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Your first Vancouver restaurant job


nwyles
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After reading some of the posts today, lots of people sharing their first Vancouver restaurant / food service job - Arne ( Daddy A ) Longliner on Granville Isalnd and Shelora's interesting story for example.

Where was your first restaurant / food service job ?

My first restaurant job was nothing too interesting. Scooping ice cream cones at a Big Scoop restaurant. My Aunt and Uncle had a couple of Big Scoop's when I was very young and they let me work at one of them for a summer job. I must have been all of 13 or 14 years old. What could be better ! Making money and as much ice cream as you could eat ! ( the novelty of both quickly wore off ! ).

Being young and innocent, it was an interesting summer. You see, this Big Scoop was on Davie Street about where the Luxy Bistro is / was . As a small town kid just arrived from London, Ont, you certainly knew you were not in Kansas anymore. Innocent questions like " why does that lady need a shave etc. " It is an experience that I will never forget.

And still to this day, the smell of bubble gum ice cream sickens me. :laugh:

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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Thank you Neil for taking me down memory lane. My grandpa used to take me to the Big Scoop in Delta at least once a week. Yes, I too can still smell the place even though it closed about 15 years ago.

Oh and on topic, I never did work in a restaurant, I catered with a friend of my mom's on Galiano.

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My 1st industry job was about 20 years ago. It was in Montreal at Peel Pub (the original) on St. Catherine st. I was a busser for 6 weeks and then was lucky (??) enough to have one of the breakfast servers quit, so I was promoted to server. I worked the breakfast and lunch shift (6am-4:15pm) for a while before moving back and forth from days to nights. For those of you not familiar with this Montreal landmark, Peel Pub was (and still is) home to cheap food and drink. Our breakfast special (2 eggs, toast and coffee) was 99cents. Let me tell ya, I was pretty excited with those 25% tips :laugh: . Lunch specials were $3.25 and included items like rib steak, sheppards pie, cabbage rolls, ect. Draft beer was about 75cents, I think (8 ounce glass). It was a crazy place. Line up from noon until 2 pm, you were sat with other poeple during lunch ( and evenings and night). They filled EVERY seat. Nights were crazy with the college crowd. Pictures of beer (60 ounces) were $4.95 during happy hour and $8.95 the rest of the time. They were the busiest pub in the country. At one point, they had 3 locations (over 1000 seats total) within 1 1/2 blocks of each other. In spite of the cheap prices( they obviously worked on volume), I made a great amount of money, especially at night. I also managed to spend it all during those 5 crazy years. Alot of fun.

Derek

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My restaurant experience was at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown in the early 70's. I was a student nurse at VGH at the time and was walking through Gastown when I was approached by a woman who asked me if I wanted a job. (Turned out she was Lee Pulous' wife - I can't remember her first name but I seem to recall her last name was Morningstar)

Even though I had a 'job', I jumped at the chance for some real money. So for the next 2 years I regularly worked the 7 - 3 shift at the hospital and then hopped the bus downtown to put in a shift as a waitress at the OSF. If I was on afternoons at the hospital then I worked the lunch shift at the OSF. I had a blast and between the two jobs I saw all that humanity had to offer. And I got introduced to such landmarks as the Faces club where we used to go after work. Some nights I simply went straight from Faces to my shift at the hospital - stopping only for coffee and several minutes of oxygen.

I even made enough money to buy myself a Trimuph Spitfire (used, albeit).

Cheers,

Karole

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I began in the business as a busboy at The Attic in West Vancouver. It was just after the Crimean War, I believe. I was paid $1.25 per hour plus a share of tips from two waitresses--anywhere from $2 to $5 per night each, depending on many variables and their time of the month. My favourites were Teresa, who would eventually marry Jean-Claude Ramond, and Katie, who looked particularly endearing in her Klondike dress. I wore black pants and a green and gold lamé vest that was kind to stains.

For those of you who never visited The Attic, it pretty much looked like its name. It was decorated in a rather eclectic manner, to be polite, with fake Tiffany lamps, unmatched furniture and a male statue in the lady’s room that, when a fig leaf masking the male organ was touched, would pee a jet of cold water onto the curious babe. I got to mop it up.

The managers, Charles (downstairs in the events and weekend brunch room called The Capilano Gardens) and Ian, were harsh invigilators, but Frank Baker was as cool with us as he was chatting up the ladies or blowing his trumpet. The night before he had his remaining teeth removed (the new ones would be installed a month later), he gave a last baleful toot. His sound would never be the same.

But he was always the same, with a lot of kind words and a big drink in his hand, often entertaining celebs like Mitzi Gaynor after a show at The Cave. He wore white tie and tails every night for the floor show, with white shoes. But it was a cut above the regular Full Nanaimo. Hy Aisenstat, Jack Wasserman, Jack Webster and Denny Boyd were regulars, because the drinks were strong, severely discounted for pals and because it was just a short toboggan ride up Taylor Way to their homes.

Downstairs, at the entrance, the silver James Bond Aston Martin sat polished under plexiglass. Quite a draw. But nothing like Lance Harrison and his Dixieland Band, who drank vodka with a splash of OJ on the back stoop between sets. To this day, I go out of my way to avoid banjo music.

In time I was allowed access to the inner sanctum where Mr. Baker would entertain those pals and fabulous babes, bouffants like cotton candy, clasping whiskey sours over vertiginous bosoms. This was, I suppose, how I came to enjoy spectating the human condition.

And at The Attic, the conditions were pretty good. The food was, well, interesting, the way you'd tell your Mum that the girl you took to the dance was “interesting”, I suppose. Soup, iceberg salads, steaks, ribs, chicken—pretty much proforma. The rubber tire tour bus crowd would roll in first on their way to the ferry—around 5 o’clock. They were served the “Staff Meal” which was invariably soup, griddled ham steak with a ring of Dole pineapple, and rice pilaf, which we didn’t exactly pronounce that way. One smart aleck caught me with my thumb in his soup when I not so carefully placed it down. “I hope you didn’t burn your thumb,” he said. “Well, no sir, it’s actually lukewarm.” And while I wasn’t actually fired for that remark, I did have to pearl dive for a couple of nights before going back on the floor.

But hell, people weren’t there for the food. They were there for a night out, for some stiff drinks, a few jokes and some music, and maybe even a chance to spot a star.

Eventually I cooked steaks, a great many steaks, in the little glass grill-room that protruded into the dining rooms. I loved it. We stuck little plastic cows of various colours—red, pink, beige and brown—into the steaks to indicate doneness. I’m sure the customers found it reassuring. I think my record was around 200 steaks in one evening. It must have been a payday Friday.

West Vancouver was a dining desert then, with Peppi’s and a Chinese restaurant with an occidental name and just a few other places augmenting The White Spot. The real action was downtown at Hy’s at the Sands, The William Tell, The Cavalier Grill and The Roof.

Frank Baker eventually lost The Attic, probably for a bunch of reasons, but mainly because he never changed the concept. The Aston Martin was famously auctioned off by the receiver. I guess people had moved on—to The Keg and elsewhere. His big time days over, Frank Baker made a comeback on Cambie Street, but it always seemed a bit half-hearted. His horn went finally quiet in 1989, his white suits packed away. The word flamboyant always seemed a bit small for him.

In the summers Mr. Baker took us out for a staff party on his houseboat, the not-so-curiously named El Citta. The food was plentiful if familiar. We would push up Indian Arm at trolling speed, eating and drinking, into the summer shadows, and then suddenly, they were gone too.

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Paesano's in Richmond....1983 as a busser.

Paesano's used to be considered quite a fancy italian restaurant. Really true italian...simple and fresh. The place was always full of mafia wannabees and made up dames. The owner was Mama Rosa. She did all the sauces, most of the prep and on many occasions was in the pit scrubbing pots. Really true italian...simple and fresh.

"I dirty them...why I no clean them??"

Everytime you entered the restaurant before your shift you had to kiss Mama and sit down at a huge table where the whole staff would enjoy dinner together before we opened. Dinner at 4:00 and we opened at 5:00. I felt so grown up with my scampi and chianti and watching all the waiters smoke and talk about their tips. These guys were making like $200 a night in 1983??!! Sweet gig.

After your shift, (no one left until the last table was gone) there were always parties, but Mama would never let me stay.

"You are too young...take some food with you.. go home...don't be like these crazies!"

I still think about that place when I'm stuck in traffic on #3 Rd. on the odd times I have to venture into Richmond. I wonder whatever happened to Mama Rosa and the cast of characters I met there. She was definately a huge influence on my future career choices and to tell you the truth....she was a good kisser.

I mean I miss her...

John

It was the Law of the Sea, they said. Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top.

Hunter S. Thompson ---- R.I.P. 1939 - 2005

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."

--Mark Twain

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Damn you Neil,

I've spent years running from my past. I've been in full denial, successfully until you mentioned this.

I was a young 15.

Geez this is hard.

Red Robin.

There I said it.

I was a dishpig, the type of character building necessary for a young punk suburban kid. I was straightened out. Fell in love with every waitress/hostess there, even convinced a few to date me.

I really thought it was cool back then. We would be 4 inches deep in filth until 2am, get drunk with the waiters and they would sneak me into 'holidays'. My ambition while I chased a career as a jazz musician was to be just like the bartender, who had a red pontiac fiero and could do tricks just like in 'cocktail'.

Oh, the shame.

Obviously, little has changed and it shaped my entire philosophy of dining.

Fantastic, if not traumatic thread.

Owner

Winebar @ Fiction

Lucy Mae Brown

Century - modern latin -

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My first restaurant job in Vancouver was at Charlie Browns night club/ restaurant in 1973. The place was owned by Harry Moll, Pat Macleary, Herb Capozzi et al and I started out as as a bus person. My first day on the job I dropped a plate of sauteed mushrooms down the back of a ladies dress. We both survived the humiliation and eventually I was promoted to the bar and never looked back.

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My first restaurant job in Vancouver was at Charlie Browns night club/ restaurant in 1973.  The place was owned by Harry Moll, Pat Macleary, Herb Capozzi et al and I started out as as a bus person. My first day on the job I dropped a plate of sauteed mushrooms down the back of a ladies dress. We both survived the  humiliation and eventually I was promoted to the bar and never looked back.

Well, there were quite a few low morels there, occasionally lurking in ladies dresses too. :shock:

Thankfully.

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Right after Expo I worked at a mexican place in Richmond that also had a restaurant at Expo....something Cantina???

Anyway, one of my first shifts as a waiter I dumped a Strawberry Marg down the back of a visiting Asian toursist. Two kickers here....

1) He was wearing an expensive Polo (wow...do they still make that Ralph Lauren stuff??) sweater

2) He said it was OK!!!

Apparently this guy thought it was good luck (?) and gave me a $100 bill on the spot!!

I instantly knew I could easily pay my way through University if I could just find enough well dressed Asian tourists wearing yellow Polo sweaters!!

John

P.S. No it wasn't tied around his neck, hanging off his shoulders like in Miami Vice...but the dude could dress!!

JB

It was the Law of the Sea, they said. Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top.

Hunter S. Thompson ---- R.I.P. 1939 - 2005

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."

--Mark Twain

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my first was at a greek restaurant in horse shoe bay in west vancouver called bay moorings. the owners were friends of my dads and soon became very close friends of my own. i was 16 at the time and they were very patient with me.

bork bork bork

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Mine was "Seasons In The Park". I started just after Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin had their summit dinner there, and every American tourist in town had to eat "The Presidential Menu".

I can't remember the main course (Probably because I never prepared it), but the appetizer was a Hearts of Romaine salad with Beetroot Vinaigrette and the dessert was a fresh blueberry tart...which if I remember correctly....Bill had to bring his own blueberries because it wasn't blueberry season (April) and we couldn't get any imported.

I remember having to fight for my job though. The Chef (Pierre Delacote) had hired three of us fresh out of cooking school, and only intended on keeping one of us....I won the fight! Beat out two guys...no small feat with an Alsatian chef at the helm who always reminded me that he preferred women to stay at home and have children. He called me his Ivory Girl and thought that I should be in the Ivory Soap Commercials....he drove me nuts....but also taught me a lot about cooking.

I was glad to leave there after 2 years.

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Right after Expo I worked at a mexican place in Richmond that also had a restaurant at Expo....something Cantina???

The Ole Cantina ? That sort of rings a bell.

That's it...

Eventually closed.. but I think one of the cronies from the Keg (actually a bunch of them) went to work for the company that bought or owned the rights to the concept...nice one guys!...they are the elephant and castle group...also Rainforest Grill or whatever the hell that was..oooo curly fries! Nice.

I just checked their stock....trading on the small board...time to jump ship I think!

John

P.S. I did like the cock-aleekie soup though!!

JB

It was the Law of the Sea, they said. Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top.

Hunter S. Thompson ---- R.I.P. 1939 - 2005

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."

--Mark Twain

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Right after Expo I worked at a mexican place in Richmond that also had a restaurant at Expo....something Cantina???

The Ole Cantina ? That sort of rings a bell.

1986. The summer of all things wonderful. Fresh off the high school graduation podium, it was a summer full of late nights, fast cars, loud music and young love.

My one and only restaurant job was as a busser at the Ole Cantina on the Expo site. Kitty-corner from the Unicorn pub, prime fireworks watching site from the upper deck. I only worked there for two months, and the whole thing was a fun-filled blur.

Learning how to deftly and one-handedly maneuver a plate-laden tray through a sea of tourists was an interesting process. Damn, 2' stacks of those stoneware platters were heavy, especially with the added weight of three or four cast-iron fajita pans. I tipped the scales at 90 lbs. dripping wet, but by the end of that summer I could carry just as many ice and water-filled pitchers in one trip back from the kitchen as any guy on staff (9, count 'em, 9!).

There were tips a'plenty. The tourists were invariably generous, so my share of the pool was a fair chunk of change. And I remember the wait staff being regularly magnanimous with a select few of us at shift's end; if tables were tipping me $10 as a busser, the waiters and waitresses must've been making money hand over fist.

I remember sitting out back and joking with the mariachis, not so much impressing them with my rudimentary Spanish as making them laugh. Soon, plates of piping hot food began magically appearing at the back table when I was on break; thanks to the mariachis, I dined well. To this day, I'm reminded of those mariachi dinners whenever I have Mexican food.

Joie Alvaro Kent

"I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." ~ Mitch Hedberg

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Well, my first job that brought me into contact with food was, and is, at The Stock Market on Granville Island. I have no idea hope I got the job, I sold shoes for 5 years prior. You have to fill out a small quiz showing your food knowledge. The only one I got right was Arugula (because I saw it on Days of Our Lives :blink: ). But they hired me. Almost 6 years later and still going strong....

< Linda >

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My first restaurant job, actually my first job period, was at Umbertino's at 49th and Oak. This was a chain of casual/fast food restaurants started by Umberto Menghi. I started at 14 years old (I think around 1987) and was there for about two years.

I worked with a lot of fun people there too. I have fond memories of the guys from cyclone Taylor sports across the street who used to come in for lunch all the time and were always had a good story to tell. I also remember trading lasagna for ice cream with the people at Baskin Robins next door. I smoked my first joint there as well - after a shift out in the alley. I'll also never forget being the first one in one particular morning. I opened the front door and the alarm went off. The night manager had closed up without locking the door. Within 30 seconds the cops were frisking me and sat me in their car. I had no ID and had to wait for the day manager, who happened to be late this morning, to come in and vouch for me before the cops let me go.

I also remember the times when Umberto himself would come in to check up on things. Everyone would panic because he supposedly had a very hot temper. I had never actually seen it happen but thats what others told me. The first time seeing him pull up to the place in his Ferrari was a little surreal. It was such a big deal around the restaurant, with everyone running around like it was some rock star or movie star coming in. Eventually Umberto franchised all the restaurants and the quality and management started to suffer.

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My first real job out of High School was spending a year as a waiter at Red Robin. It was alot of fun and I worked my ass of. Lots of 10+ hour shifts until closing.

The manager would always do these little contests to boost "sales" from the wait staff. Usually the prize was a free dinner that night. On one night I won and after my shift started to ring in the order for my dinner. I started out with a "Monster Burger" which I believe still is the biggest burger they make. They I began with the add ons which range form $1 to $3 each. Bacon, extra patties, eggs, ham, Guac, different types of cheeses, and so on. When I was done I had a $30 Hamburger with about 15 add ons. The order went through to the kitchen and a resounding laugh came from the grill. 15 minutes later I was looking at the creation. Literally 12 inches high, so tall in fact they had to rest it sideways on an oval platter. Man that was good. I shared it with my other compadres and we all ate well that night. Things we're good until the next day when the GM asked to see me in his office. Technically I didn't do anything wrong but he wasn't pleased with me. Right as I was leaving his office, after being thoroughly scolded, he asked "By the way, was it good?" Then started laughing. :shock:

After that dinner contests we're amended to be menu items only w/o add-ons. :raz: Always nice to be a catalyst for change .....

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My first cooking job - right out of cooking school - was at the Lonsdale Quay Hotel. The exec was Murray ? and pink peppercorns were his favourite ingredient. It showed up in everything.

My first task was to make the Caesar salad dressing, 40 egg yolks, broken and separated by hand, made with 80 litres of oil. All mixed up in a hobart. We had a buffalo grinder (strange name) and this was used to grind the garlic and anchovies for the dressing. With tons of coarse black pepper, worchestire sauce, mustard and lemon juice, this was a damn fine dressing. Luckily there were no pink peppercorns. After all these years I have never forgotten the procedure. I could do it in a minute. And the smell. Garlic everywhere.

s

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Does McDonald's count? My very first part-time job was the modern looking McDonald's on Broadway and Blenheim. They came to our highschool to recruit. My best friend and I decided to apply for the job. I got the job and she didn't and that was the end of our friendship. :sad:

My other food related job was during my university days. I was a Japanese Language major at UBC. Hoping to earn some extra cash and practice Japanese at the same time, I got a job at Sakae Sushi (745 Thurlow - if you want excellent Kansai homestyle cooking and great sushi, you must try Sakae). It was one of the best jobs I've ever had and even till today, I consider Mori-san and his staff part of my family.

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I'm still working at my first Vancouver restaurant job (only been here 3 years).

Before that I lived in Toronto and in South Africa.

My mom started the Bagga Pasta chain in Victoria so I started working BOH doing prep and washing dishes at 11.

My first ever restaurant FOH job was in Toronto as a busser at Prego.

Second as a waiter in Victoria's now-defunct Overtime Restaurant. Moved up to night floor supervisor with shifts going from 6pm until 4am. We'd start drinking at 4am and shoot pool at Peacock's until 8am gambling with our tips. Good times. Crazy lifestyle in retrospect (said with a 3 year old on my lap).

Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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When I moved to Canada from Germany 4 years ago, I started waitressing at Soda's Diner on Dunbar, the only job I could find without Canadian references.

It was a blast - burgers and milkshakes all day, 50s music blaring from the Juke Box, and whole soccer teams coming in at lunch time. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced in 15 years of working in the industry in Germany.

I still ride my bike there in the summer to sit on the patio and slurp the best milkshakes in town.

The belly rules the mind.
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