Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Cowboy Style - aka Cutting Corners

Following on from a comment by Pink Man Running on a previous post I thought I might give my take on Cowboying things. There are certain occasions when we are faced with few options but to cut corners, or cowboy things in the parlance of waiters. There are a number of reasons for this, many admittedly spurious, and in all honesty the single biggest reason is a form of laziness. But then sometimes a guys gotta do what a guys gotta do. I have to admit that I very rarely cowboy things these days. I have more control over the situations in the restaurant, and I'm not under the stupid kinds of pressure that "forced" me into those situations elsewhere. On a busy Saturday night here the worst I have to face is about 50 covers, and Ive got a commis to help me. At Gleneagles I would be facing nearly a hundred, solo and in all likelyhood I would end up having to dig out one of the weaker team members in the adjacent station from the shite. Thats prime cowboy land that is.

So in the spirit of confessional here are a few moments that Ive experienced in the last ten years or so. Not all of these are my acts of cowboying, proving that its perhaps a bit more common than you might suspect.

1) Using the massively overoxidised white rioja as a last minute sherry substitute. Was very well recieved and they even asked me for the name of the sherry so they could get some. I lied through my teeth and told them some guff about it being exclusive to us and unavailable anywhere.

2) On a busy sunday lunch - it could have been mothers day when we did somewhere in the region of 300 covers for lunch, we ran out of cassis. With everyone and their dog ordering Kir Royales, I had one of my least successful cowboy ideas. Use blackcurrant cordial and dose it up with a splash of vodka. In my defense this might have worked if the hotel had used halfway decent cordial instead of this piss-poor weak assed cheap and nasty brand. Needless to say I got royally busted.

3) One month, the chef was having a terrible month with his food cost. In an effort to try and keep it manageable he cut out all purchasing for a week. One of the most popular dishes on the menu used a cassoulet made from these italian beans that were dead expensive. So the sous chef used a huge tin of cheap baked beans, washed the tomato sauce off and used them instead. That act alone shaved two percent off his food cost and helped save the day somewhat.

4) I used to work in this hotel in York that had a decent fine dining restaurant and quite a good collection of cognacs, including Remy Martin Louis XIII. Now bearing in mind this was twelve years ago, that was something very special, and hideously expensive (I think we were charging about £100 for 1/5 gil). One night as the bar manager Steve was clearing up the cognac trolley, he knocked over the bottle and ended up spilling about two thirds of it all over the carpet. Fearing that he was going to have to pay for it, he ended up making up his own blend from the rest of the Remy Range. Several weeks later we had the regional rep from Remy come in to do some training with us all. As we tasted our way through the range, Steve, myself and one other barman who knew what had happened sat in trepidation as we got closer to our fake Louis XIII. As the rep ran through his spiel and we tasted the Louis XIII he constantly gushed about how wonderful this cognac was and how it tasted better than he remembered. We were pissing ourselves.

I have to say that my cowboy days are almost behind me. Ive never pulled any of these stunts here, and nor have I ever been put into a situation where Ive had to pull something that daft here. I doubt that it would ever get to that stage, and its also a case that in some way Ive grown beyond seeking the easy way out. Its more of a challenge to face the situation and come up with workable solutions that arent as dodgy as one of Del-Boys latest gadgets. But who knows what the future holds?

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