The first job that I received a paycheck for was at a local family restaurant. At fifteen years of age with a work permit in hand, I was ready to go. As a minor, they had to restrict my hours, but I worked as often as they’d let me. My boss was the owner of the restaurant and was a businessman for sure. Being a dishwasher had its drawbacks. The kitchen was hot with all the cooking going on. In addition, the commercial dishwasher added more heat than anything else. First, we had to scrap the plates clean. Nothing like picking up a huge trash can filled with leftovers and pouring it into a dumpster. A long flexible hose with a spray nozzle was used to clean most of the dishes clean before shoving the tray into the dishwasher. The next trays were cups. Last, the silverware was sent through.
Every once in a while, our boss would stop by and do a spot check. Anytime he found something, he made sure we knew about it, not always in a pleasant manner. Years later I finally understood why he was hard on us. I’ve eaten in numerous restaurants and received dirty silverware, cups, and dishes. It’s downright disgusting and makes you not want to eat there anymore! Rather than always verbally explaining himself, any time we were caught not doing something right, he would jump in and show us the right way to do the job.
There were times when we were understaffed that he helped out wherever the need was, including doing dishes. I admired him for doing that. I will say he had a knack for being rough around the edges at times. He gave orders and expected them to be followed. There was one time I stood up to him. He was telling me loudly what he wanted me to do. I said, “Ask me and I will do it.” Let me tell you, the look in his eyes. “Excuse me,” he said in unbelief. I repeated myself. I thought he was going to slap me. But he swallowed whatever it was, and through his teeth, rephrased it into a question directed at me.
I immediately jumped on the task he asked me to do. I was not trying to be clever or a wise crack but simply wanted to be treated like a human being, with respect. I don’t think he ever intended to come across as a barking madman. He had a business to run and lots of people working for him in a stressful environment. We bumped heads in the beginning, but I ended up working hard for him. He taught me about excellence, not only in the kitchen, but in business too!