Sriracha and pickle relish… this is the extent of his culinary knowledge. Squeeze in Sriracha for spice, pickle relish for sweetened tartness. An oxymoron of flavors Chef John tries to achieve in the kitchen. Like a chef who doesn’t wash his hands. Is that oxymoronic or is it just moronic? Everyday, the sink waits for Chef John to wash his hands, but he doesn’t. As though this part of the lesson plan was bypassed during class, basic preparation 101.
Chef John stuns everyone with lavish displays… from salads to sandwiches, from cheeses to amenities, from all the sushi and sashimi he slices under his palm over the years, his hands, no doubt, give each piece of ingredient a unique kind of treatment. Those who photograph his food label his work a Matisse laid out across the buffet table. The executive chef and his legion of men swarm over his sushi tastings because Chef John has the ability to mimic colors of paint on an artist’s palette with his food. They swallow each blue fin, salmon, unagi rolls like mad starving men who have never eaten sushi before. Chef John, at times, offer his crew a taste out of courtesy, but none of them bite, not the Sous or the rest of the cooks because they all know how dry his hands remain, worse than the California drought.
They’ve all learned to decline politely with finesse. “Thank you, Chef, but I’m full.” Or “not right now chef, I’m in the middle of a rush.” Or simply, “Chef, I’m on a diet!” They refrain because there are a million microbes underneath his fingers, wedged between the creases of his hands. They have all been victimized at some point by a taste of his food, the discomfort biting them in the butt because they didn’t find a way to refuse. And the day would be long, sea sickness on an ark waiting for the storm to pass. So now they time restroom breaks and scouring ingredients in other kitchens when he offers to share a piece of his creation. Poke salad, tuna rolls, kobe rolls. Enticing, but no. None for the crew. They’ve tried in some way to confront Chef John with his habit, but this often led to denied vacation requests, shortened working hours, no overtime pay or fluctuating days off. Chef John is man who can’t take criticism and there’s no alternative but to refrain from saying anything at all.
His wrath is heavier than his hands. For as much beauty he can arrange with his hands, he can also lay devastation, conduct great sabotage upon those who do better and can do better than he can. Because he has been honored with the Chef’s whip, everyone bows at his command. And those who don’t follow or submit are left in the margins, pushed further into the desert and left to dry. Only those who know Chef John’s secrets, who know to stroke his ego escape his tyranny. They are offered champagne from an oasis where no man should morally drink from.
Note: Fictional characterization, a short story in progress…