When I first finished cooking school, I often visited the California Culinary Academy chef's offices for job leads, encouragement, and laughs. The chefs are a fun and outgoing group, and I had an in with their leader, Chef Herve Le Biavant, from working gratis as his organizer/assistant. He told me about a doctor who was friends with a famous TV chef. The doctor had a restaurant at the SF Airport, and was opening a new one in Stonestown Galleria Shopping Center.
The Stonestown restaurant was going to serve crepes and bubble tea. Quick service. Did I want to visit the Doctor at one of his offices, and see if we could work together? I could charge $25 an hour. I was fooling everyone when gigs like this came up. I didn't know anything about crepes, but would do research and practice cooking them. Since I didn't have a car (it was towed in SF and then smashed up in an Oakland accident on my first day at the Chronicle-a bad omen), I borrowed one.
One thing the Doctor is great at is charming people. "Oh, I didn't know what you would look like!" he exclaimed. Hmmm. I laughed and told him I did know what he would look like because of his ads in a weekly publication. "Oh, that," he giggled. "That's from so long ago! Do you think I still look that young?" No, I don't, but I'll lie since you will be paying me. "Of course," I marveled, with a smile.
The Doctor wanted help with his sweet and savory/buckwheat crepe recipes. I told him I would test the recipes, and that it would likely take a few tries, to work out all the kinks. "With recipes," I told him, "It isn't like you can just take a recipe for five servings and times it by six to get thirty portions. Especially with baked goods, this will get you in trouble."
"I see, I see," the Doctor said. "Well, I am so glad we are working together," he said. I told him I would also look at the menu and offer more combinations for both sweet and savory. The California could have feta, spinach, and tomato, that sort of thing. "Wonderful," he said.
I went through over sixty eggs for each recipe run through. Herve snuck me into some CCA kitchen, where the students were curious and in awe that I was a recent alum, doing what seemed to be fun and interesting work. Testing recipes takes detective and guess work. The first five crepes were always thrown out, because they'd burn or bunch up. Once I got the hang of it, it was fun.
I emailed the Doctor recipes and reports. My next assignment was to visit the crepe place anonymously and report back what I thought. The staff was suspicious when I ordered three crepes (2 savory, 1 sweet). Only one of the crepes passed muster, and the herbs and spices were too strong on one of the crepes. Presentation was messy and needed work.
The Doctor was pleased with my work. I let him know I had emailed him an invoice. A few days later, it hadn't arrived. I was underemployed and in need of the funds, but didn't want to appear needy or pushy. Two weeks turned to three weeks, and I visited Herve to let him know it went well. "Has he paid you yet?" he asked.
"Not yet. I sent the invoice," I said.
"You may have to bug him," he said, mysteriously. Another chef overheard us talking, "Oh no," Chef Julie said. "You're working for the Doctor? Don't you know? He never pays. I did work for him when I was a student, for that stupid airport restaurant, and he never gave me one cent," she said as she rolled her eyes.
"Why would you send me to someone who has a habit of not paying," I screeched at Herve.
"You'll get your money. If anyone can, it's you," Herve said.
Soon after, I finally called the Doctor at his office. "He owes me nearly four hundred dollars, and is overdue," I told his receptionist. She sweetly clucked disapproval and promised to relay the message. Because the Doctor gave me his home and cell phone numbers, I called there. His teenage son took the message. Good, I was hoping to embarrass the Doctor. I got ahold of the Doctor and he said he would send the money.
Ten days later, no money. More calls to his various outposts. He called me back that day, in a huff. "Look, I said I would pay you! It's only a bit of money."
"To you, yes! You keep promising to pay, but haven't. I will keep calling your office and home until I see a check in my mailbox."
Wouldn't you know, the next day my check arrived? The Doctor normally had fine cursive writing, but his signature on this check was huge and messy, and the pen had pressed the paper something fierce. It probably made him furious to pay, but he probably figured out I wouldn't give up.