Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Interview: Part One

This past Sunday I went to an open interview at a restaurant that's opening mid-March. It's called The Blockley Pourhouse, and I found them in an ad on craigslist, stating that they're hiring all positions front and back of the house.

I really didn't think much of it - I've had an extremely hard time finding a decent job, and passed it off as another I probably won't get. But I went to the open interview anyway, and before I knew it, my nerves were setting in. This has been a problem for me in the past. Before I started work at my first real restaurant, I could barely eat for about three days. I did what I could to calm myself - took the car where I can feel confident in my own little bubble, where I can listen to whatever music I like, however loud I like. I thought of all the experience I have - a 3.9 GPA in culinary school that I'm attending, management at a pizza place, sous chef at a fine dining French restaurant where I butchered tenderloin, stripsteak, and removed silverskin from lamb. I learned to fillet Dover sole, though I never got to be great at it, and probably couldn't do it if you asked me to right now. I covered all the appetizers, like crab imperial, stuffed shrimp, smoked salmon with toast, and escargot. I learned a little bit about sauces, though not much relatively speaking. It was the first time I tasted mornay, beurre blanc, and tournedo. The front of the house was one of the most terribly adorned places I had ever seen: the seventy-year old woman owner's doll collection was scattered about, and her presence was further enhanced by massive amounts of doilies. We served our specialty items on gaudy purple and gold plates, like the lamb.

But despite all of this, I think of my weaknesses as I drive to the intersection of 38th and Chestnut. By the time I walk into the building bearing the outdated sign of "Koko Bongo," the business that failed, I'm shaking. The entire building is completely gutted - the walls are all different colors from pink to blue to white, there are giant eight-foot sheets of plywood laying about, while loose nails appear on the floor every here and there. Straight ahead is what looks to be the set up of a stage, and the first thing I reach upon walking in is the giant bar: it looks to be thirty feet long. Standing at the end nearest the door are two girls that look to be around my age, and when I walk closer, I see they're filling out applications taken from a stack laying on the bar. Down at the other end of the bar, sitting at a small fold-out table are three men. In front of the table is a single chair, where another girl about my age is being interviewed. I figure because I have my resume, the application would be obsolete, but as they dismissed the girl from the interview one of the men walked toward me and told me to go ahead and fill one out anyway. His light brown hair is short on top, and he holds a beard that gives him a vague Amish look (pointed out by one of the others during my interview). I hate filling out applications.
The next two girls go one by one to the table at the end of the bar, chasing front of the house jobs. The men are blatantly flirting with both of them. I overhear snatches of the conversations, and they both sound a bit ditzy - someone you could easily imagine saying, "I love The Hills!" or "I can't believe I have to miss the Lady Gaga concert." But they could be good candidates to serve food and booze to people that come in and get shitty.

After standing around for what feels like hours, it's my turn. The man on the left is tall with dark brown hair. The one in the middle looks like he could be a linebacker - but has a very gentle smile. And the bearded man on the right turns out to be the one in charge of the music and booking for the place. They are all young, and seem full of excited ambition. Despite my nervousness, I do a good job at swallowing it and throwing big smiles, acting confident and extremely interested in everything they have to say. They ask me if I would rather serve or cook, and I say for now maybe serving. I didn't tell them that this is because the money is better, and I don't want to get stuck making crappy bar food like potato skins and wings. But by the end of the interview, when I was informed that Chef Ross Esner, former chef of Django (the food of which is the second picture shown), would be the head chef here and there was an actual casual dining restaurant next to this large "fun room," they tell me in so many words that I would be working in the back of the house if anything. I'm fine with this - no - I'm great. In fact, I'd felt a little guilty saying I'd rather serve. A funny thing was that they actually spoke a good bit more than I did - it seemed like I could hardly get a word in. They were young and ambitious indeed. I left feeling like I'd at least gotten a little word in about myself.

The very next day Chef Ross calls me and leaves a message saying he would love for me to come by and set something up. As soon as I get a hold of him, he tells me that Thursday he's holding interviews and to come by then.

To be continued...

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