Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Irascible Chef.......

Nic Coury foto
. Me working in a carport in New Monterey.

If you did not see the article in Monterey County Weekly.......check it here.

Words by Mark Anderson, fotos by Nic Coury. For some reason the on-line version cuts out Nic's fotos, probably so they don't have to pay him. I know his publisher.

Bradley wanted to hire me away from a coffee table magazine as a food writer twenty years ago. We talked on and on at Silver Jones about ethics, food, restaurants, etc. It was all good.....I paid for the meal.

Then I said the magic words: "What do you pay for articles?"


Awwww, Jesus. I love Bradley (on the Board of Sea Studios among other things), his wife Jeanne, their awesome daughter.......... and the Weekly.

And......The Weekly is a still functioning newspaper with actual journalism and actual opinions.....so I shouldn't be poking fun.

Pay or no pay, I agreed to do a trial run as Restaurant Reviewer for the The Weekly. My opening line ran something like: "Watching the servers and chefs work at The Ryan Ranch Rotisserie is like watching a monkey fuck a football......."

I did not get the job.


Years later.....not so long ago....and editor for The Weekly called me for a repeat interview for the same job. I did another review....which you can find on this blog if you do a search for "Piselli".

Didn't get the job then, either.

You can't hire Mark to write about your daughter's wedding, but you can hire Nic to do the photography. Funny how that works........I guess you have to wait for Mark's book.

Meanwhile....based on the article, the phone at The Store was ringing off the hook with people trying to wedge into our little 60 seat diner. And five of the tables are permanently booked with people we love.

We sell out at least a week out for the early seating.......The late seating is for the hardworking local kids in the wine business and any Carmel folk brave enough to drive after dark.

We made a late call early seating exception for a woman on Saturday. We were slammed with two parties.......and I had poured 180 degree duck fat on my balls and was feeling pretty irascible.

Store Liz.....a close relative of Mother Teresa, at least psychically.....took a call from Joyce Glasgow, the Food and Travel Editor of the Seattle Gay News. In the middle of the chaos of a double departure and the relative destruction of The Store, Liz handled a twenty minute interrogation from Ms. Glasgow about The Store, our food, me, Cachagua....the works.

Liz is nice. She lives in a tiny shack with no water or electricity on the top of the Mountain in Jamesburg and still managed to raise April......who will be the next Condi Rice, and April will not just be smart and well educated........ but have a clue and a heart.

Liz, despite having virtually no income....and virtually no home by normal standards.....pays child support to a welfare scamming scumbag in Oklahoma or possibly one of the square states. So, bears a universe of sorrow....and continues to smile and have a positive attitude to everything.

Liz....nicest person in the world, could barely deal with Ms. Glasgow.

We have been afflicted for several months by wildly annoying female spirits. My Amanda thinks that there is a form changing spirit out there that is stalking us.

Usually this spirit is in the form of a post-menopausal, 55-65 year old, bitter and oblivious, with super misplaced entitlement issues.

People who order butter for Micah's bread.....when there is laboriously researched EVOO with rosemary we grew and obscure sea salts in a nice little dish right in front of them.

One of the spirits manifested last week. In the chaos that is Monday Night, the girls took someone else's beet salad to The Evil Spirit.

"Who has the beet salad?"

"Me! Me!"

As in the "Me Generation".

Yeah, well....it was someone else's salad the waitress brought by mistake, and caused a cascading clusterfuck in our little kitchen. Make another beet salad.....steal someone else's in the meantime......Nightmare.

When the waitress went to clear the salad from The Evil Spirit, she/it said: "Cancel my entree. I am full after that salad."

The entree was already fully cooked, and ready to be delivered. When it arrived, The Evil Spirit said, "Well, I am already full. I guess I will take it to go."

We don't do To Go........just like we don't do butter.

Now it was clear to all and everyone that this was The True Evil Spirit. We burned sage, mugwort....and possibly some other herbs. The hotside guys shifted from Spanish cider to Gruet instantly, and started muttering imprecations.....and the girls tried to calm me and prevent me from charging into the dining room and confronting The Evil.

When the check came to the table, The True Evil Spirit refused to pay for the beet salad....since she didn't order it. She also refused to pay for her entree, because she was already full from the beet salad that she didn't order. Why should she pay for food she couldn't eat because she was already full with food she hadn't ordered?

We billed the sweet old rancher who was her host anyway, and charged him a PLU.....automatic 20% tip. He had never left more than a quarter tip in his life at The Chatterbox, so he balked briefly.....until he saw my kitchen crew, hovering with knives and hot things in their hands.

Hovering with intent. And with fire in their eyes.

Won't see them again. And we probably are not doing their birthday party on Jan 30th next year they had booked us for.

Thank God.

So, back to Joyce Glasgow.

On Sunday, after our week from Hell.....we couldn't open for Brunch because the place was destroyed. Amanda, Micah and I worked for eight hours to get the place back to only....well, destroyed.

Monday dawned with a sold-out first seating.....over-sold, in fact. We had both Lou Calcagno, Tony Lombardo, Michael Stamp and Molly Erickson coming in at the same time. For non-locals, this is like having Vladimir Putin and Mikheil Shaakashvili sitting ten feet apart. Not to mention Ben and Cate, Peyton and Pauline (she with the unmentionable birthday coming on Saturday), Joanie and Lyle.....who saved my ass by driving down gorgeous eggplants and squashes at the last minute on Saturday.

And the place was destroyed.

We worked our duck-fat fried balls off, and tried to get to a place where we would not be humiliated entirely.

I worked for an hour to try to fit everyone in. Our cool new landlord wanted in......couldn't do it. Steve and Nancy wanted to get him in to their table.......couldn't do it.

Be we had a table for Joyce Glasgow......Food and Travel Editor for Seattle Gay News.

A moment about our relations with gay people.

First off, we love Seattle Gay News. Good progressive politics.....plus their Sex Columnist is the guy who came up with the campaign to re-define "Santorum" from the name of a crackpot Senator from Pennsylvania into the disgusting mix of lube, feces and semen resulting from anal sex.

Really. Google "Santorum" and see what you get.

Fucker deserves it.


My brother was gay. A sweet, kind, generous, creative soul I still miss every day of my life. My dad is gay, it turns out. A complete asshole whose assholeness has nothing to do with his sexual orientation. Thank God my mom worked her way past both the assholeness and the latent homosexuality long enough to create our weird family.

Here's to Mom. And here's to Dad, for that matter. He faked it through the banking industry in California in the 50's somehow, and hung in there long enough to get my brother and I through Cornell, and another one through Hobart.

And here's to gay people everywhere. Love is love. There is so precious little of it in the world, I think we should all be encouraging any of it we find. Love shoes? Great. Love German Wirehaired Pointers. Great. Love men? Love women? Even better.

Last weekend we did our first legal same sex marriage. Two women. The emotion and feeling in the room was such that I cried.......and I do seventy weddings a year, for 30 years now. Two wonderful, hardworking, creative women that had fought so many negatives.....and still created a kind, loving space in life for at least two people, though it actually wound up being big enough for all forty guests and a staff of seven.

I wish that the kind, sweet, Christians we are recently surrounded by could see fit to ignore sexual issues like Gay Marriage and Choice.....and vote for a candidate that is not a corrupt, lying sack of shit.

Honor is not negociable......Everything else is.

I met Cary Grant once at Merv Griffin's. He has one of my favorite moral/ethical quotes ever.

Working on a shoot with a Nightmare Princess from Hell back in the 1930's.......probably an earlier incarnation of The Evil Spirit.....he noticed that she was passively-agressively avoiding/hitting on him.

His response:

"Let's have sex. Will you sleep with me for say.....a million dollars?"

"Well, baby.....let's talk!"

"Well, then.....will you sleep with me for a dollar?"

"Ohmigod.....What do you think I am?"

"Well.......I already know what you are.......

Now we are just negociating about your price."

John McCain in a nutshell.....

Back to Joyce.

2pm on Monday.......trying to produce 14 entrees, six salads, six appetizers, six pizzas and eight desserts from a chaotic hell.

Phone rings.......

Liz talks for a while, and I see an awful, frustrated vision on her face.

"Gimme the fucking phone."

"I want to know about your entrees. Do you have like fish, meat and vegetarian items?"

"We had 14 entrees last Monday. Meat, two fishes, all that. We are not huge vegetarian people. We tend to cook vegetarians if we can.....but we have an heirloom marinara spaghetti and a pezze with a deconstructed ratatouille from local veggies."

"What are you serving tonight?"

Like I actually knew for sure. We publish our menu at 6pm.....usually with people already seated. Still, I read her off all the entrees from last week.

"Well, I need to know what your preparations are. I don't want to drive all the way out there and be disappointed."

I know I keep going on about the 120 hour work week.......but it is different.

Those of us who hoe this row have this weird idea that some respect should be involved. We may be the culinary equivalent of the Salinas Peppers baseball team.....but do not fuck with us.

Irascible Chef for a reason.

"Ma'am......I am a chef. I am not a fucking cookbook! We are not going to get along........I can tell. Let me save you the disappointment. I am cancelling your reservation. Go to the Rio Grill......

And, by the way....... fuck off and die, and save yourself the drive."


Irascible Chef.

She called back and tried to complain about me to one of my people. I grabbed the phone.

"Joyce.....you are a horrible person. I am hanging up now. If you call back, I will call the police. Or worse......I will call Kevin from Laurel Springs.......he has some serious anger built up."

The good part was that my staff was fully empowered by my anger. After dealing with dickweeds all weekend (we need to move the bonfire four feet.....whaddya mean you don't have Coors Lite?).....they rallied to a higher sphere.

Workers deserve respect. If they don't get it, it is fine to impose it corporally. Where is that hairbrush, anyway.

Monday Night was fine. We didn't make any money.....but we never do.

Next morning, when The Store opened, first three phone calls were from Joyce, the Carmel Valley Chamber of Commerce responding to a complaint to a call from Joyce, and the Better Business Bureau from San Jose.....responding to a complaint from Joyce.

Wanna buy a restaurant?

Next time you buy a bagel, a coffee, a sandwich, or a five course meal.....be extra kind to your server.

Chances are......she just had to deal with a Joyce.

And she is still smiling and being kind..........

American workers are the bomb...........

P.S. I called Seattle Gay News.......the publisher spoke to me personally. A kind, sweet man.

Joyce has a tenuous at best relationship with them. She goes around using their name to bludgeon hotels, airlines, restaurants, theatres, etc into free shit.


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