Pineapple’s Reign of Terror

By BOB ZIMORINO

Where was I? H-m-m-m?

Oh yeah, I was hired to work in a gourmet Italian Restaurant in Scottsdale. The guy assigned to train me was strung out on something, had everyone else doing his work, to the point that the servers had to put up their own food while he, the cook, just stood back and sneered at them.

He was introduced to me as Pineapple. He walked around like he was the king of the castle and everyone else should do his bidding. Furthermore the boss, Big Louie, disappeared before Pineapple got there and had not shown back up.

At the end of my shift, “Pineapple” my fellow lunch cook, said to “take all this crap to back to the dishwasher” waving his hand over the steam table. He then abruptly left. The night crew was about to take over so I did as ordered then was cleaning my station when Louie showed back up.

“Well,” he said, “How’d you do?”

“Fine, I guess. It seems pretty straight forward.” I lied.

“You’ll be back tomorrow?” he asked almost afraid to hear the answer.

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I?” I answered.

He skirted the question and asked me to come a half hour early to talk to him. I agreed to do so. It was about a forty minute drive back to Ferd’s house, which I used as contemplative time to figure out a few things about the work day and job that I had been given.

First off, I had questions.

What was this guy “Pineapple” about? Why was he even there? The old guys set up his line and the lunch servers fixed the sandwiches. Good thing it wasn’t very busy. Where did Louie disappear to and why would he, being Mr. Tough guy, not take care of it. The guys in the back were the key. I was convinced they knew everything. They had already left when I went to leave.

I got home and was hanging out with my friends. They were excited for me to get a job but when I told them it was in Scottsdale I could sense their disappointment. They told me they had to move because their previous housemates had already done so and they couldn’t afford the house themselves.

They were kind of hoping that we would become their new housemates. It turned out that Ronnie worked closer to Scottsdale than West Phoenix so I suggested we look somewhere between Tempe and Scottsdale that worked for both. That was the plan.

I went to bed early but could not sleep. I was really bothered by the Pineapple guy. He didn’t go out and smoke a joint. He was trashed and in too short of time for it to be liquor plus the fact that he didn’t smell of it. I would talk to the old guys tomorrow and get the skinny.

The next day Suzy got up and drove me to work so that she could use her car to get a job. She decided with me working in Scottsdale she would look there too. She dropped me off an hour early and a half hour before I was to meet Louie. Louie was already there and asked me to come with him to his office.

We went past the deli and through the bar into Louie’s office. It was a rectangular shaped room about the size of a handicapped rest room stall. It was jammed with a desk a chair and reams of paper strewn everywhere. You couldn’t see the desk top at all. He sat in the chair and lit a cigarette making an already claustrophobic room smaller.

“Why are you here?” He asked me. I thought he was making reference to my lunch shift with Pineapple and was going to fire me for contributing to his delinquency by not stepping up.

“To cook?” I said it more as a question than an answer and was certain that my voice cracked on the word cook.

He grunted. “Not today but in general…What do you want?”

He could see that I didn’t get what he was angling at so he laid it out to me.

“If I teach you what I can teach you, what will you do with it?”

“I intend to open my own Italian restaurant in Montana.” I said.

“So I teach you all of my tricks of the trade and then you leave?”

“Yes.” I said, not willing to lie about it.

“Why would I do that? You tell me.” He knocked his ashes into an overfilled ashtray.

“Because, I am the complete package. If you are as good as everyone says you are, including your uncle, you will teach me a lot. I will be your hardest worker. I will show up every day and do whatever it takes to learn what you can teach me. I came here to work and I am ready to learn. When I have learned what I came here for, I will train my replacement. Are you making me an offer sir?”

He took a big drag on his cigarette and stubbed it mostly out in the ashtray. He looked at me (I’m sure to gauge my reaction) and said “a thousand dollars a month and of course your meals.”

I almost did a flip. The most I ever made at one cooking job was about $600 a month but I learned long ago from my father to not show your cards when playing poker. “For cooking lunch?” I asked knowing he would want more.

“Lunch and dinner. You will be my kitchen manager and eventually my sous chef.”

It was like a dream come true but I could hear my dad’s voice telling me to hold out and don’t say anything. I didn’t know what else to do so I just kind of stared at him.

“How about if I give you a house to live in too?”

“Excuse me?”

“I own a house near here. I used to rent it out for $400 a month. Bobby and his wife lived there while they were here and I didn’t charge them. It’s a three bedroom house with a yard. You can have roommates and charge them what you want.”

“$1200.” I said. “And I will be your hardest working guy. Even harder than the other Bobby.” He very quietly agreed with a nod. He stood up and I extended my hand.

He grabbed it and pulled me close to him. “Don’t f*** this up. That ain’t something you want to do. Welcome to the family,” he said giving me a bear hug.

I went back to see the old guys. I was beside myself with excitement and I told them about the job I signed on for. They exchanged a look and Paul said, “Congrats kid but do you know what you got hired for?”

I stood there perplexed.

“What he really wants right you for is to end that Pineapple kid’s reign of terror.”

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If you missed Bob’s previous blogs in this series, you’ll want to read: Phoenix Part II Luigi’sPhoenix Part III, Luigi’s, and Phoenix Part IV: Who Was the Original Bobby?

Visit the “Taste It” archive or check out Bob’s recipes.

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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 Mudfoot and the Dirty Soles, 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.