now is a good time to panic

culinary wonder part VI

…continued from culinary wonder part I, part II, part III, part IV  and part V

The new executive chef left within the first month of his employment, fired by the German for his lack of consistency. Shortly after his departure, the German decided that he was not only going to be the food and beverage director, but also be the executive chef. Theresa and her friend felt honored to be working under such an accomplished and well known chef. She was irritated at how the other people in the kitchen took the German’s experience and credentials for granted and didn’t try to learn anything from him or further themselves. She went home exhausted and happy every night.


Theresa is six months sober, on antidepressants, was a vegetarian and studying Buddhism, was working out every day, and was in a good place in her relationship with her boyfriend. She was comfortable in her own skin, no longer afraid of life, and genuinely happy. The only downside was that she received very little support from her coworkers while she strove for perfection in the kitchen. She’s up for promotion and is getting nervous, and the holiday season is upon them so they’re getting busy. She was told that there’s a new executive chef coming in, and she has to wait on her promotion. She loves learning the extra duties, but is still anxious to be getting paid for what she’s doing. The German is talking up the new chef big time, bragging about how he’s traveled the world and trained in every fancy kitchen you can imagine… he turns out to be a nut job. He was verbally abusive, big on sexual harassment, and would not hesitate to get physical if he was angry with you… he lasted until New Year’s Eve.


Since they were in season at this point, the German is too busy to be the executive chef as well as his primary job as food and beverage director. Theresa is promoted to head line cook. Everybody is stressed out. They’re understaffed, underpaid, the Christmas bonuses aren’t what they were the year before, and there are new locations opening without enough supporting staff. Everyone in the kitchen has been working ridiculous hours with no days off. One week Theresa worked 120 hours… and there were some cooks that worked more than that. Everyone is on edge, biting their tongues. Theresa is asked to help with a new menu, so she’s between the kitchen and the office, working on the new menu whenever she can find the time. One day out of nowhere, the German puts in his notice.


culinary wonder part V

…continued from culinary wonder part I, part II, part III, and part IV 

Theresa got into a rehab center in Miami. She was expecting it to be really awful, like being in jail. She thought she’d be on lockdown with forced AA meetings for like 12 hours a day. It turns out to be a schmancy facility in a gated community with basketball courts, a baseball field, and the inside was newly renovated. She is there for a day and decides this must be what summer camp is like. Its program is specially designed for kids under 25 that grew up around drugs or in otherwise negative environments and don’t have any job skills direction in their lives. It wasn’t an AA or a NA based rehab, their primary focus was helping you learn to deal with your addiction and recovery in such a way that you can function in the real world. Their schedule was very regimented and they get to choose classes in different areas that interest them. They had choices between music, art, computer technology, physical fitness, culinary, etc. Theresa ended up going with the culinary classes. Those classes took up the majority of her day; from 0700 until about 1400. She didn’t tell anyone that she had been cooking professionally, but it got around and she ended up helping the chef teach the other students. After some experience sharing what she knew in the kitchen, she found her niche. Theresa loved teaching.


Theresa enjoyed living the structured lifestyle. Since she’s so used to being in kitchens, she appreciated the structure, and credits that rehab schedule for helping her to correct the lack of structure in her own life. The center was run on a points system. You could earn a point a day. Once you hit 120 points, you could leave. You could get your point docked for the day by breaking rules, or if a counselor saw you being amazing, then they could give you an extra point for the day. It took Theresa three months to earn her 120 points, but that is really good. There were people that had been in there for about six months and still hadn’t earned their 120 points yet. If you relapsed, they would take away all your points (and sometimes even drop you into the negatives) and you started over from scratch. Theresa reports it as a very encouraging environment, and they worked to find what was best for each patient.


There were a number of kids around the age of thirteen or so that were court ordered to rehab and didn’t take it seriously. The other members called then ‘jits’ and tried to counsel them and mentor them. Most of the jits refused to believe that they had any problem at all and ignored the advice of the older patients. While Theresa was there, there was an extremely high number of people in there for heroin and oxycotin, but most of the younger kids were there for pot. On the weekends, they would be able to go out to the movies or the beach. After 30 days, you were eligible for a day pass or to go see your parents. After 60 days, you could go home for the entire weekend.


3o days before her release, Theresa would wake up at 0500 on a Friday and would take the bus system down to the restaurant. The bus ride would be 6-7 hours (as opposed to a 3 hour drive by car) and she could be back in the kitchen by 1300. They were glad to have her back, but it was different by the time she returned. The Swiss chef quit and moved to North Carolina, there was a new executive chef, and almost complete turnover in the kitchen. The menu that Theresa had worked so hard designing had been scrapped and there was no consistency. One good thing at the time was that there was a new cook that she clicked with while doing her weekend shifts, but unfortunately they never got to work much together. When Theresa returned from rehab, they placed this guy in her fine dining section to work with her. They’d help each other with homework or management duties, and they got to be good friends.

culinary wonder part IV

…continued from culinary wonder part I, part II, and part III

Theresa opted for rehab and is instructed to not stop drinking so she doesn’t have a seizure from withdrawal. The counselor stopped enforcing her appointments and is trying to find a bed for Theresa. Now Theresa is back to drinking a 12 pack of beer before work. The day after her birthday last May (2011), she’s getting ready for work with a beer in her hand. She gets a phone call saying that they’ve finally found a bed and she has to go right NOW. She showed up to detox with a Heineken in her hand and chugs it before they open the door. Her friend called the restaurant and told them that she’s finally got a bed. They’re aware of the legal situation, but she still doesn’t know if she’ll have a job when she gets out.


So now she’s back in the same place she detoxed in a year ago. They actually overdid it on the meds because of her past problem with pills, and she saw the same counselors she knew from a year ago. After three days, she’s detoxed and back at work. The original counselor is trying to find her a rehab that will work for her and got her on antidepressants. She finally got into a rehab a few weeks later. She gave work the phone number and the address to the rehab she was going to. As she’s in the office, the German sees her and pulls her aside. He tells her that she’s done amazing things there and she will have a job when she gets clean. Theresa is floored, and thanks him.


culinary wonder part III

…continued from culinary wonder part I and culinary wonder part II


She developed a mentor type relationship with the Swiss and the German. They’d teach her everything they knew at work, and then after work they’d go out for a few beers and hang out. They took their drinking as seriously as they took their cooking. Theresa would be high from the adrenaline rush in the kitchen at work all day. She finally felt somewhere she belonged. Now she’s gone through periods of sobriety and then falls back down again. Picks herself up, falls back down. Somehow, she’s finally found home.


After five months of this, she gets out of work one night. Typical night, she goes out to meet her boyfriend for a few drinks and starts with beer. They move to shots, and about fifteen drinks later one of their drug buddies roll in. They get some pills and go back to the house. Her boyfriend starts flipping out completely and so Theresa and her drug buddy take off before the cops show up. Right before they can leave, the police arrive. Theresa is drunk as hell and gets caught with pills. She had enough booze in her to not give a shit, and not knowing that those four or five pills on her were serious… in Florida, each pill is a felony charge. She was still dunk and high and was freely giving details to the cops about her drug problems. She’s booked and put in a cell at like five or six am. She didn’t sleep much, and eventually got to see the judge on a closed circuit tv. She plead guilty and they released her pending a court date. She’s out at ten am she was on pre-trial diversion. That means she was randomly drug tested, so no drugs or drinking until her court case came up.. Theresa called her roommate and got back home, where her boyfriend is freaking out. She has to be at work at one pm. She had a few beers, laid down for an hour, then calls a taxi and gets to work on time.
The work day is uneventful.


A few days later, she had a serious buzz going and is setting up. The short fat french guy comes up to her and says in his thick accent ‘So, Theresa. I heard you spent the night at the hotel last week’. She had no idea what he was talking about and had a million things to do. He leaves and comes back with his iphone. He clicks it and there’s Theresa’s mug shot, staring at her. She told him ‘I guess you have to go to HR about this’. He shrugs and says ‘I don’t have to do anything. This is up to you.’. Theresa becomes closer with the Swiss, and it turns out that he’s only two years older than you. He’s worked at the Versace mansion, was trained in Switzerland, studied throughout Europe, and is running the kitchen at this fancy resort, where a typical lunch serves 1500 people. Theresa is drinking in the mornings, but it’s all out of her system by midday, so she’s passing her random court ordered drug tests.


Her court case comes up and her lawyer tells her to opt to enter a ‘drug diversion program’. No drinking or drugging for a year, the times a week she had to be in AA meetings, three times a week drug testing, once a week group therapy, once a week individual therapy. She slowed down on her drinking, but didn’t quit. She missed a few appointments due to mixing up days or her work schedule, but made up any mistakes so it was never brought up to the judge. She’s been lying to the counselors for two months, telling them that she’s not drinking, and playing the game. One day she’s at work, and going through withdrawal from alcohol gives her dry heaves. There was nothing to throw up and she ends up rupturing a blood vessel in her eye. The next day she has a therapy session and the counselor called bullshit on her flu story. Since she’s having withdrawals, the counselor tells her that she has to choose between jail (six months to a few years, depending on the judge), or rehab for three to four months.


culinary wonder part II

…continued from culinary wonder part I


Four days later she gets out and immediately calls her job. She has lost her job (clearly) and since her apartment was provided  by her work, she loses that too. She moves in with a friend and picks up odd jobs working on boat rigging and as an electrician. She does this for about four months, messing around with pills again… but much more careful to not get caught. It didn’t help that throughout the entire ordeal, her boyfriend got into heroin while they were living in Baltimore. There wasn’t much she could say to him without being a hypocrite, so they became like Bonnie and Clyde. She gets out of detox and he’s still messing around with the serious shit. She kept putting in applications with the restaurants in the area and finally got frustrated. She went down to a big schmancy resort in the Keys with a resume and met with the HR people. They asked about a drug test and she said, sure, whatever. Miraculously she passed the drug test and got a call from the executive chef a few days later.


Theresa was asked to do a cooking demo in lieu of an application, which was something she hadn’t done since culinary school. She got super fucked up the night before, found a ride, and was there to do her demo at 1100. She was so nervous and hung over that she was shaking and nauseous and miserable. She walks in and it’s the biggest kitchen she’s ever seen; millions of dollars of equipment and the kitchen alone is bigger than most restaurants. She got a quick tour and was handed a piece of steak and piece of halibut. This place is huge and there are about 50 cooks running around. She doesn’t know where anything was, but managed to bang out two decent entrees. The executive chef comes in and he’s a short fat french guy followed by a huge German and a huge Swiss. They come in, taste her entrees, and don’t say anything. Finally the Swiss and the french guy sit him down and go down her entire resume from beginning to end. She came clean about everything that had happened. They asked her more questions about work ethic, creativity in the kitchen, and all kinds of things, then thanked her and she left.


A week later she gets a phone call from the Swiss guy asking her when she could start. She said whenever and he said Friday… one of the busiest days in the restaurant industry. She has no idea how anything is prepared, barely knew the menu, and had no clue where anything was in the kitchen. She got oriented in the kitchen, helped with prep work, and just chilled. When they opened, the Swiss informed her that she was going to be running expo. That’s running sautee so all hot foods went through her, coordinating tickets, and keeping an eye on everything. She’s learning as she goes, asking the chef a million questions, and is nervous as hell. It’s her first time back in a kitchen for about six months and is super intimidated. No major mistakes are made, and the next thing she knows, the big German guy from her demo is standing there. Turns out he’s the food and beverage director for the entire resort. That is a huge deal. He and the Swiss guy have been standing there watching her for hours.


This went on for three days.


Finally they left her in charge of that area for the rest of the slow season. She’d find herself in the office every now and then for minor mistakes- mostly from not asking the right questions. She begged them to teach her everything they knew and they pushed her harder. She became a machine in the kitchen and was picking things up right and left. As things are finally coming together at work, her personal life is falling apart again. She’d get up and have 10 or 12 beers in her before heading to work, and would have no idea how she got to bed at night. No matter how fucked up she was, though, once she hit those kitchen doors, everything was fine. The busy season started and the amount of hours she was working kept her drinking mostly under control.

culinary wonder part I
30 September 2012, 12:00 pm
Filed under: life in general | Tags: , ,

In order to celebrate my return from hiatus (thanks to a VERY generous gift), I’m going to tell you guys about my friend Theresa. This is going to be a week long story, so buckle your seatbelts.


For the past twenty years, my brother’s friend Theresa has been a staple in our house. She didn’t have the best home life, so she’d escape to hang out with my younger brother, Adam. She started drinking at age 12 and was a full blown alcoholic by age 14. Along with her difficult time at home, she also had full blown ADHD and the only reason she even passed high school was with my brother’s tutoring. She worked at a local BBQ joint in high school to finance her drinking and drug use, and left home soon after graduating to go to culinary school in Baltimore. She dropped out without graduating after being offered an management position in a restaurant in the area. That lasted a year and a half before she and her boss came to a decision that she needed to work on her drinking problem. She stopped cold turkey on her own and went and lived for a few weeks with an uncle that’s been sober for the past 15 years. Her friend found her a job at a fine dining restaurant in Baltimore. She did a little bit of everything there, working the garmanager station along with sauteeing, salads, and some banquet work. She worked there for four months. Another friend found her a job at a small established restaurant in the Florida Keys and she learned the business end of running a restaurant. Soon after this, she got into heroin and things really started to fall apart. Her friend from Baltimore came to visit and his solution to her not drinking was for them to do heroin together instead. About five months after that happened, her old boss in Baltimore called and asked if she was drinking now and when she (honestly) said no, he flew her back up to Baltimore to help out with the busy season. Now that she’s in Baltimore, heroin was easy to get and waaay cheaper than the Keys. She got deeper and deeper, but was still managing to maintain at work.


Six months after that, she got a desperate phone call from the established restaurant in Florida offering her $900/week under the table, plus the opportunity to work breakfasts ($10/hour plus tips). A 22 year old with a raging heroin habit, of course she said yes. The first few days were rough because she was coming down from heroin and didn’t know where to get more. She switched to oxycotins because they were easier to get and did heroin when she could find it. She started spiraling downwards. She was working 18 hours a day with no days off, and there was no creativity involved. This was the established restaurant. They’d had the same menu and specials for the past ten years. Dope and pills were costing her about $200/day. When she ran low, she’s resort to binge drinking. She’d wreck her scooter on her way to work, pass out in the kitchen and in the bathroom, and be sent home. Nobody talked to her about her problems or threatened to fire her or anything.


Finally she tried to pull herself together. She quit the opiates, but was having a hard time sleeping from the withdrawl symptoms. To combat the sleeplessness she’d start popping xanax. Soon enough the opiates were kicked but now she had a xanax dependency. One day she gets off work and her friend calls from the bar. Theresa goes to meet her at the bar. Normally not a problem; she’s gone months and months of being around bars without drinking. She arrived and ordered an O’Doules and somehow ended up doing double shots of Jack. She still had xanax in her system from the night before. Her dealer shows up with oxycotin and by now it seems like a great idea to take some. She blacked out and the next thing she knows, the owner of the restaurant she works at is calling to find out where she is, and he’s cooking breakfast himself. She rushes to work and kept drinking while there. There were plenty of bottles of booze in the kitchen. Now she has opiates, xanax, and alcohol in her system. Finally her body can take no more and she passes out in the kitchen. The owner finds her and calls an ambulance. She flatlines in the ambulance and woke up in the hospital. By Florida law, the Baker Act found her a danger to herself and others and mandated detox.

poor braxton

So I received an email yesterday:

Good afternoon! I just wanted to make you aware that Braxton has failed to turn in 4 of the last 7 math homework assignments. He says he completed it but then forgets to bring it to school. He is also having a difficult time paying attention in my math class. He is such a bright young man and I do not want him to fall behind. Please discuss this with him at home and let me know if you have any questions. Thank you! Have a good evening!

Amanda W.
4th grade math teacher

I decided to reply:

Hello, Amanda!

Poor Braxton. He sounds like a handful. We’ve all been there… typically not until middle or high school, though.

Unfortunately, this is the wrong email address. I don’t have any children. My house is clean and quiet, I cook gourmet meals instead of chicken nuggets, I drive a nice car instead of a minivan with Cheerios mashed into the floorboards and juice stains on the seats, and I can afford vacations to Paris, Greece, and Hawaii instead of Disney World.

Have you considered squirting him in the face with a spray bottle of water and shouting ‘NO!’ when he fails to turn in his assignments? It worked for my dog when I was training him to stay off the couch.

Good luck!


…she has not yet replied.

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