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Hazing rituals


Lonnie
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My first exposure to the hazing rituals for new restaurant employees was Jacques Pepin's description of his own unforgettable afternoon of lugging weird stuff from restaurant to restaurant in his book, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen. Then my son came home one day after about his third day in a downtown, upscale restaurant. They had sent him out to see if any of the other restaurants in the area could lend them some "blue steam." He eventually came back with a can of Sterno, thinking it was blue and could potentially create something hot like steam. During his stint at the CIA he's collected a few more items that newbies are sent to look for:

- left-handed mop

- bacon-stretcher

- slotted knife

- a bucket of steam

So... what other hazing rituals are going on out there in restaurant land?

Lonnie

"It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all of the answers." --James Thurber

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When I grew up it was a lexan of captured steam from the restaurant next door. Of course the restaurant next door was all in on this too. Others were a souffle cup of "Coke grease" (which was au jus) to take over to whatever destination the newbie was told to carry it. Damn. Worked every time too. :laugh:

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We have large buckets full of grated horseradish and when a new guy comes in he is usually asked if he can smell something funny in it. They stick their head in and immediately start coughing. Violently. The eyes turn red, they start wheezing, and and usually pretty pissed afterwards.

Sometimes the new guy will get asked to run on a pan of strawberry mashed potatoes, "ON THE FLY! IN THE WALK IN!"

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What do you all think would happen if a newbie, when told to go get a left-handed whisk or whatever, responded with "Oh come on, there's no such thing!" Would he be viewed as a spoilsport? Hailed as refreshingly sensible for a newbie? Set up for a much more devious trick? What? :laugh:

Edited by mizducky (log)
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What do you all think would happen if a newbie, when told to go get a left-handed whisk or whatever, responded with "Oh come on, there's no such thing!" Would he be viewed as a spoilsport? Hailed as refreshingly sensible for a newbie? Set up for a much more devious trick? What? :laugh:

...the beautiful thing about newbies is they're not smart enough to realize...

best one i ever received was one night after service the sous chef told me to cut and pre sear the foie for a private lunch the following morning. when the chef found the foie on the speedrack the next morning, he started to go ballistic on the sous chef and he just pointed to me. i got bitch slapped something fierce and had to pay for the foie gras. i gotta say though this taught me two extremely important lessons: first being to question everything you do in the kitchen, it will make you a smarter, better, and more conscious cook. the second and equally as important, never put 1T of cayenne in the sous chef's red bull....

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Heh. First job, 1974, pizza place. Newbies were in charge of folding and lining pizza boxes for the hearth cooks. As we're getting ready to use a box, we'd hold up the pan liner and say, "hey, you put this in upside down! If T.D. (mean GM) sees this, he'll be pissed! sometimes he does spot checks, and you do NOT want him to catch this!"

Poor newbie would spend half the shift pulling out boxes and holding the liner up to the light, and then with great confidence, placing them "right side up" in the box.

(We used regular pan liners -- and told the newbies that they didn't come "right side up" in a pack -- that the person putting them in had to check each one. And that the GM could tell on sight.)

Okay, we were teenagers, but still. :biggrin:

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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I just looked at the top of the page this thread is on and lo and behold, there's a bucket of steam! I have no idea how long this ad for "The Viking Life" is going to sit there, nor if everyone can see it (is it rotating with something else?) but it's got a picture of a huge bucket of steam. So it does exist!

"It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all of the answers." --James Thurber

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Sigh. The new hostess just got tormented with this old trick a couple of weeks ago. She was told to go to the restaurant around the corner and get back the Keys to the Handtruck. The other kitchen, clearly understanding that the poor girl was being hazed said they'd give her the Keys to the Handtruck back but we had to return the Left Handed Cheese Knife we borrowed first. She trudged back to our kitchen where she was handed a shrimp deveiner, told it was a Left Handed Cheese Knife and told to go get the Keys to the Handtruck. Off she went. Back she came with I don't know what. Then she was sent for a Box of Sky Hooks. She finally caught on when she was asked for the omnipresent Bucket of Steam. :rolleyes:

Katie M. Loeb
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Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

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The first restaurant I worked in was in my own neighborhood, and I already knew most of the other employees before I worked there. So I never really got hazed, but still know every trick in the book.

At my first fine dining job my CdP asked me to get him a left handed saute pan. He was a bit of a dork, so I put him in his place.

Anyhow, the best pranks we pulled were when an employee quit. At one restaurant, we broke into the guy's car, popped his hood, and removed all his spark plugs.

Also, in the winter, coating the doorhandles of his car with ice.

Then theres also the old trick of taking their street clothes, dunking them in water and freezing them in the walk-in freezer.

Another time we camped outside the back door, peppered the guy with eggs, and then dumped a large bucket of flour on him.

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What is it about working in kitchens that encourages this kind of hazing? I mean, most of my work has been with computers, and I've never shown up on the first day and had someone ask me to install a left-handed version of Microsoft Word.

"There is nothing like a good tomato sandwich now and then."

-Harriet M. Welsch

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Not just restaurants -- at race tracks, the newbies are told to go get the "key to the quarter pole." In the Navy, it used to be "two fathoms of firing line." An old, old amusement.

If you have a coupon for it, you don't want it.

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In the carnival/non-perfomer circus atmosphere, the johnnie-come-latelys are usually treated to requests for a "bucket of steam" (to degrease the ride) a left handed monkey wrench, a canvas stretcher or a bale of cotton for the cotton candy machine... :rolleyes:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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Years ago I ran the line at a restaurant in a truly uscale suburban environment...they'd hire these high school hostesses based purely, of course, on their looks...at several ltimes during service the new hostesses were required to pick up the dupes (tickets) from the kitchen and count look at the kithchen copy vs. the server copy...we were serving a lot of trout at the time and many many of our wealthy customeres hadn't the slightest desire to see the cooked fish head, so we would slide them onto the ticket spindle under previously spiked tickets...it was alway a souirce of delight for my greay sweaty line crew to hear the disgusted and shocked "eeeeeewwww" that came from the room next door where our little suburban cutie had encountered her first trout head...I will omit the name we had for this...

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My younger sister got a job working in a kitchen when she was in college. On her first day she was asked to get the chef's a "left handed fillet knife" from the rack. She looked at the knives, picked up the knife and handed it to the chef with the aside, that the sous chef "was just as stupid as most men. Thank God he's married since he obviously couldn't survive on his own." They didn't try anything else after that.

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I have two personal favorites:

Always tell the new guy that the extremely flamboyant bartender is actually the only straight guy in the entire restaurant and spend the entire week harassing him and hitting on him (this works best when you let the bartender know ahead of time so he can always get "caught" by the new guy while flirting with the hostesses). The new guy may not believe you, but it really does make him uncomfortable.

The second is a little dangerous and could possibly make the new guy kind of mad. When his back is turned take a spiked ticket and put it in his apron ties, when you or another guy gets a chance, light it on fire. I've never seen anyone get burned by this, but I'm sure it could happen. So be prepared to put it out if he doesn't notice.

The bucket of steam and bacon-stretcher pranks work just as well.

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I worked in Florida for a long time, and two of my faves where sending someone to the "wine celler", which for anyone familiar with Florida, there aint too many basements due to a very high water table.

Another one involved several of the restaurants in the neighborhood. We would send the new guy next door to get the key to the streetlights. When he'd get there, the manager would automatically send him down the street, "Because someone from down there just came to pick it up." It was a wild goose chase that would sometimes take the newbie to two or three other restaurants/bars before returning with a bashful look on their face.

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