Odd Jobs and Characters – The Steak House by Sally Cronin
I am so pleased to have Sally Cronin visit and talk about her odd jobs and the characters she has met. The blog is yours, Sally.
Thank you so much, John, for hosting my Odd Jobs and Characters post and I hope that you and your readers enjoy the story.
I began my training as an assistant manager in a steak house in Kent in 1974. For the six months, I would rotate around through the two bars and two restaurants that served a simple menu of steak, chicken, and fish. Most dishes came with either French fries (chips) and peas. For the more health conscious there was a jacket potato option, but by the time several pats of butter had been added, it was as fattening as the fries. Dessert options were ice cream with chocolate sauce and sprinkled nuts, or apple pie and cream. The wine menu was short and featured the German white wines so popular at the time, with much touting of the young French red wines with alleged body and clarity.
However, despite not being a Michelin starred establishment, the training was considered to be one of the best in that particular area of the hospitality industry. It was certainly intensive, and when you consider the hours we worked daily, six days a week, the six months training was actually something you would normally complete in twelve months.
The building itself had been built in 1812 and sported the red flocked wallpaper so fashionable in the 1960s and 1970s. Smoking was still in its hey day and the ceiling was a curious shade of tobacco after 150 years of nicotine exhalation. The smell that greeted you in the morning was ‘eau de tabac’ laced with beer overtones. When you had been working until after midnight, had barely six hours sleep, you found yourself declining anything but black coffee until lunchtime.
I have to say that I loved it, despite the hard work and long hours. We had some very interesting regulars, and the locals embraced the concept of the steak house with gusto. It was cheap and cheerful, and as music blared out on a Friday and Saturday night, both downstairs and upstairs bars and restaurants were packed. The waiting list for a table could be an hour or more, but beer and schooners of sherry (lethal), dulled the senses sufficiently for the wait to be quite jovial.
During the day, only the downstairs restaurant was in use and was consistently busy. This offered the assistant managers time to do the usual administrative work needed to run the steak house, such as ordering food and spirits and cleaning the bars after the night before.
In the evenings it was my job to run the upstairs restaurant, with a team of waitresses waiting on the tables, and two bar staff, who alternated between serving pre-dinner drinks and after dinner liqueur coffees with assorted spirits (this is pre-drink-driving laws!).
The waitresses were rushed off their feet as they juggled three or four large plates laden with steak, chicken, and sides. My job to help in reducing the waiting list was to clear the tables as soon as the diners had paid, and re-equip with cutlery, glasses, and napkins as rapidly as possible. I would then dash back to the bar and announce the name of the lucky party over the tannoy system, who could now stagger after me into the restaurant.
One Saturday night in the middle of a very busy service, I had to handle a potentially difficult situation that could have ended up in the papers (thank goodness there were no mobile phones in those days). As you will remember this building was old, and there were dark recesses within the walls and ceilings, that you would have been wise to avoid for what might reside there.
I was checking the state of play on progress at a number of tables where the patrons were wiping away the evidence of their chocolate sundae. I noticed a man at a table with a party of six, bend down to retrieve his napkin. Instead, he came up with something smaller and definitely furrier than the paper serviette. I suspect that as a natural reflex, he stood with his arm held straight out from his body, clearly amazed at his catch. From my vantage point at the entrance to the restaurant, I identified the rotating body of a dead mouse.
There is a split second between shocked discovery and the public announcement of the find. Although never great at school at the 100 metre dash, I now excelled myself. Dropping the waiting list on the bar, I rushed through the restaurant and snatched the unfortunate deceased rodent from its captor, continuing on to the kitchen at warp speed. I deposited the mouse in the bin and turned and raced back the other way to find the patron staring at his hand and looking around in confusion.
Lighting in the restaurants was provided by dim wall lights in order to provide a romantic and intimate feel to the experience. It also served to conceal the tobacco infused ceiling and rather dodgy carpet. It also thankfully managed to befuddle the diner, who thankfully had not only consumed four pints of beer in the bar beforehand, but also a bottle of our best Liebfraumilch. I added to the befuddlement, by handing him his fallen napkin, and asking if the party would be interested in some liqueur coffees on the house, to compensate them for their long wait before dining.
An exterminator was called the next day and traps were hidden in all the usual haunts. But there was a postscript to this story.
One of the waitresses was a bit of a madam and was always giving the chef grief. As part of the staff’s pay, supper was included before the restaurants opened in the evening. The day after the incident, this particular waitress retrieved her indicated supper from the hot plate, and on sitting down, removed the cover. She issued a piercing scream that probably cleared the rodents from the building far more effectively than the traps. I came over to find out what the problem was, to discover her staring at her plate of battered mouse, French fries, and peas.
All the previous posts in the series can be found in this directory with links to my host’s blog https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/sallys-odd-jobs-and-characters/
About Sally Cronin
My name is Sally Cronin and after working in a number of industries for over 25 years, I decided that I wanted to pursue a completely different career, one that I had always been fascinated with. I began studying Nutrition and the human body twenty years ago and I opened my first diet advisory centre in Ireland in 1998. Over the last 18 years I have practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as written columns, articles and radio programmes on health and nutrition.
I published my first book with a Canadian self-publisher in the late 90s and since then have republished that book and released ten others as part of our own self-publishing company. Apart from health I also enjoy writing fiction in the form of novels and short stories.
My latest book – What’s in a Name? – Volume Two.
Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them. Romance, revenge and sacrifice all play their part in the lives of these characters.Kenneth watches the love of his life dance on New Year’s Eve while Lily plants very special flowers every spring for her father. Martha helps out a work colleague as Norman steps back out into the world to make a difference. Owen brings light into a house and Patrick risks his life in the skies over Britain and holds back from telling a beautiful redhead that he loves her.
My other books
All books are available Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2
You can connect to Sally
Thank you again, John for your hospitality.