This extract from The Love Detective follows Clarry through the highs and lows (admittedly mostly lows) of working a busy restaurant shift. I’m sure any fellow hospitality workers will be able to relate!
The whole of the basement had been booked for an office do by one of the claims division from a local insurance company. It would be a table of twenty. Stephanie, my fellow waitress for the evening, arrived just after me and gave me a hand shifting the tables from individual twos and fours into an L-shape with, we reckoned, just enough room for me to squeeze around the chairs if I sucked in my stomach.
“Anyway,” she said. “The director says to me … who are your inspirations? Your theatrical role models? So, I had to think a moment and then told him that Kristen Stewart had been a big influence on me in “Twilight.”
She wiped the rim of a glass on her apron. “He didn’t seem to think so. Said I was too lightweight.”
I circled the table with a small white side plate looking for where I’d missed its spot. “What was the part?”
“A cat food commercial.”
Upstairs the kitchen was gearing up for a heavy night. Midweek we normally manage with two chefs and Jose the kitchen porter, but because of the party there were three on tonight and the place was buzzing with a controlled energy.
Alec, the thin wiry sous-chef was julienning spring onions and cucumber for miniature duck spring rolls that were to be one of the starter specials.
“Hey Clarry, this duck won’t keep until tomorrow, it needs shifting. How about a deal? Whichever of you …” he gestured with his Sabatier to include Steph, “flogs the most; gets to take me home and perform wild sex acts on me.”
Steph and I – a united front and very used to his suggestions – folded our arms and regarded him with raised eyebrows.
“Darling Alec,” Steph drawled. “We’d like to, we really would but we’ve met your lovely wife and she doesn’t look to us like the understanding sort. But, promise to save us each a portion of the cherry cheesecake and we’ll see what we can do.”
He grinned and then shooed us away. “Laurence has got one of his moods on so keep out of his way,” he warned just as the bellowing of Laurence, the head chef, could be heard from deep within the walk-in fridge.
It was something about why the fuck had Tim, the gentle but hapless commis chef, only thought fit to prep a handful of artichokes when even an idiot on his first day at catering school knows that veal medallions with artichoke demanded a fuck of a lot more than that? Tim’s stammering excuses were lost on us as Steph and I fled the kitchen. Rule number one for waiting staff: never get under the feet of a chef in a temper – they carry knives.
During the early lull, I gossiped with Dave about the problem of finding an experienced bar person who wasn’t a drunk and didn’t have his hands in the till and commiserated with Steph about the lack of leotard-wearing opportunities in a production of The Merchant of Venice set in a 1980’s City Trading floor that she had recently auditioned for.
“I think you were just lucky with “Mustard Seed” Steph.” Being one of Titania’s fairy retinue last year in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream at Regents Park and wearing only a flesh coloured body stocking for the whole summer had, apparently, quite ruined her for modern dress.
Now it was nearly ten o’clock and the party was deteriorating before my eyes. So far, twenty people had consumed, between them, over forty bottles of wine and these combined with a round of beers and gin and tonics at the start of the evening, were taking their toll on the party spirit. A bread roll fight had broken out between a couple of claim handlers, and there’d just been a suggestion of a round of tequila body slammers.
Whilst doing my best to avoid high-flying baguettes and trying to restrain myself from kicking the testicles of a belligerent salesman in a joke-tie who kept pinching my bum, I brought in their puddings, took orders for more drinks and offered coffees, which no one was ready for.
The evening limped on, but finally at nearly midnight we managed to oust them. The senior manager was so drunk he slipped me three £10 notes on top of the 12 per cent service charge on the bill. As he tried to squeeze his not inconsiderable bulk into someone else’s suit jacket, clearly the property of a much smaller man, he was practically crossed-eyed from the strain and from trying to sneak one more look down my cleavage.
For more from darling Clarry, my oh so normal ‘modern heroine’ lead protagonist, read my debut novel The Love Detective. Available to pre-order here now, release date 28th September 2018,