Off The Menu

Rotten, Racist & Straight-Up Nasty Restaurant Bosses You Couldn't Make Up

Awful woman boss
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

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.

I was so done with his malarkey at that point that I start venting all the steam I had.

“The worst days were when the owner came into the store to ‘work’ with us (I had to teach him how to open the cash drawer without a sale three times in one week -- it was a single button). Now, keep in mind, visits from the owner were when we got the most of our complaints. Several times, we got a complaint that when giving customers their change, he would scratch his private parts through his shorts and then hand over the money.

“This visit in question happened just as summer was starting. I knew I'd be going away to college soon, so I had just given one-month notice to my manager -- I was the assistant manager -- so that I could enjoy some free time in summer. The owner didn’t know until a few days later, the day of his visit. He started bombarding me with questions and comments, questioning the wisdom of my choice to leave, and pulling me outside to have a sit-down in the middle of the lunch rush. I eventually got so frustrated with his repeat questions or refusal to accept the answer I gave, that I started unloading on him everything he does wrong that he thought he did perfectly: breaks regulations, wages, bathroom use, various hypocritical things like uniform policy, etc.

“I was so done with his malarkey at that point that I start venting all the steam I had. I rounded it all off nicely by calling him out on violating food safety. You see, the owner also liked the pastrami. In fact, he would often be quite peckish for it. While working. Behind the line. So he would open the cover on the hot table, stick his unwashed, ungloved hand inside -- a hand that I presume had just scratched his region -- grab some cooked pastrami, and feed his face. This was a regular habit. Thankfully, he was in the store very rarely, and whenever I saw him do this, I would surreptitiously toss all the adjacent pastrami, just to attempt to have some sort of clean conscience when I served it. But I couldn’t be there all the time and/or always see him do it.

“Needless to say, after I called him out, rather than fire me, he simply ‘accepted’ my resignation early. I came back the next day to drop off my uniform and key as requested and he not only didn’t let me inside the store to say goodbye to my co-workers, but banned me from ever coming into the store again. I walked back to my car laughing. My co-workers took me out for drinks later for standing up to him.” -- Nathan Eggers

Kitchen fire
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

New fire blanket > new kitchen

“I was a waitress/kitchen hand at a hotel in a tiny town. All the staff lived in and had the run of the kitchen.  One morning I was doing side work when the idiot manager dumped a heap of bacon in a cast-iron fry pan, turned the burner on full... and went off to make a phone call.

“Of course, the pan caught fire. To my undying regret, there was no fire extinguisher, so I spread the fire blanket over the conflagration and made it safe. I figured it would exhaust its fuel and burn itself out within a few minutes.

“Idiot manager came back in and LOST HIS MIND. First, he screamed that there was a fire. Yeah, I noticed you tried to burn the place down, dumbass, it's under control. Cool your boots. Then he screamed at me to throw some water on it. I rather sharply told him that throwing water on a grease fire was a bad idea; he was welcome to, but let me get out of the room first.

“Then he screamed at me to get the fire blanket off the pan because the fire would damage the blanket. I pointed out that it was a freaking FIRE blanket. I also pointed out that it was preventing the fire from spreading to the walls and ceiling, and would the owner rather buy a new fire blanket or a new kitchen?

“The fire had by now burned itself out, so I held the blanket up to show him it was undamaged. He had all kinds of dramatics because it was soot-stained. I reminded him that had I called the fire department, the place would have been shut down because there were no fire extinguishers or smoke alarms in the kitchen.

“He made me clean up the mess.” -- Laura Claymore

Someone's gotta use this hotel room!

“I worked as a server at a wannabe upscale pan-Asian restaurant in the Chicago area for several years, and one of the managers was a complete dick. He was VERY full of himself -- partly because he used to play baseball for a Chicago team and partly because he was relatively good-looking for a corporate restaurant manager in his early 40s (well, if you are into the whole Mr. Clean thing). He was VERY handsy with the women on staff -- particularly the hostesses, who were all in high school. His signature move was to come up next to you, place his hand on your lower back as he gave you a smarmy compliment (e.g., ‘Great initiative restocking the fortune cookies!’), and then slowly let his fingers trail along the top of your butt as he removed his hand. *Shudder*

“However, there was one time that he went WAY too far. [Editor’s Note: The above ISN’T way too far?!] As with any restaurant, most of the staff were boning each other, and this dude wanted in on that action. He set his sights on a server, I’ll call her Nicole, who was a cute, shy woman in her early 20s. During our Christmas party, he pulled a few of the guys aside to tell them that he had rented a hotel room nearby, and was ready to ‘score’ with Nicole. He then proceeded to get hammered and chase her around trying to feel her up and get her to leave the party to have sex with him. She rebuffed him for a while and ended up leaving in tears. He got really pissed when she left, and came stomping up to the bar where I was chatting with another server. He yelled, ‘Are you two going to f*** tonight?’ and then chucked the hotel-room key card at my friend’s head as he screamed, ‘SOMEONE should get use out of the room that I paid for!’ He then drove home completely hammered.

“Besides the fact that his actions were completely inappropriate, this guy was also married and had three small children. I felt really bad for his wife... I imagine it must be difficult to be married to a total perv.” -- Katie Hylind

'Roid rage is very, very real

“I was working at a bar/laundromat (yep) in a crappy town in North Carolina a number of years ago. There was an owner and a manager. The owner was VERY involved in the day-to-day and the manager had some kind of complex where he was always trying to prove himself worthy to said owner (worthy, that is, of his management position at a bar/laundromat). It was as weird as it sounds. The manager would follow the owner around like a puppy dog performing for a treat.

“It's important to note that the owner openly used steroids, and the manager, always the lil’ follower, started using them too. I was too naive at the time to know that they were also snorting hella blow 100% of the time, but I did know about the copious amounts of alcohol and the 'roids. So, I was in a terrible town, bartending at a laundromat, my nickname was ‘librarian’ (they had seen me reading a book once), and my bosses were coked-up, 'roided-out, sexist pieces of human garbage.

“One particular evening, I was closing up and counting the drawer while the bosses yucked it up and got progressively more drunk, until the manager told the owner his sob story about how he ‘never had a dad’ and ‘would [owner] be his dad?’ Apparently this did something to owner (perhaps touched a vulnerable insecurity about the 'roids shrinking his tiny balls and making him infertile?) and he LOST IT. I mean, he knocked manager off the barstool, got on top of him, and started pummeling. Manager, who I had personally seen beat the holy out of many an unassuming customer, curled up in the fetal position and didn't even attempt to swing a punch. This went on for an unnerving amount of time while I continued to count money so I could GTFO before I became witness to a murder.

The sound of baseball bat hitting bone and meat is one I will never forget.

“Suddenly, owner stood up, brushed himself off, and sat back down. Manager did the same and for about two seconds, neither one said anything, and manager silently dripped blood and tears on my freshly cleaned bar.

“Then, completely unprovoked, Owner stood up ON THE BAR and got the decorative (but very real) baseball bat hanging from the wall and proceeded to beat Manager with a baseball bat. The sound of baseball bat hitting bone and meat is one I will never forget. The image of a full-grown, swole dude just TAKING the hits was so pathetic it almost made me feel sorry for Manager. This continued for another five minutes or so until I threatened to call the cops.  

“Manager got on his motorcycle and drove off, Owner got in his ‘I have a tiny penis’ massive truck and drove off, and I was left there, alone, with 2k cash in my hand and no way to lock the doors after I left the bar. I left anyway, texted Owner on my way out, and showed up for my shift the next day, where both parties acted as if nothing had ever happened.” -- Ali Bell

Do you have a restaurant, home-cooking, or any other food-adjacent story you’d like to see appear in Off the Menu (on ANY subject, not just this one)? Please email WilyUbertrout@gmail.com with “Off the Menu” in the subject line (or you can find me on Twitter: @EyePatchGuy). Submissions are always welcome!

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C.A. Pinkham is a guy who makes inappropriate jokes about Toblerones on the internet. Follow him on Twitter: @EyePatchGuy.