Phoenix Part IV: Who Was The Original Bobby and Cooking with Pineapple

The next few blogs are from my time in Phoenix and are more often than not stories, some heartbreaking and some hysterical but all of them true. I couldn’t make up the stuff that happened while I worked there any more than I could make up the cast of characters involved. I will be using first names or nicknames to protect both the innocent and the guilty.

By BOB ZIMORINO

Louie, as I previously mentioned, was a large guy. At five foot ten he weighed in at about 375 lbs. His office which was barely more than a large closet, was stuffed to the gills with everything from clothing to magazines. He gave me a white button down work shirt and an apron and sent me off to work.

The big square room in the back that was the prep kitchen led to a long hallway that took you past a deli, then the bar and finally to the line kitchen. It was a long narrow strip that ran the full length of the dining room. For those who don’t know how it works, bulk foods are prepped in the prep kitchen and broken down into segments that are usable by the line cooks. Ground beef becomes meatballs. Cans of tomato puree become sauce and so on.

The line cook is who prepares your meal for your server to bring to your table. I was to be the lunch line cook. I walked back into the prep kitchen to find out what to do first. Paul, the Uncle Fester lookalike told me my co-worker was always late but should be in soon. I asked about Bobby that Sam had referred to. Sam and Paul shared a glance, then a shrug and then Sam told me.

Bobby was some kid that Louie had known for years. He moved to Phoenix from Chicago to work for Louie. His wife hated Phoenix from day one and wanted to go home. After two years she had enough and had left him and gone home. Bobby’s father was dying of cancer in Chicago. Bobby followed her home to care for his father and try to salvage his marriage.

Paul laughed and said Louie begged him to stay. Louie, being all heart, said she wasn’t worth chasing and his father was already going to die anyway. Bobby left. I asked if he was the lunch cook. Again they looked at each other and shrugged as if to say “We might as well tell him.”

“Bobby was everything here. He ran the entire kitchen, except our jobs, but he even used to come in and help us sometimes. His wife really left because he was never home and she hated Phoenix. She felt like she was dragged down here and then abandoned.”

Just then the back door opened and in walked an oriental guy with large sunglasses and a half smile permanently planted on his lips. Paul chastised him for being late and was given a one finger salute. He removed his sunglasses from his eyes and perched them on his head. He looked over at me and then back at Sam who introduced me to my fellow lunch cook.

He was a half Filipino, half Hawaiian guy named “Pineapple”. He opened his mouth to say something then thought otherwise about it. He asked them gruffly if they started his lunch stuff and was told that it was all in the steamer. He waved for me to follow.

We pulled 3 sheet pans out of the steamer that were filled with 4 inch third pans (they are a third of a hotel pan, which is the kind that you see in chafing dishes at buffets) and walked up front to the line kitchen and inserted the pans into a steam table. He told me to boil some water and handed me a big kettle telling me to fill it halfway. He went into the back and came back with a rack of bread.

“You here to replace me?” he asked.

“No…at least I don’t think so.” I said. “Some guy named Bobby.”

“Yeah good luck with that.” He said walking away. “I’m taking a break.” He called over his shoulder as he walked toward the back.

He had only been there ten minutes and he was taking a break. I busied myself cleaning things, wiping down all of the areas I knew no one ever looked. A woman in a waitress uniform entered the kitchen. She looked exactly like the woman that cut my hair. Her name was Peggy and as it turns out she was her twin and she was Louie’s main daytime dining room gal.

I introduced myself and she asked if I had “got rid of the lazy one” just as he walked back in. You could see the dismay in her face. He was different than the guy that walked out the door ten minutes earlier and I wasn’t sure why. I thought maybe he went out and smoked some pot or something. He was ultra mellow and not at all as nasty as the guy who walked out a few minutes earlier. He kept his sunglasses on and asked what I was doing.

I told him “just cleaning” to which he responded “novel idea. Now just don’t get too carried away with it or they’ll expect it.”

He told me he set the pace. He used to have to come in earlier but he now made the old guys in back do all of his set up. “They don’t much like it but I got `em trained good.” He chuckled to himself. Everything about him now was different. He was kind of goofy and sort of funny but everything he said held a hint of menace. He was obviously really, really high but on what was anybody’s guess.

As lunch tickets started coming in he let them stack up, not even putting them on the ticket line. I asked him if we should start cooking them or what and he told me just wait and watch. Eventually the server and her assistant came in and pushed past him and me and started plating up lunches. I was about to offer my assistance but a look from Pineapple told me not to interfere.

When they were gone from the kitchen he said, “if you do the tickets they’ll expect it.

“But aren’t we supposed to do them? Aren’t we the cooks?” I was incredulous.

“Don’t mess with it.” He sneered  “I just got `em trained.”

Next: Phoenix Part 6   Pineapple’s Reign of Terror\

If you missed Bob’s previous blogs in this series, you’ll want to read:  The end of 1976, Suzy Cream Cheese, Phoenix Part II Luigi’s, Phoenix Part III, Luigi’s,

 

See the “Taste It” archive.  Back to “Taste It” homepage.  Check out Bob’s recipes.

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Bio:  Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a Musician with the popular local band Hellgate Rodeo, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. His weekly “Taste It” blog is his take on the evolution of food in hislifetime.