Welcome back to Off the Menu, where we bring you the best and strangest food stories from my email inbox. This week, we bring you absolute horror stories of racist, sexist, and generally nasty restaurant bosses. As always, these are real emails from real readers, though names have been changed.
She never gave a thought about messing with people's food
“I used to work at a mom-and-pop gas station/convenience store/restaurant. The restaurant was pretty much cafe food. Almost everything came out of a box, but the owner would swear to customers that everything was homemade.
“The owner was a heavy-set, loud woman. And when I say loud, I mean you could hear her in the restaurant when you were in the store part of the place. I used to call her the Barney Monster. She was like a cross between a big purple Barney and Cookie Monster. Whenever she ate, which was all the time, she'd be eating, talking loudly with spit and food flying everywhere, contaminating everything. She never gave a thought about messing with people's food. She'd sit down with customers, reach over and take fries and stuff off people's plates, and eat it. I even saw her fight with her sister and mother over food in the buspan numerous times. They'd even pull uneaten rolls out of the bustub and place them back into the bag on the line in the kitchen.
“But she just couldn't help but to jack people's food. For example, one morning I was on the line cranking out breakfast. I had just scrambled some eggs, plated them with toast and hash browns, and put the plate in the window for pickup.
“I went to go do something else. She was out taking cash, wiping down tables, stealing food, etc. When I turned around, there she was with both bare hands in the scrambled eggs!
“I was like, ‘What the hell are you doing?!’
“‘I'm just fluffing them up,’ she said.
“I screamed a curse, took the plate (eggs and all), and threw it in the trash, saying, ‘Well, let me just make this again!’
“They also served something they referred to as pie. It was a simple compote from a bucket, ladled into a bowl, and some crust placed on top and baked. This one particular time I saw her in the prep room making them. As I alluded to, you simply scooped the filling into a bunch of bowls, then went back and placed the crusts on top. But, no, not with the Barney Monster!
“I stood in the doorway and watched as she ladled the compote into a bowl, scraped the remaining filling from the ladle with her finger, licked her finger, then proceeded to get the next scoop of filling, put it in a bowl, scrape with her finger, and lick it off again. I almost died right there on the spot.
“I haven't worked there in many years, but I relayed some of these stories to a friend of mine. He recently came to visit for a week, and absolutely had to meet this Barney Monster I had spoken of. We got a table and decided just to split a large basket of fries.
“We got the fries, then she spotted me, sat down, and proceeded to screw with our fries. She went and got a plate and dumped them on it. She got up, came back with her own plate of fries, and proceeded to join us. Barney Monster got halfway through her fries, then dumped her plate onto ours.
“She'll never change.” -- John Hellickson
Can't you take a joke?
“I was working at Margaritaville in New Orleans as a bartender. We pretty much got 100% white-trash rednecks and yuppies who dream of quitting their day jobs and being Jimmy Buffett. All terrible people, almost without exception.
“One (slow) day, two redneck women and two redneck men come in and sit at a table. There are NO other customers, so the other bartender and I flip for them. I lose and go to take their order.
“I'm pleasant, I suggest-sell two drinks and two apps, and they say they need time to look at the menu. I tell them, ‘Of course,’ and turn to walk away. At this point, redneck guy #1 SMACKS me on the butt with the menu and tells me to ‘Hurry back, sweetheart.’
“I immediately pivot back towards him, tell him, ‘That's inappropriate,’ and I walk back behind the bar. The rednecks are stunned. They start loudly talking about me as if I wasn't INCHES away, and wondering what on Earth was my problem?
“The other bartender, who had seen the whole exchange, was flabbergasted. I tell him I’m not going back to get their order, but that he can if he wants to. He says he's absolutely not going to. We talk for a few more minutes (four to five, tops) about what to do, and the GM comes stalking over and says he needs me in his office IMMEDIATELY. I follow him.
“Apparently, in the time it took for us to discuss it, one of the rednecks had gone to the host stand to COMPLAIN ABOUT ME and about how I had refused to take a joke and then wouldn't serve them. They supposedly waited forever before FINALLY getting up to say something.
“Obviously, this was a load of BS and I told him that. So, he goes back to the cameras and makes me watch the whole thing about 10 times, so we can time it exactly. Upon repeated watching, my story checks out and the rednecks are shown to be complete liars.
“But I still get in trouble -- because I should be able to take a joke.” -- Dara Terrell
Of course there's a racist boss in this mix
“Right after graduating massage school, I picked up the worst restaurant job of my life. It was an Indian/Pakistani restaurant with a few tables, bare walls, and no music. Their intention was to get all the orders to go, so that it was quick money. There was no table service, customers ordered at the counter, then I mispronounced their name when it was ready. I got paid $2.14 an hour and on a good shift would maybe make about $14 in tips after eight hours. We were not allowed to have a visible tip jar.
“As icing on this crap cake, they were seriously racist. If a black person was there when the owner was in, he would go straight to them and ask how they knew about Indian food. I don't know how he didn't get punched in his gross mouth. The only thing he hated more than black people was white American girls -- he once told a customer that I was just a machine that was nice to look at.
“The only reason I resisted punching him in his whore mouth is because I was piling up information to file a sexual harassment claim.” -- Amy Hammersmith
Pastrami and ball scratchin'
“I once worked in a Nor-Cal sandwich chain shop. The shop was a franchise owned by a scumbag. For example, during rush periods, he would be watching the security cameras from home, call us up when there was a line to the door, and tell us to sweep behind the counter because it was dirty and he didn’t like looking at it through the camera. Other times, he would call and yell at us, one time to the point where my co-worker had to go into the freezer to cry and bawl for five minutes so he couldn’t see her do it.
“Our shop was pretty popular for its pastrami, so typically we cooked (microwaved) it in big bunches for lunch and kept it warm on the steam table. It rotated fast, we checked its temp, timed it, everything to make sure it was food-safe. Keep this pastrami in mind for later.