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A Chef With Only One Line (Part 1)

by Mirrelle Beneffitte 3 months ago in Workplace · updated 3 months ago

Observations from the perspective of a novice team member

Photo by Jesson Mata on Unsplash

Matías* – the general manager of a small restaurant in the city centre – enters the premises at 6.00 a.m. as usual. There is not much traffic in the street yet, only a few buses are blowing air from under the chassis onto the street, reminiscent of a panting dragon. The street itself is the one with the Odeon cinema, H&M, and a few take-aways placed there for pure competition. This always bothers Matías* who comes to the restaurant every day before any of his staff members show up for work. He needs these hours to reflect on the future. This issue is also in the spotlight of regional manager Juan-José*, which runs through his mind every time he visits the area at the beginning of each month. It was he who raised the level of services within the company. Craving Bull* is well on its way to achieve its goal of being the most popular fast-food restaurant at lunchtime, slowly and consistently pushing away major competitors, at least in this city. Other localities in the country strongly support this offensive, seizing the post-recession opportunity in the main competitor’s campaign, forcing their advertising and promotion. There should be twice as many Craving Bull* restaurants by the end of this decade, which will be a huge step forward.

Craving Bull* is not only about lunch. It is more than that. It’s a whole culture of eating out, having fun, and taking friends (or family) with you. It is a carefully thought-out philosophy hidden between the western door of the Mexican hacienda, at least two-storey wooden interiors, and the waiter serving customers, who is summoned by a specific kind of shout: “Hey! Waiter! More! More life! More pace! More food!”. This image resounds like a boomerang in Juan-José’s* mind during each of his visits. He watches the general manager, his employees while the customers enjoy tortillas, gorditas, quesadillas, French fries, nachos, burritos… There is a prep in the person of Santiago* today – a massive, mild-mannered man who wouldn’t kill a fly, but whose posture would be adequate to fight an elephant, a true version of John Coffey from “The Green Mile”. And there is only one line, but that’s enough for today and any other day. Matías* is responsible for it. He usually stands in the centre to steer (when necessary) and watch the rest of the guys. The guys “cook and present” the food, the girls “serve” at the tills and clean the house after the customers’ consumption: tables, chairs, trays, bins, and even toilets. All of this is expected of you as an employee at any stage. At the back of the kitchen, there is a deployment sheet with tasks for each team member for each day of the week. As you have more experience, you will move from front to back where you will “delve into it” in more detail. I don’t want to be there yet. For now, I can only observe, learn, remember what is important and what is not. Anything can be of value if we give it to it ourselves. I don’t know if my work here has any value yet. It could happen soon, if I let it. I know customer service matters to me, yet if I mean nothing to myself whilst serving them, what then?

I feel like my body will soon splash on the floor, imitating water, as Amelia’s from the movie. I don’t feel my legs, they are as heavy as stone, as if multiple tiles representing my legs were stuck to a concrete wall. I have to make an effort to lift them off the floor. My lower back hurts too. I’m not young anymore like the black girls around me. They have the energy to run up and down the stairs, clean the tables, floors, and toilets, change the bins. I have been trained for more promising tasks: how to please customers with a good service, not by reciting a recipe from the package. I was taught how to operate optical equipment, choose the right glasses for each generation, and advise on how to keep them in the best condition for as long as possible, not cleaning up toilets after clients as these are duties of a cleaner, not a team member. I don’t think that’s right. Although I care about customers, customers should also care about me. This type of agreement presumably exists in the air when it comes to interaction. If it is misunderstood, then I don’t think it makes any sense. Food delivery companies also do not employ the right people, the bags are too heavy for women who show us the iPad with trembling hands. This is not right. I knew it before, I never ordered food like this, it’s not human. Why use some people for the pleasure of others? Does it make sense, this modern age of life? Getting your family and friends involved… Why not cook your food in a home environment using fresh ingredients that you know where they come from? Why not change the habits that have been imprinted on our minds for decades since we were kids? Since they weren’t written in my child’s mind, they’re not there, so that’s probably why I think and write these words. A day in the ordinary life of an ordinary woman. Nothing special, nothing happened far away from the usual, and yet something did. Something is screaming inside me: this is just one line of life, not the whole life. Print of one finger, not the entire hand. One way of looking at it, just one line and blind cooking, not a lifetime. I think I need to write another story to make it worth my life.


*All real names have been changed for privacy reasons.


Thank you for reading!

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You can find more stories, articles, and poems from Mirrelle Beneffitte on my profile on Vocal. The art of creation never ends.


Mirrelle Beneffitte

Creative Writer based in UK; BA Cultural Studies

If you find yourself in my stories, it’s my pleasure to create them

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