It's irritating as hell when a server thinks he or she can and should do double duty in the kitchen. Doubly irritating if the server is doing this because he thinks his ideas are superior to all others, including the boss. Kitchen control freaks, be on guard.
This week, I had a night time event in an enormous Sea Cliff home (mansion?). Open bar, passed apps and a buffet for fifty guests, for three hours. Flowers (preferably edible ones) were deemed the garnish of choice by the chef. What he says goes. His gig, his rules, his cash. No problem, right? Well, almost. Reality is, catering mini-dramas can unleash at any time, regardless of how smooth the event is going.
A server that I'll call J decided one dish should have limes cut in half as a garnish. Talk about fugly. It looked like something straight off of a tequila bar, and did not match the flowers adorning the other hand crafted Italian plates. J had already gotten on my nerves an hour earlier, when he set about arranging flowers. That's great, but J waltzed off without cleaning his heaping mess of dirty scissors, gargantuan plastic wrap, flower stems and parts, and mini-mounds of pollen. There's one of many unspoken catering rules. If the event is flowing and there is not a rush, it makes sense for each person to keep his or her messes clean at all times.
I can now see J's logic in wanting to include his ugly lime halves. It sort of makes sense because the dish was Yucatan chicken marinated in achiote paste, dressed with fresh squeezed lime juice, and a sprinkle of cilantro. After J moved my flower garnish off (could this be what really got me going?) and put his stupid limes on the plate and left the kitchen, I turned to the male chef, my boss. "Those limes look ugly, don't you think?"
He replied, somewhat softly, "Yeah, I'm not a fan." To which I silently wondered to myself, "Why is J fucking with us? Why doesn't he let us" (read: me) "do our jobs?"
When the next order of chicken came up, I had a handful of flowers at the ready, next to the plate. J scooted his butt behind a cutting board and started slowly slicing more limes. I let him keep working while I set about slicing the chicken breasts. There may have been a smug smile on my face. I plated one chicken breast, and then the other. He started to move his limes over. "No, we're going with the flowers for this one," I said.
J gave me a quizzical, sarcastic look and the signs of a mini-snarl curled his lip. "Oh. The limes, though," he said.
"No. No limes. Flowers for all plates," I said in a slightly stern tone. J did not look pleased. He let the plate sit there, and busied himself by taking another plate out. This made no sense and seemed to show J was pissed, or so I imagined. One of the other servers eventually took the chicken with flower garnish plate out for me instead.
I'm not proud that I was a player in the lime garnish drama. But I felt that was my job, not J's. When more than one person puts themselves in charge of a task, no matter how minute, it may lead to conflict. That's just how it goes in catering.