Making them all your own

I’m not sure why, since I don’t much feel like a young bull or an old bull and certainly don’t have any interest in making a whole field of lady bulls my own, but this clip (from this 2005 New York Times article by Dan Barber about working for David Bouley) really spoke to me. I guess it could be that, a little bit in the way of Stockholm syndrome victims, sometimes I really do miss working at the kind of restaurant where the staff would do well to remember that the chefs are actually working with extremely sharp knives, and the pace is so frantic that, after working an 11-hour shift in which you walk at least 30 miles and deal with the needs and desires of around 60 people, each of whom is VERY VERY important (or at least they think so) and at least a quarter of which have some very complicated issues surrounding food, the only way to come down is to sit at the bar at 4 am with the few other people you could handle at that point in the morning (your equally exhausted and mostly somewhat crazy co-workers) while you count up your 4-inch wad of cash (you have a lot of singles, but you’re still making more money than you’ll make at any other job in the next 6 years—happily you don’t yet realize this) and drink copious amounts of (free) (and sometimes, when the bartender’s in a good mood, top-shelf) alcohol.

The expediter yells: there are 20 tickets on the board. I tense, trying to push free. Chef squeezes my neck with his biceps. Sweat is pouring from my face, and I find myself rubbing my wet temple into his crisply starched chef’s jacket. ”I’m going to tell you a story,” he says.

”I need some tables, people,” yells the expediter. ”I need tables.”

”No time for stories,” I mumble halfheartedly.

”Two bulls,” chef says, ignoring me, tightening the grip. We’re still standing side by side, chef’s arm tightly wound around my neck as the kitchen blazes before us. I wonder if I might faint.

”Two bulls standing on a small hill, an older and a younger bull, overlooking a field of beautiful lady cows,” he says to me.

”Oh, man,” yells the expediter. ”I need Table 6. I need that table.”

The chef’s lips are now only inches from my ear: ”The younger bull looks up to the older bull: ‘Hey, hey, you know what I’m going to do. I’m going to run as fast as I can right now, as fast as my legs will take me, as fast as I can run down this hill, and I’m going to get me one of those lady cows and make her my own.”’ He pauses now, as if to let me marinate in the wisdom. ”Do you know what the older bull said back to the younger bull?”

As I shook my head no, that I did not know what the older bull said to the younger bull, I lifted my eyes from his arm and peeked around. Cooks were yelling at busboys, who yelled at dishwashers, who yelled at one another. ”I don’t know, chef,” I muttered. He put his nose in my left ear and leaned heavily on me. I felt the heat of his breath as he held me there. ”Well, the older bull paused for a moment,” and here, too, the chef paused. ”’Son,’ said the older bull, ‘I’m going to slowly walk down this hill, and I’m going to make them all my own.’