I have been working as a food server off and on since I was fourteen and it never gets any less interesting. This is not about fine dining, its about the flip side of the industry working in the trenches of the massive national restaurant chains. Laugh or cry, people!

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Love Mexican Line Cooks

You might hear a lot of people complain about illegal immigrants in this country, but you won’t hear a lot of that from the wait staff in a busy restaurant.

I really love the Mexican line cooks where I work.  I am completely blown away by their ability to work two jobs and have families and hold up under pressure.  I have seen them come in for their shift and hit the ground running after working a complete shift at their other job.  They are rarely mean-spirited no matter how exhausted they must be.

These guys blow me away with their work ethic.  They try to come to work no matter what.  If they can’t come to work, they get one of their buddies to cover for them without being asked.  One time, one of our best guys had to go out of town for a family emergency and a Mexican we had never met showed up with his apron and hat to cover his shift.

I once had another server come get me because the Mexican working on the line wouldn’t respond to her request.  When I went to try, I couldn’t get his attention either.  I stepped around the line to get her extra sauce myself and discovered he was standing over the grill flipping pancakes while perfectly asleep. I had to shake his shoulder to wake him up. How tired does a man have to be before he cooks in his sleep?  Amazing.

Some of them speak English beautifully and understand the language better than a lot of us.  Some of them barely understand anything we say and seem to have been taught to memorize how to read the tickets rather than comprehend the intricacies of the English language.  I have acted out pantomimes to explain complicated tickets and more often than not gotten exactly what I ordered.

I come from a working class family in an era when America still manufactured our own goods.  I remember my father coming home from work filthy and red-eyed and barely able to stay awake to wash up for dinner.  He used to fall asleep in his chair while I unlaced his boots. 

I don’t know a lot of guys who work like that anymore.  Guys who work as many hours as they can no matter the hourly rate.  Uneducated men who appreciate the opportunity to work in whatever capacity they can.  People can say a lot of things about illegal immigrants but you can’t question their work ethic. 

Who among you would risk your life walking through a desert for three days with no food or water to make minimum wage working 18 hour days six days a week?

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