Tricks We Play on Servers
Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot of respect for the servers of the world. But sometimes they treat the kitchen mis en place like their own personal employee buffet, dipping bits of bread into soups and sauces, snatching up tidbits of food that just so happen to be integral parts of the night’s dinner specials. This is rude, disrespectful and absolutely infuriating to the cooks. This is why, from time to time, we treat the servers to a sweet little dish called “revenge”. Best served chilled.
(Mind you, I have hardly ever played any of these tricks on my servers at Tsunami. They are far too professional and respectful of my kitchen staff to deserve such treatment.)
You know that plug of compressed coffee grounds that comes out of the filter basket after you pull a shot of espresso? Remove that in one piece and save up 6 or 8 of them. Place them on a nice plate with a doily and sprinkle them with powdered sugar. Place them in a conspicuous spot where servers are sure to see them and walk away. Whenever someone is pilfering a bit of food, it is usually done quickly and in one bite. This is what makes this a fun one, because people will put an entire one of these “cookies” in their mouth and start chewing frantically. It’s hard to get rid of a mouthful of fine coffee grounds.
Chocolate covered fish eyeballs.
This is one of my favorites, because there are absolutely no guilty feelings involved. You are being completely honest. You can’t help it if the servers don’t believe you, can you?
When filleting whole fish, pluck out the eyeballs and set them aside until you have a dozen or so. Dry them off then dip them in melted chocolate. Allow the chocolate to harden and repeat the process until you have a decent sized chocolate truffle. Place them on a nice plate in a prominent place in the kitchen. Make sure it is in a place where you can keep an eye on it. If servers can’t snatch food on the sly, then they will always ask. When someone does ask “What’s this?’ you simply tell them “Chocolate covered fish eyeballs.” They won’t believe you, of course and will keep asking. “No, really, what is this?” You will keep insisting they are chocolate covered fish eyeballs. Invariably their desire for chocolate will overcome whatever small inkling of doubt is in their minds and they will ask “Can I try one?” Whereupon you will try to respond in the affirmative without laughing. Once they’ve popped the chocolatey eyeball goodness in their mouth (and regurgitated it into the nearest receptacle) they will probably start screaming “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!” Whereupon you reply (all innocent-like) “Chocolate covered fish eyeballs. I told you three times.”
Pickled jalapeno juice “lemonade”. Fill a pitcher with ice, top with the juice from a jumbo jar of pickle jalapenos, add some lemon slices. Set it out somewhere with a few glasses on the side. Serves them right for not asking if they can have some of your “lemonade”.
Okay, this one I actually did pull on a Tsunami server, but it was many years ago. I had just prepped a really finely minced batch of garlic and put it on the line with a spoon in it. One of the servers walked by and looked at it. “What’s this?” he asked. “Fresh applesauce” I said without missing a beat. “Try it if you like.” It was totally spontaneous, and I never imagined he would actually eat an entire spoonful of raw garlic. I figured he would get it right under his nose and the pungent aroma would give it away. I was wrong. This guy shoved a heaping mound of raw garlic into his mouth and started chewing it. He never spoke to me again. Ever.
Garlic butter “vanilla icing”.
Make a batch of garlic butter. Whip it until it is really fluffy. Put it in a bowl and walk around with a spatula and ask anyone if they want to taste the icing you just made. I pulled this trick on my wife before we were even dating when we worked together at another restaurant. She married me in spite of this. She married me in spite of a lot of things, actually.
Meat glue: This used to be a classic, but it is obsolete now that meat glue (aka transglutaminase) actually exists. But before there was meat glue it used to be fun to send one of the severs on a frantic and fruitless search for a tube of meat glue in the dry storage area.
The entire staff gets involved with this one. It usually starts with someone cutting steaks or some other protein who suddenly shouts “Damn, I screwed this up! I need some meat glue! (It should be duly noted here that no chef in the known realm of cuisine would say “damn” and “screwed”, but would use much more colorful language as a general rule.) Turning to the newest member of the staff, the meat cutter says “Quick, run to dry storage and get me the meat glue!
Now most people we’ve pulled this trick on go through a sequence of typical emotions starting with mirth, as in “Ha ha, that’s a good one!” Then, when nobody else laughs self doubt sets in. “Oh crap, maybe there really is such a thing as meat glue. How is it that everyone knows about meat glue but me?” Then a sort of panic begins to creep in, especially when the chef yells “Meat glue! We need the meat glue now!” The entire success of the night depends on getting the meat glue in a timely fashion! Then, finally, a sense of determination washes over the poor victim. “Yes! I will find the meat glue and save the day!” And off they dash to find the meat glue.
What’s great is how quickly the rest of the staff picks up on the joke, even when they weren’t present at the onset. “Oh you’re looking for the meat glue? Yeah, that’s in dry storage.” Or “I’m pretty sure I saw a tube of meat glue in the salad station.”
As the clock ticks, the searcher becomes more panicked and frantic until they reach the dreadful decision that they have to go to the chef and say “I can’t find the meat glue. I’m sorry!”
That’s when the chef says “Meat glue? There’s no such thing!”
Empty all of the water out of the coffee maker.
Anyone who has been in the restaurant business for more than 30 seconds knows that the coffee machine is tied into the water line.It’s amazing, though, how many people fall for this. I heard tell of a server that drained three 5-gallon buckets out of the coffee maker before everyone got sick of the joke and started feeling sorry for him.
Sometimes you pull a prank that you know you will never pull again. Such was the case with the snake in the cloche.
Cloche is a French word that means bell. It is also a type of hat. But in the culinary world it refers to those domed plate covers that are used in fancy restaurants and hotels. I worked in a hotel in Hawaii that used cloches in the formal dining room. Before service each night we would have a line-up with the wait staff and present the nightly specials. On the staff was a waitress who was deathly afraid of snakes.
So, naturally, we taped a rubber snake to the underside of one of the cloches and asked her to unveil the specials that night.
There are no words in the English language to describe this poor girl’s reaction. Nothing can verbally describe how badly she freaked out. Even the most hard-core, ragamuffin kitchen pirates involved with this prank sort of slunk away from that scene with their heads down. And there were some black-hearted bastards in that kitchen.
In a related story, I have a friend who once pranked a (former) friend of his who had severe ophidiophobia (yeah, I had to look that up). He put a rubber snake in the sun visor of his truck, thinking the guy would pull the visor down, the snake would land in his lap and laughter would ensue all around. Well the guy did pull the visor down. And the snake did fall in his lap. But he happened to be driving down the highway at the time. He jumped out of the truck at 60 miles an hour.