published: Sunday, May 17, 2009
Ending up in hot water
They were waiting gleefully, the waitresses at the Lakeview Restaurant on the corner of Lakeview Drive and Kenilworth Boulevard.
The idea of an outsider, particularly a reporter, washing dishes delighted them no end. They couldn't stop laughing, although one immediately said I should wait until Mother's Day, "then you'll know what a rush is really all about."
Thank you very much -- I was sure after church on a Sunday would be more than enough of a challenge.
Here's the thing about restaurants, they divide neatly into two sections: The dinning room and the kitchen.
Dinning rooms are typically designed to provide maximum ambiance so customers can relax and savor good food.
Generally speaking the noises are subdued, with conversational voices blending into a pleasant, almost musical, background sound that's punctuated by the clink of silver on china, the sharp rattle of ice, and small bursts of laughter.
In the best of restaurants (not speaking here of price or swanky chef, but places where customers are important and there's pride in the cooking) servers move with a kind of grace and coordination, which hides the urgency of getting the right plate to the right table while everything is still hot.
What the customer sees is a civilized calm where he or she is the center of attention.
The kitchen, on the other hand, is a steamy hot place filled the sounds of sizzling meat, clashing pots and pans and tersely shouted directions. It is all about work.
Most people have no idea how much physical effort goes into creating a meal.
Maybe that's because the perfect plate presentation is such a peaceful combination engaging all the senses -- the visual as important as the aroma and the taste.
Sadly, in this romance of eating almost everyone overlooks the crucial worker in any kitchen.
Oh sure, the chef and the server are essential in creating the total experience, but it is the plate, glass and spoon that are the foundation for everything else.
If you have ever been handed a coffee cup with lipstick on the rim -- and it's not your color -- or picked up a fork with dried egg stuck on it, you know exactly what I mean.
Nothing destroys perfection quicker than yuck.
Yet washing dishes is the least appreciated job in a restaurant, despite the fact that a person can get sick if it isn't done properly, or the dinning room slow to a stop when supplies run out.
Part of the problem is that washing dishes is done out of sight and mind, usually tucked into a back corner well out of the way.
Then, of course, there is very little glamor.
Make that no glamor at all.
Washing dishes is hard, unending physical labor. The pace is exhausting -- rinse, wash, sanitize, store, then do it again, and again.
The piles of plates are heavy. The sinks are set low, with storage shelves mounted high on the wall. There is constant bending and lifting; constant scouring and scrubbing.
Did I mention dishwasher hands? Always wet, by the end of a shift fingertips are so deeply wrinkled you think only botox will bring them back.
Then there are the bus bins where grease, or disgusting bits of coffee soaked toast, or spoonfuls of pudding float in brown-colored liquid.
At Lakeview I had more to deal with than all of the above. From the moment I was led to the sinks, already piled high with the morning's pots and pans, I was in a race with Claudia de Galvan.
This tiny lady, I don't think she clears 5 feet, is a powerhouse of energy -- the kind of person who just can't stand still.
Here she had a chance to stand back and relax a little, with my extra set of hands in the suds. Instead, I soon saw we were going to be in a competition. At one point we were almost wrestling dirty pots from one another.
For every pot I attacked, she completed two. When it came to putting away clean plates, she picked up whole piles of them, hoisting them well over her head.
The first time I went to lift up a stack they were so heavy I had to stop and do it in two trips instead.
Her hands flew over the rack of silverwear, sorting the knives, forks and spoons quicker than I could distinguish the difference between them.
In no time my back ached from bending over the sink, and when I got home I had to take ibuprophen because my wrist and shoulder throbbed from all the scrubbing.
It took several hours for my finger tips to return to normal and they hurt the worst of all. It felt like my skin was going to split.
How this amazing woman does it, I haven't a clue. She works a seven day week -- six hours Monday through Friday and eight on Saturday and Sunday.
Then she mops the floor and cleans the bathrooms.
Me? I lasted two and a half hours.
And at home, yesterday's dishes are still in the sink.
Lakeview Restaurant (by: Kel - 12/4/2011)
Huh? Are you sure you were at the Lakeview Restaurant? "Servers move with a kind of grace and coordination"? Of all the times I have been to this restaurant several of the servers were baudy, loud, and profane. Ambiance? You are joking, right? The food is at best passable, the desserts are dried and not worth the money. Yes you can get a breakfast for a very good price, however the eggs are never cooked correctly to order. Also, the writer of the article could have used a proof reader, LOL...
Something is Missing (by: Eva - 10/20/2010)
I'm not sure exactly what it is, but it seems that something is missing in this story.
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