Today was an orientation luncheon for a new job at a restaurant in which I’m still unsure as to what position I will be filling. I get to wear fitted button-down shirts and tie bars though, so my family’s long-lost desire to see me as a successful plastic surgeon is still somewhat fulfilled.
After waiting in the sweltering heat and drowning humidity, the team of new recruits and myself were greeted by the owner of the new restaurant who asked us to follow him on a little field trip to EN Japanese Brasserie. Inside, they knocked tables together like moose in a testicularly-fueled antler fight; the clanking wood interrupting the smooth trumpeted jazz overture that melded with the potted bamboo that created an overly authentic Japanese-in-the-bourgeoisie atmosphere that reeked of the same self-promotional paraphilia that was strung up in the individualized bathrooms.
After a series of objectively modest introductions (“I like snorkeling, a lot though”), we started a run down of the expectations the restaurant had for us. They were brilliant. They were intense. This was my first experience with fine dining, but surprisingly, not my first experience having a supervisor expecting clean and nurtured nails; I’d have to find another way to pick away and alleviate my anxiety; apparently nothing says 16% gratuity like a beautiful plate of suckling pig served by a hand with busted nail beds.
Lunch came soon after: Breaded Pork chop glazed in teriyaki served in between spongy white bread. There was a side of potato salad sported with a bit of kimchi and mayonnaise, and next to that, a cup of miso soup. The platter was large and bombastic. The pork itself was dry, and the little fat that coated the meat was sugarcoated in a sweet and crunchy teriyaki glaze. New recruits tried to outdo one another with their properly formatted methods of chewing and re-placing the chop sticks on the table.
A lot of the other recruits had a tofu salad; the tofu existing only in the dressing. The bowl was larger than my head while the portion of salad was just about less than I’d be able to hold in one hand. I wonder if it is a matter of overcompensation or theatrics, to make food so expensive all the while such a small portion in such a large plate; if you’re going to make a smaller portion, why not keep the plates smaller too?
Near the end of the service, we recited our new restaurant’s philosophy, which had suggested something very dear and sincere; that the finest cooking we’re ever going to have would have come from our mothers. This is because they spent the time finding the finest ingredients, knowing they were preparing a meal to nurture and nourish us. Our owner instinctively stated that he didn’t expect us to be our future guests’ mothers, but in preparation and in servicing our guests, to remind ourselves that were nourishing their minds and their aching backs to forget about their trials and tribulations for the day.
It was a beautiful thought; though all I could think about was the fact that half the time I lived at home my mom would prepare veggie burgers in the microwave, garnished with a ketchup jous-jous and a macaroni Sálad de Püblix. Still though, she wasn’t being a try-hard. She served that veggie burger on a paper plate and expected me to throw it out when I was done.