Authors: K. C. Falls
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Adult
By K.C. Falls
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, places and events are the product of the author's imagination or used fictitiously.
The material in this book is intended for adults only.
Copyright © 2012 by K.C. Falls
Table of Contents
The day I got the call from Crew Unlimited I was so so pissed off that I could hardly speak. He took a single tiny taste of my creation and told me, "That tastes like ass."
I wanted to ask him if he was an expert on ass-licking. Thankfully, I
spoken because it would have invited a war of words that I could never have won. I can hold my own with most, but the supreme leader of Topanga's kitchen was a wizard at the obscene insult. He created new and imaginative ways to use the foulest words. It was a talent he cultivated and proudly exercised--often.
To think I had had a crush--a real thumpity-thump, knee-knocking, panty-soaking crush--on the egomaniacal son-of-a-bitch makes me throw up a little. One of the few things I've ever done right when it comes to guys is that I never let him know.
"Nice splooge," Gloria, our head wait was referring to the glob of mayo I'd dropped on the floor.
"Just about the size of my load." He thought he was being cute. He basically always thought he was being cute. Ir-friggin-resistable.
"Have to put that to the test, Chef." Gloria patted her generous butt and doled out a big smile for the clever boy. It was chicks like her that made him believe he was all that.
Watching him ooze his bad-boy chef charm all over the waitresses wasn't the real insult. After all, he had no idea how I once felt about him. The heavy tats, the bandana on the head, even the the pirate goat and stash; yeah they'd done a number on me at the beginning.
But that had worn off real quick. What I resented the most was that I had allowed him to lick all the red off the candy of being a chef.
I despised the whole master and slave routine he pushed me and everybody else around with. He was devoted to the idea that the head chef is some kind of demi-god to whom all the rest of the crew must bow and pay homage. His way of attaining that status was to make sure that no one in his kitchen ever felt any better than incompetent. I'm so glad that I found out early that my tolerance for abuse and a restaurant career are incompatible. It could have been an ugly life.
The decision to quit the traditional business was a painful one. I knew I'd disappointed my parents when I opted out of going to college and chose culinary school instead. Now, just a year out of the program, I was already bailing on my 'career'. It looked a lot like failure.
I started exploring my options a not long after I was hired; starry-eyed and straight out of the Culinary Institute to work at Topanga.
Jewel amongst jewels in the glittering South Florida restaurant scene. I was dazzled by my good fortune.
I was dazzled even more by the incredibly hot executive chef who hired my humble and inexperienced self to man one of his precious line stations. I had visions of doing him over potato sacks in the pantry within days of being hired. Bent over, pants around my knees begging for him to bang me before the dinner shift started.
It took all of two months to realize what a total douche I was working for and another eight to do something about it. I submitted my resume and newly acquired maritime certification to the offices of "Crew Unlimited". There are other ways to be a chef than toiling for a petty tyrant. I decided to go for a job on a cruise ship.
Join the navy, see the world.
The day I got the call we were slammed. Friday lunch could get mean.
"Twelve top with blue-hairs," reported Megan as she flew through the kitchen.
"Shit, it's that red hat bunch again." I love little old ladies, just not in my restaurant."Sauce on the side for everyone."
"Ordering . . . table for ten," the expeditor began to rattle off salmon and blackened scallops. All grill. All about me. I already had half the grill occupied before the big tables even came in.
My phone began to vibrate in my pocket and I didn't dare even look at it. I knew better than to answer. I was headed for a catastrophe at my station. I had three orders dying in the window and no room to move the others onto plates.
"Will somebody fuckin' sell that four-top? Joyce, is that your order?" I barked at the first waitress to pass through the swinging doors.
"No, Chef. But I'll run it."
"You're my angel, Joycee-poo." As soon as she took the order out from under the heat lamps, I replaced the plates with another group from my grill. "More garnish--on the fly!" The pantry girl, Angie scrambled to get me herbs from the walk-in.
Even if someone had wanted to help me cook, it would have been impossible. There just wasn't enough room in the submarine style kitchen for two people to cram themselves into one station. Not that anyone had a mind to lend a hand. The Executive Asshole was watching me and laughing. He was taunting me and doling out insults that every other cook in the kitchen seemed to find hilarious. I knew I was in the weeds; I didn't need to be reminded.
I wanted to take my hot spatula and smack the shit out of him. Sizzling steel would've wiped that smirk off of his pretty face.
As I flipped the fish, I started daydreaming about getting 'the call'. I wasn't expecting miracles, but I sure was hoping for one. As soon as I had a second, I jerked the phone out of my pocket and looked at the number. I'd already programmed "Crew Unlimited" into the contacts. My heart did a little happy dance in my chest when I saw the 'CU' pop up. "
Oh God, please let me get lucky,"
Joyce passed by with a tray full of salads. "Joyce, eighty-six the salmon for fifteen minutes."
"What the fuck? I've got fifty cryos back in the freezer," Head Asshole informed me. His pecs flexed as he handled two sauté pans at once, both heavy with food. Chefs normally come in two varieties: skinny and fat. He was neither. Under the sweat stained t-shirt he had the torso of a well-trained athlete: defined, chiseled and crying out for fingernail marks down the front and back of it.
"How do you want me to thaw it? Nuke the shit out of it? It'll take at least fifteen minutes to thaw the bastards in water so I say eighty-six until I get that done."
Asshole shot me a withering look and muttered "pussy" under his breath but didn't argue any further.
Another eternal hour and a half later I ducked out the back door and returned the call. I sat down on the old, stolen park bench. The coffee can next to it overflowed grotesquely with cigarette butts. No one ever emptied it. Once in a while it caught fire. That was the accepted method of reducing the pile and the event was always celebrated in the kitchen. The cooks all thought that 'fire in the hole' was the most original joke on the planet. God, sometimes I felt like I worked with a bunch of zitty adolescents.
"Hi, this is Lara Lamb. I'm returning a phone call from your office," I was put right through to James Purvell, the guy who interviewed me when I submitted my application. As I recall, he seemed singularly unimpressed with my credentials and completely bored with the interview. I had walked out of the office feeling like he'd done this newbie a real favor just by talking to me. Snotty damn 'tude must have been a by-product of working with the seafaring set. This time I heard a very different tone on the other end of the line.
"Ms. Lamb, I know this is short notice but you did indicate that you could start a position immediately if we had a spot for you." Oh yeah. Now it was all oily charm on the other end of the line.
"Yes, I can start tomorrow if necessary." I wouldn't have thought twice about leaving that hell-hole and its crew of demons in the lurch on New Year's Eve. I didn't owe shit to anyone. Loyalty? What's that about? I'd been treated only slightly better than pond scum in that kitchen. Dickheads.
"Is it possible for you to come in this afternoon and discuss a private chef opportunity?"
Private chef. I hadn't considered that. "Sure," I told him. "I'm afraid I'll have to come straight from the restaurant, though." That was meant to be a warning that I'd stink like fish and sweat.
I arrived on time and Purvell introduced me to Captain Richard in an elegant office overlooking Pier 77. Beyond the smoked glass picture window I saw huge yachts moored in the slips. I thought how kick-ass it would feel to make one of them my home.
"I understand that you are prepared to ship out immediately if hired." The Captain wasted no time getting to the point.
"I am," I answered.
"We have a crew of sixteen, the owner and occasionally some guests. You'd be the sole chef, but one of our stewards would be available to assist you and help maintain the kitchen." Captain Richard ran through a narrative about the boat, most of which just flew right over my head. It was hard to imagine the kind of yacht he described to me. I was on a forty-foot sport fishing boat once that seemed as much luxury as anyone would need on the water. "El Lobo" measured a mind-blowing 220 feet long. A floating mansion.
"I've had dinner at Topanga a few times over the last year. It was excellent."
"If you ate anything from the grill side, I cooked it," I told him with what I hoped was a confident smile. I already wanted the job so bad I could taste it.
This was the extent of any discussion about my experience except to confirm that I did indeed have an associate degree from the Culinary Institute. It's a step up from a diploma, but not nearly as respectable as a bachelor's. I'd been impatient and not enthusiastic at all about learning the business end of running a restaurant. I wanted to cook. Besides, my parents had stuffed my head so full of knowledge I felt over-educated at eighteen.
"May I ask why you're considering a change?"
"Make it good. This is the trick question
," I told myself and opted for honesty. "To tell you the truth, Captain, I don't like the mentality of restaurant work. I love to cook, but I'm looking for an atmosphere a little gentler on the soul. Ever watched 'Hell's Kitchen'?" He nodded. "Well our executive chef likes to believe he's Gordon Ramsey."
Richard laughed. He struck me as easy going and that would be a pleasant change from the tyrant I just left. "You won't have that to deal with, for sure. You'll be a one woman show. However, it would be unfair of me not to warn you that the owner of El Lobo is quite demanding. He can be difficult."
"Topanga has several hundred 'difficult' customers every day."
"That's a good way of looking at it."
As hard as it was for me to believe, our fifteen minute interview ended with a job offer. The salary Richard quoted was flabbergasting. If I had known how much more I could make as a private chef I would never have even considered the slave wages of a line cook no matter how prestigious the restaurant address.
"I'll need you tomorrow. Bright and early. The Boss wants to make way as soon as possible. Like yesterday."
A warm handshake and I was out the door, floating. I felt victorious when I returned to Topanga for my final shift. The cramped kitchen suddenly took on a worn out, used look. The staff looked tired. Chef Asshole looked a lot less hot. Pondering my options as I arranged my
mise en place
I briefly considered leaving then and there. But, good as that would have felt, I decided not to lower myself. My notice at the end of service was satisfaction enough. Besides, I knew by the next night I'd be replaced and forgotten. There are hundreds of unemployed cooks waiting for every job and mine would be filled before the doors opened again for lunch.