From the Freezer

When a friend posted on Facebook that his restaurant desperately needed a server and he had been given permission to hire a friend, I jumped on the opportunity. Now, I should clarify that I am using the word “restaurant” very loosely. The best description I can give for the place I worked is that we served Indian fast food. A chef in another city would make giant batches of basic Indian dishes, freeze them into small and large portion containers and we would store them in a big freezer in the basement. We would bring up a few of each at a time, allow them to defrost in the fridge and then microwave them as they were ordered, adding the appropriate vegetables and spice powder as requested by our customers. Our “kitchen” consisted of six microwaves, a grill for the “naan” (another loose term; think flat, wide hot dog buns), a rice cooker and a deep fryer for samosas and onion bhaji (the only thing we made ourselves). As you can imagine, we had very few repeat customers, except for the potheads who lived behind the restaurant and would wander in at closing and order “whatever that smell is, and five of them!”

Meanwhile, our dining room was decorated nicely, but lit like a McDonald’s, and the manager would often quietly play rap over the sound system. On top of all this, the owner, “D”, set prices that were nearly as high as the authentic, delicious, properly decorated and sufficiently staffed Indian restaurants in the area, and all of these things put together made for a restaurant that was almost always empty. Because of the low customer numbers, a number of things happened at the restaurant that made working there very difficult. For one thing, I worked almost every single shift alone. I would serve tables, “cook” the food, clean the kitchen and dining room and prepare delivery and takeout orders. Every so often, this would mean absolute, hair-tearing chaos for me, when all of a sudden there would be three tables seated, another customer wanting takeout and a delivery man coming in 10 minutes.

However, there were also many times when I would have nothing to do. As I was in university, I was okay with this – I would sit behind the till and do course readings. I always made sure that the book was hidden from sight, so that passersby wouldn’t know that’s what I was doing, but after a few shifts of doing this, I discovered that D would have his friends walk by the restaurant at random and report back to him what we were doing. He made a new rule that we were not allowed to read during our shifts and should be constantly finding work to do. When I showed him that there was actually nothing to do, that every aspect of the restaurant was spotless, he told me to clean things over and over so that I was always working, because he was not paying me to read.

All of this, so far, I could live with. He’s the owner and he was worried about money and the job was usually not that hard, so I was okay. Then, within the space of a few weeks, it became unbearable. First, a new manager was hired. He called a staff meeting and told us that since we worked by ourselves and couldn’t take breaks, we should be allowed to make food for ourselves for free. Within a week, D had threatened to put in security cameras and accused us all of stealing and when we confronted the manager, he said that he didn’t say we should tell the owner about our “free” (stolen) food! Next, I got a call from a girl who had ordered delivery and had found a cooked bee in her curry. I got in trouble for telling her to come in to the store and get a refund. Third (remember how the food was kept in a freezer in the basement?), I forgot to mention that to get to the basement, you had to exit the back of the restaurant, go down a flight of unlit, broken concrete stairs and go into a back room of someone’s apartment to get to that freezer. As the weather turned, the stairs became treacherous, and despite numerous requests for the stairs to be repaired or at least salted, nothing was ever done. Finally, and this was absolutely the last straw, two of my co-workers’ paycheques bounced.

I still remember the letter I wrote to D when I quit. “Due to a combination of incompetent management, safety concerns, unfair employee treatment and pay discrepancies, I will no longer be able to continue working in this establishment. Thank you for the opportunity.” The restaurant went out of business two months later.

Comments (31)

Frau BlucherJanuary 20th, 2011 at 8:11 pm

the restaurant business is a tough one and obviously these people were idiots without a clue…

AdamJanuary 20th, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Its a sad state of affairs. Its hard to get a good curry that isnt upscale in my neck of the woods.

Great now I feel like naan.

TronnerJanuary 20th, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Make that two

FaithJanuary 21st, 2011 at 8:20 am

Ugh. My manager at KFC had the same mindset. “Oh, just keep cleaning then.” Clean WHAT? I cleaned EVERYTHING I was asked to do. My area is sparkling. I’ve been on my feet for six hours, let me lean against this counter and quietly hate the customers already.

TedJanuary 21st, 2011 at 8:23 am

@Faith – Totally, been there. It got so I hated busy work more than anything else and would work the hardest just to avoid having to do it.

JChiefJanuary 21st, 2011 at 8:25 am

If MJ ever becomes legal, I would immediately put all my money in stocks for take-outs (or take-aways, as you limeys put it). As the OP succinctly points out, the food doesn’t even have to be that good.

NJanuary 21st, 2011 at 8:35 am

@JChief, have you been to Amsterdam, and seen the food choices in the touristy areas? You could put your money in vending machines and chip stands, and be a billionaire!

AdamJanuary 21st, 2011 at 8:42 am

First he took over the take out joints, then the cookie companies. Now they call him the capo di tutti frutti icecream. Just dont ever ask him about his business.

JennaJanuary 21st, 2011 at 10:39 am

@N Stuff your food full of weed the more you eat the more you want the perfect feedback loop.

JChiefJanuary 21st, 2011 at 12:33 pm


Amsterdam is on my bucket list. But they probably would have to deport me. I would be clinging onto the cafe door yelling “god-damn it! I’m not ready to go! Just one more week, okay?!”

I just hate being in an airplane, and that is a long trip. I’ve heard that there are cafes up in Canada that let you smoke. Could this be true?

AdamJanuary 21st, 2011 at 12:43 pm

“I’ve heard that there are cafes up in Canada that let you smoke. Could this be true?”

Sort of… I think it has to be a slow day where everyone knows everyone else. There are definately private clubs that operate sort of like after hours bars.

so basically you just have to know the right people. It might be different in british columbia though. The problem is that alot of people operating legitimate places or even growing for medicinal get flip floped on and get nailed.

Which really means the RCMP stole their stuff and is now selling it to dealers to pay for their spouse murder trials.

NJanuary 21st, 2011 at 1:26 pm

You’ve heard sort of right, JChief… As a Canadian adult I have always known how to find it. And there was a coffee shop in my town that claimed Rastafarianism as grounds for allowing it… But was eventually shut down.

The thing is that our police generally understand how relatively harmless it is, and leave you alone unless you have so much that you’re obviously dealing. I know people who have blazed on Capitol hill.

Also, having been to Amsterdam twice (while I lived in England), I can say that it is not a trip you’ll remember much of, but you will be so glad you went. Word of caution: make sure you do the Anne Frank Haus sober.

NJanuary 21st, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Also, @Adam – I’m sure it was a typo, but I read a blog post once where the writer talked about how she made things up to help her deal with incorrectly spelled words, and my favourite was the mythical creature she invented called the “Alot”. When someone wrote “I love you alot”, she would picture this creature (sort of a wildebeest-looking thing) being told that he was loved, or if they wrote “alot of fish” she pictured an Alot made of fish.

So I giggled when you wrote “…that alot of people operating legitimate places” … and pictured a wildebeest in charge of illegal grow-ops across Canada.

p.s. here’s the blog post, for anyone who wants to learn about grammar and have a good time, too!

AdamJanuary 21st, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Thats a fairly roundabout way of taking a stab at my grammar.

NJanuary 21st, 2011 at 3:38 pm

That wasn’t my intention at all! As I said, it was probably a typo… and I think everyone should read that post, because it’s hilarious. Sorry if you were offended :)

BillyJanuary 21st, 2011 at 3:49 pm

N wins this award:

AdamJanuary 21st, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Nah I guess im just used to this site being a battlefield.

In my defense my spacebar has been sticking lately. Apparently it doesnt like coffee as much as I do. Go figure.

AdamJanuary 21st, 2011 at 5:00 pm

“N wins this award:

Honestly I was thinking the same thing.

NJanuary 21st, 2011 at 5:59 pm

For goodness’ sake. Adam, while I agree that the posters on this site can be nasty, I think you are being a bit over-sensitive. You clearly know how to write well, and it was clearly a typo. If you had written every post using terrible spelling and grammar, I wouldn’t have said anything.. but seeing as you know how to express yourself in writing, I thought you’d appreciate the humour in the blog.

And I’m sorry to hear about your keyboard. I hope it’s for a PC, and so easily replaceable, because a broken key is so frustrating! I lost the “k” key on mine a few years ago, and since there are k’s in my name, I almost lost my mind too lol

BillyJanuary 21st, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Whatever N says Adam, I like you alot!

AdamJanuary 21st, 2011 at 6:56 pm

No, no were cool I just meant that’s what I was thinking at the time. Im fairly self depreciating and humourless internet people bug the crap out of me.

AdamJanuary 21st, 2011 at 7:04 pm

I suppose we are both just having a bit of a time getting the message through today. Tobe honest though its probably a 50/50 chance that I just forgot the space entirely. Every year out of school has just been a slip into illiteracy. I try to read lots of books but I think the sustained pot smoking has finally caught up to me.

JeremyJanuary 22nd, 2011 at 5:54 am

Wait are there actually any comments here about the original post?

To be honest it didn’t sound like too bad a job because the whole time you could just laugh at how much money “D” was going to lose… due to being clearly inept at running a restaurant.

EllereJanuary 22nd, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I HAD THIS SAME JOB! Only our food was actually amazing and cooked from scratch. Which meant it took an hour to bring out. Sometimes two. Getting yelled at was a very common occurrence.

The whole not being allowed to do anything when it’s slow is awful, I used to pace behind the counter when we had no customers and I was told it was too annoying and made to stop. So I would stand there and stare into space. For hours.

ClaireJanuary 22nd, 2011 at 9:15 pm

…So you actually had a fairly different job?

I still think you would have been fine if you called Gordon Ramsay.

AdamJanuary 23rd, 2011 at 8:58 am

I used to work in a butcher shop in a small town for a couple of city slickers who had bought it off the original owner. I was basically hired on to serve everyone while my boss and his wife chain smoked in the back. They would come out inbetween customers to complain about how slow it was and demand that I entertain them. Yeah I thought it was just a joke at first too but the joke just kept going.

Half way through working there I explained to my boss that this being a small town people expected a face to their service. At the time that face was me but he didnt seem to think It was very important.

I finally quit not long after sewage from the apartments above started leaking from the ceiling. Trainwreck avoided.

That seemed alot more related in my head…

JChiefJanuary 24th, 2011 at 6:28 am

“Word of caution: make sure you do the Anne Frank Haus sober.”

That’s really solid advice. I can’t imagine a bigger buzz-kill, anyway.

I work just a block away from a Holocaust museum, and I advise all tourists to visit it at the END of the day – because if you go first thing, you won’t be in the mood to see anything else.

BillyJanuary 24th, 2011 at 9:12 am

…must….not…post…well, screw it:

“That seemed alot more related in my head…”

clever nameJanuary 24th, 2011 at 11:11 am

I love Indian food! Reading about that crap made me both sick, and want some butter chicken and naan bread. Drool.

JChiefJanuary 25th, 2011 at 10:56 am

From what I understand, Indian take-out joints are as plentiful in England as “Chinese” take-out places in America (ironic quotes intended).

I wish there were more Indian joints here. When it comes to munchies, diversity of bad, greasy takeouts would be a wonderful thing. I wish we had Fish and Chips over here, too. Tim Hortons sounds awesome. We Americans are so goddamned boring. McDonalds’? GTFOOH

Frau BlucherJanuary 26th, 2011 at 6:22 am

there are a few indian places around here and very good ones…but not takeout as in england. A fish and chips joint opened up recently, not too far from me but I haven’t been there yet.

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