Shit Chef: Nail in the Paella
About a million years ago I was a cook at a bunch of different restaurants along the Jersey shore Here’s a story from that time.
This one place I worked at was on the water, it’s gimmick was the dining room was built on a moored barge. It was pretty high end and we did about two to three hundred diners on a weekend night. Like any restaurant we would get the occasional scam artist who would try to cadge a free meal out of us. They would slip a pushpin or a rubber band in with their meal and cry foul. Nobody ever got a free meal out of it, the most they’d get was a round of drinks or a free desert. I’m not saying that nothing ever fell into the food, on a busy night something might fall off of a shelf. If a complaint did come back to the kitchen I would check what was found in the food against what was around it’s preparation and plating.
Paella is a big Spanish seafood dish, we served it for two. It had lobster, shrimp, scallops, clams, chorizo, and saffron rice. It was pretty expensive and we would sell a few each weekend. One busy Saturday night at around 9pm when it was packed a couple who had a Paella started freaking out (of course it was about 75% eaten already). They had a found a nail in their Paella not just any nail but a bright, shiny five inch nail. Now there’s no goddamned way that could have happened except for the customers putting it in themselves. The guy started complaining and it went up the complaint ladder from busboy to waiter to hostess to manager. The customer was getting louder and he was just at the point of having everyone in the restaurant hear him. A horrible silent moment where the tide of the night could turn and maybe just maybe the future of the restaurant, “There was this guy who found something in his food, a giant nail…” Stories like that can sometimes spread like a cancer. This guy didn’t just want the dinner taken off the bill, or drinks, or desert. He wanted everything comped, another Paella, and more drinks. He thought that his loud act would win out. Doug our manager was a guy who had been around kitchens for a long time. He was big and looked like a professional wrestler, drank like a fish, was coarse, funny as hell, and would not put up with any bullshit. Doug came in the kitchen and got Sammy and I. Sammy was another line cook a big Hawiaain guy who was crazy, he never got fucked up which made his craziness a little more serious. I on the other hand was not crazy but I was fucked up, and ready for the inevitable dinner rush. Doug told Sammy and I to stand by the kitchen doors and if he pushed this douche bag through it we were to beat the shit out of him and throw him in the dumpster out back. This all went down pretty quick and for some reason I picked up a meat mallet and Sammy picked up a cleaver. We stood by the kitchen doors looking at the guy while Doug talked to him. Doug took the guy towards the kitchen under the aegis of “Let’s talk this over”. He points to us and says “Look at those guys behind the doors, they’re gonna beat the shit out of you and throw you into the dumpster, if you don’t stop acting like an asshole, I know the cops and they won’t do shit. I know you’re fucking lying about the nail. Now shut the fuck up take your free drinks and consider yourself lucky” And he did just that. I am so goddamned glad he didn’t come through the door.