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Gordon Ramsay demands drugs tests


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Could it be that restaurant kitchens have more than their share of drinkers/druggies because they attract more than their share of romantics/ troubled misfits?

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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Spenser. You cannot believe for a second what you say about crack vs. alcohol.

We all of us have worked with and for functioning alcoholics. While drunk on the line is absolutely a no-no, just as a bartender drinking during their shift is looked down on--you KNOW that a good number of your people are getting drunk EVERY night after work--that their personal lives are a mess, that they while they will surely not make it to 50 in the biz, they're fine NOW (during working hours). Please. Examples--in your own life, I'm sure, abound.

Crackheads, on the other hand...(and you really didn't mean that, did you? you couldn't have) have only a couple of months before they flame out. They need to "get right" about every 20 minutes..they inevitably steal (I did) because, well, they HAVE to, don't they? They are dangerous when enraged, physically weak, dishonest and often delusional. Alcohol takes its time ruining your life (most times). Crack is a full-tilt, pedal-to-the-metal, high speed rocket to the wall. The financial pressures alone when a crackhead (even a weekend crackhead) are ruinous. I did shit on crack I would never have contemplated doing on any other substance. One year I pissed away 70,00 bucks (which I didn't actually have) on crack. Even my long-time coke dealer wouldn't sell to me. You KNOW things are bad when your coke dealer (a full-time professional, lifelong coke dealer in this instance) suddenly develops a conscience.

That is some insidious shit. It flattened me. It did in one year what twenty years of heavy coke use and five years of heroin couldn't do. It put me--literally--on the street.

Go cop yourself an eight-ball, spend the weekend sucking the glass dick--and then see if you can clean your shit up for work on Monday. Without suddenly thinking that maybe you can close the kitchen early tonight--and that stealing from your friends isn't actually all that wrong.You can't. You CAN, however, binge drink, function as a maintenance alcoholic and make it through the work week without obvious SHORT term effect. Millions do. I'm in no way defending or encouraging that--but we have--all of us in the Life--seen exactly that, a hundred times over.

We turn a blind eye. Every day. Because we can.

abourdain

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Keith Hernandez and Lawrence Taylor won MVPs while on coke.  You (whoever is reading this) are not Keith Hernandez or Larence Taylor.

And who are they?

And what's a MVP?

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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No of course not Tony...I just have, like a lot of people on this thread have, strong opinions on way or the other. Crack heads are what you said they are...and in fact introduce a predictable quotient of violence to the mix, which when combined with fire, knives and cash registers make for a deadly combo.

Just from my personal experience--other than MY OWN problems--I fuckin' hate dealing with alcoholics. I have that sinking cold water feeling everytime I realize one of my cooks has hit the Wycliff. Luckily with this club gig, two thirds of my staff are Christians and the other third abstain from anything that could be considered mind altering. Yes, a martian landscape for sure. We're a tight unit much like you describe in KC but we don't dabble.

My experience with alcoholic cooks is extreme...pulled brass knuckles, no shows galore, bullshit elaborate excuses, had to send one guy to the emergency room (brotha Tim) because he was shakin' so bad with the DT's that he filled a saute pan with oil to saute some skatewing, picked it up when it was hot for some unbeknowst reason then proceeded to shake the fucking thing onto his arm. He was doing the cool chef flip thing with a portable deep fryer. Most of my experience with these flotsam types was when I worked in corporate chicken tender barns and mexican joints---when I too was a drunkard. In fact, when I decided to clean my shit up, when I got married and my first kid was on the way, was when my cooking really hit it's stride.

Yes, I still smoke the occasional joint, not with my cooks of course, but balance any detrimental effects with 15 mile long bike rides (every fucking day at midnight), weight training and healthy food. I think, if you're the kind of responsible guy who can hit a J but keep your shit in line, then pot isn't harmful. But I know a lot of folks think differently. And I respect that.

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You say "I hate alcoholics" ...but in most of the restaurant underworld what we really mean is "I hate non-functioning, stumblebum alcoholics" who are likely to screw up, make unpleasant scenes, repeatedly embarrass us etc. The quiet drunk grill guy who manages to keep it together every day is a much loved character--even if he strips down to a gold lame thong and passes out at the bar down the street every night. Of course, when his health goes, or he starts showing wear and tear and age, we don't love him so much anymore--and likely toss him to the wolves. Or brunch shift.

"I hate alcoholics"? I doubt it. Some--if not many--of your/my culinary heroes are alcoholics. The whole industry revolves around getting good and plastered after work--or at least "coming down" from the rush. And don't even talk about writers--an evil bunch of drunks if I ever seen one.(to a large degree). A decidedly more complex scenario than discussed here(as yet).

Does the business, by its very nature, attract marginal people with a taste for melodrama--and booze? And other often illegal sensations? Yes.

On a very basic level, people who are passionate--truly passionate--about food tend to have similar enthusiasms for a fine beverage--and see nothing wrong with the pleasurable effects of alcohol (not to mention drugs, not to mention a good blow job--or analagous reciprocation) We tend to be sensualists.

On another level, people from similar socio-economic backgrounds tend to find themselves in the cooking life--and have since Roman times.

On another level: Who trusts a cook who doesn't like music, sex, a nice pint or three after work?

What is great about this business is a tradition of being loyal to--and loving those who stand with you--even with all their flaws. Of knowing that we shall all surely die--and not caring--at least until tomorrow. We do the best we can--as all good people do--to struggle through the day, make decisions that often change lives. We tolerate the often fatal flaws in our friends as we hope they tolerate ours.

We judge, in the end, by the demands of the job. And that's as fair or fine a judgement as you can find anywhere on earth.

abourdain

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Clearly none of you have managed in the public sector in the UK. If someone comes into work high or drunk or even regularly hungover to the point their functioning is affected, you do not have the choice to turn a blind eye. Yout "duty of care" supersedes that. And this is to the employee as well as others s/he may affect.

In theory if you know someone's a cokehead and he knows you know then if he gets ill or has an accident he can claim that you KNEW he was in trouble and yet you took no action. It is not up to him to tell you he wants help. It is your managerial duty and responsibility to refer him to the relevant agencies whether he wants you to or not, otherwise he can claim that you refrained from exercising your duty of care towards him when you knew he was sick and he can end up suing YOU for allowing him to work in a condition which was dangerous to himself and others. His choice or wishes in the matter are irrelevant.

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You say that BD but I wonder what would happen if an employee in the private sector decided to test it out in the courts.. I suspect the outcome would be the same and that you're all flying by the seats of your pants.

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And don't even talk about writers--an evil bunch of drunks if I ever seen one.(to a large degree).

Aint that the truth

If chefs are insecure bastards, writers are insecure bastards squared.

How many times I have had to take the midnight call from a malt addled spliffed up writer who has lost "my muse, man" does not bear thinking about.

Tony B, you do a bit of both these days I am told ( writing and cooking that is, not the other stuff :smile: ) what does that make you?

Now back to The Dan and "my louise"

S

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Seat of Pants..thats us!.My staff have no contracts apart from my handshake!

And the reason you (ie the profession) is allowed to get away with it is because your labour isn't unionised. Restaurant workers are amongst the lowest paid workers in the country and have very few rights. Duty of care on employers has long been fought for by unions and they lobby to enshrine it in law. In the public sector where unions are strong they have been successful in making it practice for employers to seek medical help for employees with addiction problems. Sure, if they fail to avail themselves of it, or if the problem persists and effects their work you can eventually move to dismissal. But if their union backs them to go to an employment tribunal you have to show that you have taken "all reasonable steps" as an employer to support that employee before moving to dismiss. If you can't then you'll have to show that you fired them on the spot because of their gross misconduct while under the influence.

If they had just turned up high/pissed once and had done nothing else wrong they may well have a good case for unfair dismissal against you.

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I don't care if you're woofing gas and glue all day on your day off (well..I care--but I can't do anything about it). But if you are anything less than Johnny On The Fucking Spot during working hours I will cheerfully cut your throat.

Exactly.

And to be totally clear -- I'd have to say that being "less than Johnny On The Fucking Spot" due to your recent breakup with your girlfriend, or your insomnia, or your terrible hair cut or just some bad brain chemistry is just as likely to result in your ass being out the loading dock as any other cause (including but not limited to drug use).

The thing I liked best about cooking in restaurants was the freedom. In theory (see the comments about "kitchen managers" in the "Who is a Chef" thread) restaurant kitchens are meritocracies. Can you do the job? Can you cut it under pressure? Who you're f*cking, what you're taking, what your personal kinkinesses are... doesn't (and I'd say shouldn't) matter -- as long as it's on your own time.

On the other hand... I totally agree that (historically) one can assume that hiring a speedfreak is going to result in violence and hiring a crackhead is going to result in things walking out the back door. That's just learned knowledge, though of course it's unlikely that drugs like this are even kept to your own time. But I disagree with the idea that you can extend this to all drugs at a blanket level. Yes... cocaine is an evil drug, but I've worked with a lot of cooks who smoked a hell of a lot of pot and were not lazy, were not sloppy and in many cases were among the best on a line. I've also worked with at least as many who lived up to the bad reputation. Perhaps its brain chemistry, perhaps its tolerance. Who knows.

But I have to disagree that alcoholics are either less of a problem for kitchens, or for that matter that they are more of a problem. Again, I've worked with alcoholics who can pull their weight -- but I've worked with at least as many who are unreliable, unstable f*ckups. As far as odds of being a problem - I'd put them as being less of an issue than crack, speed and coke, even with heroin and more of an issue than pot.

I think, in general, you can't apply a blanket rule like "no-one who uses drugs can be an effective professional cook." You have to evaluate on a case by case basis. Thus... the meritocracy.

fanatic...

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Clearly none of you have managed in the public sector in the UK. If someone comes into work high or drunk or even regularly hungover to the point their functioning is affected, you do not have the choice to turn a blind eye. Yout "duty of care" supersedes that. And this is to the employee as well as others s/he may affect.

Jesus!

What's next?

You can't yell at them because it might result in them developing a complex?

Do cooks there get to work from comfy chairs in air conditioned kitchens?

People need to be responsible for the consequences of their actions.

I hate paternalistic systems like this. It's like the whole illegality of suicide thing and the helmet laws on motorcycles. Idiotic.

fanatic...

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No of course not Tony...I just have, like a lot of people on this thread have, strong opinions on way or the other.  Crack heads are what you said they are...and in fact introduce a predictable quotient of violence to the mix, which when combined with fire, knives and cash registers make for a deadly combo. 

Just from my personal experience--other than MY OWN problems--I fuckin' hate dealing with alcoholics.  I have that sinking cold water feeling everytime I realize one of my cooks has hit the Wycliff.  Luckily with this club gig, two thirds of my staff are Christians and the other third abstain from anything that could be considered mind altering.  Yes, a martian landscape for sure.  We're a tight unit much like you describe in KC but we don't dabble. 

My experience with alcoholic cooks is extreme...pulled brass knuckles, no shows galore, bullshit elaborate excuses, had to send one guy to the emergency room (brotha Tim) because he was shakin' so bad with the DT's that he filled a saute pan with oil to saute some skatewing, picked it up when it was hot for some unbeknowst reason then proceeded to shake the fucking thing onto his arm.  He was doing the cool chef flip thing with a portable deep fryer.  Most of my experience with these flotsam types was when I worked in corporate chicken tender barns and mexican joints---when I too was a drunkard.  In fact, when I decided to clean my shit up, when I got married and my first kid was on the way, was when my cooking really hit it's stride. 

Yes, I still smoke the occasional joint, not with my cooks of course, but balance any detrimental effects with 15 mile long bike rides (every fucking day at midnight), weight training and healthy food.  I think, if you're the kind of responsible guy who can hit a J but keep your shit in line, then pot isn't harmful.    But I know a lot of folks think differently.  And I respect that.

CWS clearly has had personal dealings with the effects of alcohol on those around him and maybe that tips the scale more towards a zero tolerence in his kitchen with those that are abusing it.

I think it's as bad as anything else when people can't control how much they're putting away, before, during and even after work. Coming in day after day, hungover, badly, and seeing that your place is getting screwed up can tweak you into a mad rage as easily as a coke binge.

It happened last week at one of the places I do my stuff in.

Chef owner, who is exhausted to begin with, hitting too many wine tastings, walks in and just loses his shit on all his people. Who are screwing up, because they don't have someone to lead them enough, let alone set an example.

The guy is a friend of mine, I hate to see what's happening to him.

But I can't say anything to him.

That grey area thing.

2317/5000

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Glad to see I'm not the only mouth frother here.  Go get em Malachi.  Let them figure it out.  Never cowtow to the simple minds--even if you're point is so complex that it alludes....

I think you will find the laws somewhat different in the UK than in Memphis. That is what they were discussing.

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Glad to see I'm not the only mouth frother here.  Go get em Malachi.  Let them figure it out.  Never cowtow to the simple minds--even if you're point is so complex that it alludes....

I think you will find the laws somewhat different in the UK than in Memphis. That is what they were discussing.

Oh I realize that Craig. I'm just admiring our neophyte's style. He's another ranter/speak first-think later/Jack Kerouac of the kitchen. There's passion in his posts, and a modicum of sense in his words. I can relate to the urges he pukes forth.

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