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We’re Exhausted Just Editing This!

, , , , | Working | June 9, 2022

I am two months into my first job working in a restaurant’s kitchen. While I haven’t been there long, I have picked up that one of my coworkers isn’t well-liked. Since I haven’t heard anything specific, and I don’t yet know if the complainers are trustworthy, I don’t really understand where they’re coming from since [Coworker #1] seems nice enough.

That is, until this Saturday.

When I start my shift at 12:30, we are already slammed. Our screen is full of food tickets, and I can see that the oldest ones have been waiting for over forty minutes for their food already. For comparison, we’re supposed to have all food cooked and ready within ten minutes, but it’s not unreasonable to reach twenty or thirty minutes at busier times.

[Coworker #1] is the kitchen’s lead today and she assigns me to the fryers, so I fry. I fry, and I put the fried stuff on the plates she tells me to.

As time goes on, I realise I’m frying food faster than it is going out. This is bad because if the food stands for too long, it has to go to waste, and I can’t plate it if we haven’t got to the right ticket yet, and I don’t know my coworker’s plate system.

In the background, SOMETHING is going down. The manager keeps radioing the system because food has been sent wrong or incomplete, or replacements are needed. [Coworker #2] keeps taking the radio because [Coworker #1] is too busy to answer it, but then [Coworker #1] doesn’t hear what the messages are.

At one point, we get an order for two brunches. One wants, among various substitutions, onion rings instead of chips. Once [Coworker #1] has let me know which are the brunch plates, I put chips on one and onion rings on the other.

Coworker #1: “[My Name], can we get chips on this plate, please?”

Me: *Relatively calm* “Oh, that one doesn’t want chips.”

I get it; it’s busy and she might not have noticed the substitution. Thankfully, due to the layout of the kitchen, I am the only one putting chips on plates which means I can put them on the correct plates. But then, a couple minutes later…

Coworker #1: “Let’s see, two brunches… [My Name], chips on this one, please.”

Me: *Still calm-ish* “Not that one; it doesn’t want chips.”

And she asks again, a minute after that.

Coworker #1: “I need chips on this brunch, [My Name].”

Me: *Somehow still calm* “No, that one asked for ‘no chips, add onion rings.’”

Coworker #1: “Oh.” *Checks the ticket, sees other substitutions* “Well, that is an odd combination.”

I think that is the end of it. These brunches are just waiting for eggs, which take a literal minute to cook, and then they can go. But, another couple of minutes later, she still hasn’t got it.

Coworker #1: *Looking between the screen and the plates* “Uh, brunch… Can we get chips on this plate?”

Me: *Barely keeping up a pretense of calm* “No. This one does not. Want. Chips.”

Coworker #1: “Okay.”

She looks at the screen, puts food on a different plate, and then looks between the screen and plates again.

Coworker #1: “This plate is still missing chips, [My Name]. Can you put some on, please?”

I am THIS close to snapping.

Me: “This plate does not want chips.” *Points at the screen* “Look, ‘no chips, add onion rings.’ It has onion rings; they are here.” *Points at the onion rings on the plate* “This plate does not want any chips. All it needs is an egg, and then it is done. No chips.”

Coworker #1: “Hmm? Oh, I see. Okay, then.”

Soon after, whoever is in charge of cooking the eggs gets one for the plate and they get sent to the customers. Then, the radio goes off again.

Manager: “We need another replacement [meal] ASAP.”

I don’t know until later, but when the manager said, “Replacement,” they meant, “You forgot to cook this and sent the rest of the food without it.”

Coworker #1: “Again? I have made six replacement [meal]s today. I am not making another.”

Manager: “Excuse me? You can’t just not cook it. We need it now.”

[Coworker #2] is standing too far away from me for me to hear what she says, but she argues with [Coworker #1] and ends up leaving the kitchen to talk to the manager because [Coworker #1] won’t give her the radio. I catch something along the lines of how [Coworker #1]’s shift is ending soon or was supposed to have ended, which would be frustrating but doesn’t excuse her screwing up all day. I also catch much swearing, but not the in-between words.

At this point, I should clarify who else is in the kitchen. [Coworker #1], I, and someone else are cooking the hot food, [Coworker #2] and someone are on the cold food, and another person is washing dishes. When [Coworker #2] leaves the kitchen, [Coworker #1] and the other guy on hot food stop. At this point, the oldest ticket has been waiting for over an hour, and one of my coworkers has wandered off to talk to the manager, another is who knows where, and [Coworker #1] is sitting on the floor in front of the fridge.

Of the two remaining coworkers, one is under eighteen and the other hasn’t been trained for any of the hot food side. That leaves me, so I look at the top order to see if I can do it. As I said, I’ve only been here two months, so I’m painfully slow going through the motions: “Okay, that’s two meals, so I need two plates. Put two plates in the serving area. Each plate wants a fish — are fish cooking? Yes, okay. Each plate wants chips; put chips on plate. Okay, each plate wants peas — are peas cooking? No, I’ll put some on.”

By that point, [Coworker #2] has returned with a manager, and [Coworker #1] has clocked out. This manager is trained to work in the kitchen but isn’t technically supposed to be here since he’s scheduled to work the bar.

He’s shouting orders at us, but they’re clear and keeping everyone on track. Every so often he’ll shout, “[Specific Person], you’re doing great; keep it up!” Things are still tense, but morale has improved. If a customer cancels their order — fair, considering how long they’ve been waiting — he doesn’t spend five minutes arguing with the bar; he just lets it cancel. Food starts going down quicker, and more importantly, correctly.

Half an hour later, at 15:00, [Coworker #3] shows up for the start of her shift. Since she leads the kitchen, I’m pretty sure her shift is to take over from [Coworker #1]. The manager lets her know where we’re up to and leaves since he wasn’t supposed to be here. We finish up the last of the orders by 15:30.

With everything calmed down, I can actually clean up some of the mess that has accumulated. [Coworker #3] checks the hot hold and finds some food that was cooked but never served. Food can only stand there so long before we’re not allowed to serve it to customers, but that’s more a precaution than the food actually being bad, so she offers some to the staff.

Once I’ve finished cleaning the area where the food gets served, I grab one of the offered pieces of chicken and leave the kitchen to eat it. As I’m stood there, a different manager comes to the kitchen area and sees me eating.

Manager #2: “That bad, huh?”

I could only nod in response. He entered the kitchen, and I heard him complaining to the new lead about [Coworker #1], swearing every other word. This is when I heard the details of how she kept sending food down wrong or incomplete. In the moment, I was focused on my section so didn’t notice.

Over the next couple of days, the gossipy complaining about [Coworker #1] reached a new level. Everyone was talking about their own bad experiences with her, generally painting her in an incompetent, unempathetic light. The only good rumour I’ve heard is that she’s due a meeting with the managers about her behaviour.

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