Expedite

It’s a powerful word in a restaurant, expedite. Emeril Lagasse got in hot water at Commander’s Palace, NOLA, for being a screaming hardass expediter, the person who connects the servers and the cooks to push food out faster and make sure the temp and the presentation are right.

Our usual expediter in Patio Grille is Sonia, a big handsome Nordic woman who gets things done in a reasonable voice … and makes the cooks her own water/fruit juice/fizzy cocktail so we stay hydrated. She has and keeps a clear vision of what needs to go out when. That’s important because one long cook time — a duck breast, for instance — will hold up a whole table’s orders. In kitchen talk, we sell the table when the duck goes out.

(Why duck? We can’t partially cook it ahead. We might sell a duck breast every two days. Chicken, I do maybe 8 breasts to start every service, with four flatiron steaks and four portions of salmon. All of that will sell in the first hour. But duck and the tandoori chicken sates, it’s a waste of protein to cook it ahead.)

So today it’s another MFin beautiful 84-degree day and we know we will get slammed. Exec Chef does too, and he comes out to expedite. I don’t want to swear too much here, even in initial code, but bloody hell. He sucks at this job. “Two salmon salads,” he says. Then, “five salmons, we need five salmons.” So is that 7, or did we just get an order for 3? “Pat, we need two salmon salads on the fly.” Are we at 7 now? Or is that the original 2? And why are they on the fly if the ticket just came through 30 seconds ago?

Exec Chef is yelling, which encourages the servers to yell and ask for special speedy service. With Sonia, no one else speaks to us, because we don’t listen. But Exec Chef either can’t control or doesn’t notice the server yelling-frenzy around him.

Bilal and I do not get weeded. We crank out food non-stop, beautiful entrees and salads and sandwiches and apps and we move back and forth between each other’s dishes with very little discussion until Exec Chef is gone and I look up and there are five salmon salads sitting in the window. This is spinach with chile lime dressing, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, black beans and perfectly cooked salmon topped with sweet roasted corn salsa I made an hour ago. It’s a great plate, it ain’t cheap to make or buy, and we have five that will go into the trash can. Jesus bloody wept.

Sometimes managers should stay in bed and call in sick.

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