The state Department of Health here is a joke. There are only three inspectors on the island and you maybe get inspected once a year. All they do is kind of wave a thermometer around and that’s it. I guess it’s good and bad at the same time. If you’re a responsible cook or owner, then you’re probably already taking the necessary precautions, so having a lenient Department of Health makes your job easier. But, on the flip side of the coin, there are a lot of dirty places out there. Like the restaurant that had back-to-back salmonella cases.
I’ve lied about the origin of ingredients to someone. I just don’t feel it necessary to sit there and explain to the customer which particular thing is local, which particular thing isn’t, for every single dish. It’s a waste of the server’s time, it’s a waste of my time. So I’ve just told the customer it’s all f***ing local to shut her up.
There’s a celebrity who comes in sometimes and we don’t do shit for him. But, if a friend of the house comes in, we’ll take care of a couple of drinks or send a dish, desserts, what have you. Or, if it’s another chef, and you’ve been to their restaurant and you’re planning to go back, you might take care of their whole check in hopes that it might be reciprocated.
My favorite customers are smart, they actually know food, they’re eager to have an intelligent conversation about food and other restaurants. Even though they’re not in the industry, they’re still true foodies. They actually manage to keep up with what’s going on in the food world. Or they travel a lot. Some of them come in about twice a week and are somewhat creatures of habit, but they’re good to have.
I’m going to make sure you get a good experience and the food’s cooked properly, but I’m not going to sit there and coddle you because you’re coming in like an asshole and being short and rude with the staff. If you come in the door and you’re already hating, then there’s nothing I can do to change that, aside from kissing your ass, which I’m not going to do.
The average line cook makes $10 an hour. Cooks work at least 40 to 50 hours a week. A lot of times you just go in and get shit done. Most of the cooks come in early, which they don’t get paid for.
When a dish gets sent back, if it’s an error on our part, we usually offer to take care of it or make another one. I haven’t seen anyone spit in food. I think that’s more myth than fact. Even at the restaurant where I saw people serve warm mayonnaise with egg-shade food coloring as hollandaise, I never saw anybody spit in the food.
—As told to Martha Cheng