extra glasses on the tables in their stations. They know without dishwashing crew they surely will be running out of glasses.
The chef has sweat pearls on his forehead. He is counting all the plates. He realizes if he uses all the dinner plates available, including the new unpacked ones, he might make it till halfway through the night before he has to wash more plates.
One waiter is looking for silverware. It is all gone! None left in the kitchen. Some of the faster waiters have taken what they could find. They hoard it, so they shall be able to reset their tables for a second seating. No dishwasher means to them nobody who washes silverware. The manager starts to look for forks and knives. He discovers forks and knives bundled in napkins hidden in the different rooms in and under the flowerpots. There are more in the wait stations under the sink and hidden behind trays. And the bartender finds more silverware under the ice of the large ice maker.
The chef knows of some Mexican workers who had been arrested by INS on a local transit bus. Not too long ago the restaurant down the road lost two good cooks this way. Now the chef de cuisine, who seldom uses four letter words, is quietly cussing the system, the INS and California’s governor who have declared open season against the illegal workers. The chef at a quick glance into the bar observes the bartender. Same here, he too is piling up boxes and boxes with glasses behind his bar to be ready for any business and to be sure he has enough glasses in which to serve drinks tonight. And the chef unable to find a replacement dish-washing-crew is mentally getting ready to do the dishes himself between orders.
One minute to six. Sixty seconds till the door opens and the waiting guests shall be seated. Julio and Augustine the two dishwashers arrive, somewhat out of breath. The chef de cuisine ready to blow up, lets off steam with an outburst of “Where on earth have you guys been?” He tells both, Julio and Augustine, how much he has been worried about them. He gets to find out that the two had waited for their bus which never came. Finally they decided to walk to work.
The manager calls the transit-system’s phone number, “Yes the Saturday four-thirty number sixteen is no longer running… but there is still a six o’clock bus!” The manager tells the chef what he found out. He is getting to hear: “You didn’t have to check up on them! I know my people! They would never lie to me!” The manager’s answer goes under in the rattling noise of the dot-matrix printers. Orders are coming in! Cold appetizer tickets are printed out in the cold kitchen, soups and hot appetizers at the hot line. The chef reads these orders and everybody gets with his own job. There is no more time for casual conversations. Orders are now prepared and put onto the pick-up-line. Waiters being called by the chef’s voice pick up their food. Tickets are moved from the order wheel onto the pick-up wheel. The typical kitchen hustle and bustle have started and shall not end till the last order has left the kitchen later in the night.
Everything is back to normal, however some of us need sometimes to be reminded, that everybody who works in a restaurant is equally important no matter what the job title is.

by helmut schonwalder