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…grill bitch…

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Of all of the experiences and encounters I’ve had in life, few parallel the personalities of people who work as a line cook, on the grill, who are the grill bitch. It’s a term I’ve stolen, probably from Anthony Bourdain, but maybe somewhere else… They’re certainly not all bitches, nor women, so bear with me. And in no way am I implying that women are explicitly bitches… It’s just that working a grill in a commercial kitchen turns people into something without better words. They become bitches of the most insane sort.

I am prone to believe that only a certain sort of volatile special personality can work a grill in real life. Maybe because I’ve seen it manifest one too many time. I honestly think that if one ever actively wishes to become a grill bitch, one must have some of the following components in their personality…

Impatient comes to mind, first. If you’re not impatient, you will never, ever make it as grill bitch. Maybe it isn’t impatient at all, but a certain flippancy about waiting for anything to transpire. It requires a certain economic sense about every step taken in the world. You can’t ever walk completely to a dish-pit, for example. That may very well take 3 or 4 steps. Far better to take one, at best two if you’re hung over and not on your game, and fling large bowls and steam table pans into it. The crash and bangs and ricocheting metal against metal, I can assure you, are guaranteed ways to keep everyone else in the kitchen aware of you.

Second, you have to have some sort of flaw, something that translates from the surface to the inner depths of the soul, and then back outwards to the surface as a sort of mask, often expressing itself in the form of oddly placed and poorly thought out tattoos, bad teeth, sexual orientation issues that are somewhat repressed, yet exposed on a whim whenever expedient, often punctuated with a seemingly careless waving of an oversized chefs knife. There are no rules for this, other than the general one, that some leviathan lurks deep inside, with cryptic markings on the entrance of the cave it lives in. It never sleeps. It is laying there. Deprived, hungry and angry. It waits until something soft and innocuous comes lilting by the mouth of its lair…

I’ve thought about this in terms of things I know, and know not of myself. I wrestled once, for a brief span in Junior high school. As an aside, it was an expedient way to be out of the house and do something. I never dreamt of being a wrestler. I was, upon discovery and forever will be, a very shitty wrestler. I learned that people who are really good wrestlers are sort of loners with a quiet killer instinct. I am neither. I like people. I love meeting strangers and thinking we might have some deep cosmic connection we should explore. If nothing else, I feel gratified coming away knowing there’s something common we share, even if it is something trivial, such as bathing once in a while and having heard of things like toothpaste.

Wrestlers, good ones anyway, size you up. They watch the way you move and study your center of gravity and how far apart your legs are. They look and wonder if they can get you to stand up higher for a moment so they can lunge and come in at the belly, wrap a leg around your ankle and take you down. You’re an object to be mastered, taken into a submissive pose, controlled…

Grill bitches cooks are cut from the same cloth, but maybe not totally. They too have strategies of mastering control, but rather than dropping bodies to a floor, they know how to melt cheese instantly on a patty of beef, assemble a whole montage of chaotic orders at once. I admire them for that singular ability to manage chaos, to see a never ending line of orders stacking up behind them and remain calm coherent focused about, dissecting all of it into simple manageable tasks of buns sliced, condiments dispersed, items dropped into fryers…

It is perhaps the strangest aspect of working as a very part-time butcher/helper. By far and away the strangest aspect of all of life I’ve experienced, the universal makeup of the grill bitch. It’s always, seemingly the same person with different tattoos, slightly different phobias and a slightly different hunger for pot. They always seem to melt down, wither, explode, erupt, turn into some sort of monster. With the exception of one person I’ve met and watched and who is sort of a Yoda-like figure in that arena. He’s the one person I’ve watched and seen who makes me realize there’s always some beautiful and sane exception to the rule…

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