The challenge of writing a blog about one’s own enterprise is the temptation to self-promote, or, to express grievances perhaps best not codified in the written word. In my blog Eastside Chippery Part One I admit to some self-promotion, but for the most part feel that the conversation managed to stay solidly focused on the philosophical purpose that motivated this writer to launch a restaurant endeavor in the worst economic environment in the modern history of our country. And I did note in Part One that having owned restaurants in the past, I did, and apparently still do have some prowess with respect to the culinary arts. So what more is there to say? I’ve stated previously my motivations, but I would fill remiss if I did not at the very least wordsmith up a few thought about the lessons I’ve learned. Fancy speech aside, I’ve been in the trenches for nine months now, I’ve made and served approximately 25,000 meals, and I’ve had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with real people in the real world—here are some of my thoughts:
The Economy: in the past people have been the victims of a bad economy. This is not the case today. Today, it is the economy that is the victim of people and or a culture that has produced a massive number of individuals who want to gain material wealth through no effort of their own. This is the type of person that signed a mortgage document, knowing that they would not make the payment if their property didn’t continue to go up in value. It’s the young Mexican girl I gave a job to that rather than provide a social security number and accept a check for her work, has taken the Eastside Chippery to the labor board claiming that she was denied lunch 53 straight days in a row—this would allow her to collect a significant penalty under California labor law. Really??? 53 in a row! Really???
The Customer Isn’t Always Right: out of the 25,000 or so happy people we’ve served there have been a few, less than ten I would say, that have expressed their opinions as to how we should properly conduct our business. One woman insisted that we should serve our Chef Stan Burger with cheese. When the girl at the counter politely explained that the burger is only served the way “Chef Stan” intended it to be eaten the woman could not accept this and took to making up lies on yelp, which included the serious charge of being food poisoned—mind you several witnesses saw her happily finish her food and leave feeling quite well. To add to her outrage, I actually took the time to respond to this person on yelp and called her out for what she is, a loon and a liar. She assured me that she and her friends would not be coming to the Chippery in the future and I assured her that they would not be served even if they did. And yes I’ve 86ed a few other wanna be food critics who have taken to making up stories and posting them on yelp. The world is not a better place when want of money turns business owners into pathetic panderers to the public.
Good Help Is Hard To Find: today’s workforce is best described as delusional. I fired a dishwasher for refusing to wash dishes with hot water and another for bragging about drug use, gossiping, and showing up for work more than an hour late—both took to yelp to call me out as a cook, not a chef, and one claimed malpractice of some kind. Yelp had the good sense to remove their respective rants, but both disgraced employees actually believe that they possess a much greater knowledge of running a restaurant than someone who actually owns one. And let me be perfectly clear, neither dishwasher has ever to the best of my knowledge, owned a restaurant. In fact, I don’t believe either owns a home or possesses a college degree. Served in the military? No, not that either. Drug using hour late dishwasher, often complained about commuting to work on a bicycle because he didn’t own a car. But both of these men of such great distinction (Huge Sarcasm) believe that I am truly their inferior and it is “Cook Stan” who suffers from “megalomania”. Really? And I’ve found this to be the case with almost every disgruntled employee I’ve encountered. No accomplishments or basis to claim expertise, but an incredible amount of ego and entitlement—a great deal of which is supported by what could only be characterized as pathological lying.
I’m going to digress for a moment and offer the beginning of a solution to what’s going wrong with the American workforce. Stop giving kids a trophy for coming in 6th place and go back to telling them the truth—you either won or you lost. And it’s not okay to be a loser! Abolish minimum wage and let grown-ups decide what their work is worth. Stop giving unemployment benefits out for three years, so people actually have some motivation to work. And enough of the EBT cards / fancy new term for FOOD STAMPS. If 50 million people can’t afford to feed themselves, how is it that we have an obesity crisis? Maybe it’s time to let the free market determine wages, stop giving people an incentive not to work, and if need be go hungry—time for some tough love, which just might turn a bunch of freeloading scammers back into people with something called, work ethic.
Arrogance: the thread that weaves through the delusional customer who watched a cooking show and then believes herself to be a chef and the dishwasher that can’t actually hold a job as a dishwasher, but believes himself not only qualified to own the restaurant, but to be the President of the United States (No Sarcasm) is ARROGANCE. And nothing in our country is going to be all right again until this arrogance / sense of entitlement is stamped out. And that falls on each and every one of us. When you hear people talking nonsense, call them on it. Stop being impressed by things or people who are famous for being famous. An accomplished person is someone that is honest and works hard. And through honesty and hard work they’re achievements speak for themselves. But don’t leave it at that—take the time to acknowledge the truly accomplished person. Put the honest hard working person that comes in first back up on a pedestal, they won’t want to be placed there, but we need them to be.
What about the Eastside Chippery, what’s next? Well I’m definitely getting close to having enough material for my next novel, a redemption story told through the life of a chef. The business itself will of course be challenged by escalating oil costs, however the introduction of lower priced menu items, such as the “Sloppy Joe Combo” for $3.95 will definitely continue to help the cause. For the economists that think $140.00 a-barrel-oil is no problem, you need to wake up and smell the Sloppy Joe!!! And for the CEO / business owner—be nimble, in what I assure you is still very much a make-believe economy!!! The bigger picture, which has inadvertently risen from the Eastside Chippery adventure, albeit not completely inadvertent, is the branded product business, which I have for some reason found a real passion for. There’s so much good food that’s been created at the Chippery I feel truly compelled to see that it’s distributed in a much larger way. So in the not too distant future there could very-well-be Four Alarm Chili or my special seasoning on a shelf near you!!! I haven’t decided which charity to give the money from this venture to yet, but I’m thinking about something that teaches kids how to farm and perhaps even goes a step further and promotes urban farming.
And I have mentioned many times on facebook that I’m interested in bringing the Chef Stan Show to downtown LA or maybe even going on tour so that I can give people a chance to see what I do up-close and personal—another part of the adventure that I did not anticipate. Funny, when I decided to hit the road a couple of years ago I was searching for something, I had no idea what, and seriously when it turned out to be cooking I asked myself “Really??? You needed to drive 10,000 miles for a year to wind up back in the place you were born, cooking???” The other day I told this very same story to a friend of mine, who over the course of his long and incredible life has accumulated many billions of dollars and some very interesting relationships and he responded, “I used to meet with Golda Meir in her kitchen, she didn’t like offices either, Stan.”
Live, eat, laugh and love, a pretty good way to live your life…