Sunday, December 5, 2010

Flashback: September-October 2010, Matteo's

Should have interviewed the kraken instead...


UPDATE: It seems that the person named in this article is no longer with the restaurant. There's a new person in charge. Still, it's not a place I'd like to return without a few months of experience in a restaurant kitchen and some solid recommendations from chefs they respect.


Flashback to my totally unsuccessful attempts at landing even a temporary, part-time, poorly paid job in a restaurant in the autumn of 2010:

This time, things were less encouraging. Worst. Interview. Ever. "Most hypnagogic interview", "Interview from the Twilight Zone" and my perennial favorite, "WTF?!" are equally appropriate. I suppose "Gone in sixty seconds" works too. "Volver" doesn't.

My chef instructor had also contacted Matt Woolston, owner of The Supper Club and Matteo's.

Upon contacting him, I received a reply: "Shoot me a weekly reminder and I will forward this email to Chef David Feldman who takes over the realm at Matteo’s on 10/1."

I had fond memories some nice meals long ago at Savoy 614 in Folsom, where Mr. Feldman was involved in the back of the house.

After sending an update, I received a more encouraging message from Matt Woolston:

"Thanks for checking in!

I will cc Chef Charlie at Supper Club and Chef Dave at Matteo’s and let them know you are looking for some hours.

Feel free to email them directly with your availability.


Finally, things were moving forward! A message from David Feldman was encouraging:

"I would like to schedule a time to speak with you in person. I am at matteo's all week, minus wednesday and am available to talk any time. Please let me know."

So, I went in the next Thursday. I entered through the back service door, walked through the kitchen and found Mr. Feldman up to his elbows in fish. Apparently "any time" has different meanings to different people. Since he did not respond to my e-mail asking for best hours, I went in the morning well before service. Bad time, apparently.

Upon meeting David Feldman, I felt about as welcome as a hissing cockroach at a food hygiene convention. He fixed me with an uncomprehending yet hostile stare, and asked what I was doing there. I mentioned our communications via e-mail and a bit of my background.

"Any restaurant experience?" he asked. "No", I replied, "That's what I'm here for."

"We don't currently have any open positions."
"Well, you said to come in to talk, so here I am. Maybe something will open up in the future?"

"And you want to work on the line?"
"Yes, but I'll take any position."

"Well, I can't talk now. I'm busy. I'll call you when I'm not busy."
"Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon."

The whole thing was over in three minutes or less. It seemed that all he wanted to do was get me out of his kitchen, and the sooner the better. I couldn't tell if his fixed gaze was the result of shock, surprise or some other reason.

He uttered something like, "Uh, well, I just got started here, and I'm not sure where things are going... "

The guy has at least fifteen years of experience as a chef, as far as I know. What the heck was that comment about "just started" and indecision? He'd been in this position for supposedly two weeks, and logically one might think he would have had an idea where he was going before he even started. You would also think that with that much experience he would not need two weeks to figure out what to do in his kitchen.

Maybe I really don't "get" this profession. Aren't chefs supposed to be perfect masters of the culinary arts, able to create a gourmet meal from the most meager ingredients on a moment's notice? Turn a sow's ear into... well, feijoada. But that's another story.

Another bottled message cast, this one floating low in the water, its glass cracked, water seeping in, the kraken's tentacle reaching...

Needless to say, this meeting did not involve filling out a job application. If I'd been asked to submit a job application, I would at least have some feeling that my application, however unsuitable it might be, could somehow end up in the hands of someone who might actually give me a call.  I would not feel as though I'd been summarily judged and dismissed without any chance of a most beneficial outcome.

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