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TOM'S TOP TEN - 10 of the Most Amazing and True Restaurant Stories
by Restaurant Owner & Chef Tom Shaudel

10: Currying Favor

One night at the restaurant a woman orders mussels with thai red curry broth as an appetizer. She's not happy. What's the problem? "This isn't the same red curry broth that I had the last time. Did the chef change the recipe?" "Hold on, I'll check." The waitress asks Dan, the chef, if the receipe was changed. He said "No. It's always been the same." (Editors note: I've been using this broth so long that I have dishwashers who can't read the recipe that know it by heart. So we know Dan knows it.) The lady says it's not the same as last time. "It's the same broth." Now the manager Ann, goes to the table and assures the woman that it's the same broth as last time but if she's not happy and would like something else, she would be happy to get it for her. "No, I want the mussels with the same broth as last time. You people are lying to me. I know what probably happened. It's Sunday and you probably ran out of broth on Thursday and the chef was too lazy to make it, so he probably bought some in the supermarket on his way to work. (This is getting to be like a Kennedy assassination theory. Magic bullet, anyone?) Ann goes back to the kitchen. "Dan, are you sure it's the same?" Dan (annoyed), "I've made 5000 gallons of the stuff. It's the same." Ann, to the woman, "Maybe you were mistaken about what you had, could it have been a nightly special or something like that?" "What do you think? You think I'm crazy (first time the word came up and we didn't say it. Ya think?) "That woman over there has the mussels. Let me taste hers." (I'm not kidding) "I'm sure she wouldn't mind at all, but could we keep this between us?" "Oh sure, you don't want anyone else to know that you're a bunch of liars and you serve supermarket food." This is getting good, right? Now she gets up, goes to the kitchen window and asks for Dan. "Hi, I'm Dan." She says, "You're a liar and you serve bottled Thai red curry broth with basil, sesame and lime." Ever seen that at Shop-Rite? I didn't think so. Now she proceeds to tell Dan and Ann that she's a food critic (for Ladies Bad Behavior Journal) and she is going to write a column telling everyone that again, we're liars and serve supermarket food. My manager calls me and asks what to do. Since I have more experience with crazies than Hannibel Lechter's attending shrink,

I know exactly what to do. "Tell her that you called me and I said to fire Danny effective immediately." Ann, "You're firing Danny?" "No, tell her I said that even though Danny is a decent family man, an exemplary employee, and a fine chef, I will not tolerate anyone lying about the fact that we use supermarket thai red curry broth with basil and lime, ever, I guarantee you she will be happy." Ann tells her, she's thrilled. "At least Tom had the courage to admit that I was right. Now I'll come back and give you another chance. Can't wait. Heh, heh, heh.


A couple of years ago on New Years Eve, in a very fine North Shore Restaurant, a waiter collapsed on the floor. It was horrible. The manager called the ambulance and it was chaos as you might well expect. The E.M.T.s arrived and suspected a heart attack. There was a Doctor who had been eating dinner, assisting in treating this man and I believe he accompanied the stricken waiter to the hospital in the ambulance. (Very cool). You can imagine the effect this sort of event will have on a New Years Eve Party. The employees are all worried about their co-worker. The diners are feeling terrible. It was just horrible. The manager is running around, trying as best he could, to put out the "fires," rally the staff and insure that the patrons are as back to normal as they can possibly be considering what happened. In this kind of situation, most can identify with this poor waiter, his family, and the staff.  "On the side Bombers" see opportunity. This man approaches the manager and says the words that got him into the Hall of Fame. "Excuse me, are you the manager?" The manager "Yes." The man, "What are you going to do for me?" The waitress "What do you mean?" The man, "I witnessed something here tonight that was very upsetting to both my wife and I." The manager, "Yes, it was terrible. We just hope he is going to be O.K.."


The man said, (sit down for this) "I think you should consider taking something off my bill for what happened here tonight, what are you going to do for me." The manager, "What?!" The man, "You heard me.  I want something off the bill. I saw someone potentially die.


This is not how I planned to spend my New Years Eve." The manager said "What if he makes it, will you come in and reimburse us?" The man, "Why would I do that?" (Here's an idea: lets set up a sliding scale for discounting checks. I propose 5% for forgetting a cocktail, 10% for if your entrée is late in coming and 50% if your waiter dies). I'm

as dumbfounded now as I was when he told me the story. The rest of the details are somewhat foggy, but I believe the waiter survived.

#8 Cheap With A "T"

For the life of me I can't understand why people go to restaurants that they either can't afford or are unwilling to pay for.  Why do it and then expect the restaurant to discount and haggle like a street vendor in Mexico.  There are certainly enough restaurants around that offer more inexpensive fare. Choose them. That's cool. But to walk around torturing the rest of us, is not. Inexplicably, some people are proud of being cheap.  I'm not talking about being careful with money, I'm talking about cheap.  We all know the difference. People who are careful with money never tip 6%, cheap people do. People who are careful with money never go to the bathroom when the check is presented, cheap people do.  People who are careful with their money never drag another couple to a restaurant they don't like so they can use a gift certificate

for their portion of the bill, cheap people do. Need I go on? Because I could. Table of five. Two couples, one single guy. Guess who's cheap? (You guys are good)  Single guy's opening statement to Eileen his waitress is, "We were thinking of staying tonight but you are soooo... expensive.  The two couples start teasing single guy about being cheap, a fact he doesn't even give a head fake towards hiding.  He says, "I'm not cheap, I'm thrifty."  As he's pondering his drink order thrift overcomes him. "How much are your martinis?"  Eileen, "Twelve dollars."  Single guy,  "Are you serious?  How the heck do you get away with that?  What, Schaudel has to make it all in one day?  How about the wines by the glass?"  Eileen, "Eight to twenty dollars."  Single guy, "Twenty dollars?  How big is the glass?  40 oz.?  What fool would pay twenty dollars for a glass of wine?"  Eileen, "I could hook you up with a Shirley Temple for say…$2.00."  Single guy, "$2.00 for a soda?  That's criminal."  All the while the rest of the table is having fun with it and I think even Eileen was enjoying it somewhat.  Single guy, "Ok.  Bring me the eight dollar glass of wine. But make sure it's filled to the top. I don't want a half glass for eight dollars." Size matters to some people. They judge restaurants by how many sandwiches they can make the next day with what they couldn't finish the night before. ("I love that restaurant.  They gave us so much food I had steak sandwiches for three days after.  Do the division. Thirty five dollar steak, divided by seven, add the bread, equals about $5.00 per meal. You can eat like a king for thirty five dollars a week.) Appetizers and entrees were pretty much the same. It's actually funny to see someone so uncomfortable with the price, forge ahead anyway, and sweating as he's doing the math in his head. "How can you charge twelve dollars for a salad? Lettuce is lettuce. Thirty dollars for a half of chicken. I should at least get the other half to take home. Eileen, amused, "Anyone for dessert?"  ... Single guy, "Got any under twenty dollars? You should at least buy us an after dinner drink for all the money we've spent here." Eileen, "I'll suggest it to the owner." They split some desserts and the whole time he was grumbling about the prices and how we would be out of business in less than a year. As the check is being presented single guy's bladder gives out, and he does what cheap people do when the check comes.  He checks out.  Disappears. One of the other men paid the check. Single guy reappears for a tip consultation. Isn't that always the way? Cheap people are always heavily involved in the tip. Not the bill, just the tip. Twelve percent is considered extravagant in skin-flint society and he was lobbying hard for that number. So hard, in fact, Eileen heard him. Being cheap with your money is one thing. Being cheap with everyone else's is a whole new level. Thank God sanity ruled the day. The tip was fine. The table got up to leave. Single guy hangs back a little and flags Eileen down. Single guy, "Hey, can I ask you something?" Eileen, "Is it about price?" Single guy, "No." Eileen, "Ok."  Single guy, "Would you consider going out on a date with me?" Eileen, happily married and very amused, "Where would you like to go?" Single guy, "Dinner?" You couldn't make it up.

# 7 Clueless

I won't garnish this story because it requires none.  There's really not much to say as you will soon see.  It's scary out there.  I have perhaps the greatest restaurant employees on the Island.  I know everyone thinks that they do but, of course, I'm right.  My employees have recently gotten involved with the Pediatric Cancer Care Unit at Winthrop Hospital. They have been visiting the children and helping with fundraising, I couldn't be prouder.  One day last year they came to me to ask if I would do a luncheon and chocolate demo for twenty-five of the children.  We had a ball.  We took one half of the dining room at the restaurant and set up all the round tables.  We taught them how to make the chocolate bag dessert.  To see these children having fun with everything they are going through is a life altering experience (Incredible courage). There wasn't a dry eye in the house.  We were all covered with chocolate, whipped cream, and ice cream.  One fabulous mess.  For the sake of clarity I must tell you it was impossible not to know that these children were ill. Some had lost their hair due to chemotherapy and were wearing bandanas to cover their heads (I even got a bandana tying lesson).  It was obvious these kids were special. 

Then five women walk in for lunch.  The hostess seats them in the other side of the dining room.  Here's the quote, "Are these kids going to be here much longer because they're very loud.  Oh, and we would prefer a round table."  The hostess explained that all the rounds are being used for the chocolate demo for the kids.  The woman, "That's ridiculous, how can you inconvenience your regular customers for a bunch of children?" What can you possibly say?

#6  Happy 60th ...No 50th...No, 60th Birthday

Rember Leslie Gore? She had a bunch of hits in the early 60's and everyone of her songs has the word "Cry" in them. Her biggest hit was, "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to," and with that in mind, we begin. A man books a table for eighteen people on a Sunday night to celebrate his 60th Birthday. He sits with Ann and does the menu, pricing, and the cake. No special seating arrangements were discussed. This part is key. Eighteen people on Sunday night at 7:00 is tricky business so we handle the seating arrangements. You want to shop for a table, come on Monday. We need the entertainment. If you let the professionals run the dining room (God forbid) things will go so much smoother. A couple of days later, one of our regulars books a party of twenty for his 50th birthday on the same day. The man literally lives at the restaurant, so when he requested to sit in the "Fishbowl", we said, "Sure." The "Fishbowl" is the glassed in seating area in the bar. It just so happens to seat about twenty people so it was perfect for his party. The fateful night arrives and balloons and flowers are delivered for the regular customer's 50th Birthday Party. They say Happy 50th Birthday. Go figure. We place them on the table not knowing, that at that very moment a perfect storm was forming in the parking lot. The man whose 60th birthday it was, arrived first with three of his party of eighteen people. He walks in, tells the hostess his name, looks at the "Fishbowl" with the balloons and flowers and says, "Great, our table is ready." Ann, the manager says, "Sir that's not your table. You're table is in the dining room. Ann is 4'11" tall. The man is 5'2". It's always the short ones isn't it? Anyway it took this guy 59 years to find someone short enough to yell at, and he absolutely unloads on Ann. _______________________________

"I'M NOT SITTING IN THIS ****** DINING ROOM. I AM SITTING AT THAT TABLE!"  Ann, calmly.  "I'm sorry sir, but that table is booked for another party." The man, "THEN MOVE THE OTHER PARTY! I'M SITTING THERE!" And proceeds to go and sit at the table. By himself, with the balloons that say Happy 50th Birthday. My very first squatter.


We basically wanted to drag him back to the hostess desk but were afraid he would take the table cloth with him. Ann convinces him to follow her into the dining room to see his table. Big mistake. This is a public place and the public was there. Upon seeing his table the man losses his mind. Screaming, "I WILL NOT SIT AT THIS TABLE! THIS TABLE STINKS!" Ann, "How about a table along the banquet with a privacy screen?" The man louder, "WHAT THE **** IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? I'M NOT SITTING HERE. I'M GOING BACK TO THE OTHER TABLE!" As they are walking back to the hostess desk Ann is getting annoyed. She says, "Sir, you are not getting that table." The man, "I WANT THE OWNER!" Ann, "He's not here." The man, "THEN GET HIM ON THE CELL PHONE!" Ann, "You sure. He's not too stable either, and I think he's out of the country." As the man demands the table again, he's screaming, clapping his hands together, and jumping up and down.  I kid you not. He actually left his feet. More than once. About as high as Phil Mickelson at the Masters. And just when you think you've arrived at the outer limits of bizarre, he utters the absolute show stopper, "I'M CALLING MY LAWYER!" Huh? The man, I'M CALLING MY LAWYER RIGHT ****** NOW!" And what exactly would you say? Picture that conversation. The man, "Hello, Perry?" The lawyer, "Yes?" The man, "I have a huge problem." The lawyer, "What happened?" The man, "I'm at a restaurant for a birthday dinner and they are trying to seat me in the dining room. The lawyer, "Those fools. I'll sue the pants off them...no, I'll close them...no, let's go for the death penalty." Mercifully for his lawyer, his family talked him out of it. Now they all decide to leave. He's ticked off and trending to homocidal, and the other three are mortified so it works for all of them. And we couldn't be more thrilled by the way. But there are two problems. The rest of his party still hasn't arrived and where the heck are you going to take eighteen people at 7:30, without a reservation? (Heh-heh.) Try

to picture eighteen people sitting in a Burger joint with a sixty year old man, wearing a paper crown. He announces he's leaving, like this is a threat, and that he is going to tell every one he knows not to come here. Do you have any idea how many times I've heard that one? Yawn. Besides, no one actually listens to lunatics, they just kinda stare at them. As he walks out the door, he yells back, "I'M CALLING MY LAWYER! I'M ***** SUING!" Again with the lawyer. You know, I've been sued for some pretty cool stuff in my day. Kitchen accidents, assorted burns and self inflicted stab wounds, three or four suicide attempts stepping in and out of the front door, non performance due to a hurricane, and by someone who cut themselves in a private area on the bathroom toilet door latch (Don't ask). But never, ever in my forty years in the restaurant business have I been sued for trying to seat someone in the dining room. And I'm sure that there is some

unemployed lawyer out there willing to spring the arguement of  "Fishbowlus Limitus" on an unsuspecting court. Pray for me my friends. Please.

#5 I'll take Manhattan

What is it about Manhattan? Don't get me wrong, I love the place. Great nitelife, restaurants, art, theatre, culture.  But something strange happens to people who live there. They become elite, forward thinking geniuses, who know more, feel more, and are way more sophisticated and educated than the rest of us. One of my closest friends in the world moved there seven years ago. Twenty minutes after moving her furniture into her apartment she was complaining about the bridge and tunnel crowd. I looked at my watch and said. "I think you just set a record." It's true.  Manhattanites just think they are better. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "You know, we're from Manhattan so we know good food." You know, we're from Manhattan and the restaurants out here aren't any good. You know, we're from Manhattan and we're used to better service. No one ever says "You know, we're from Manhattan and your murder rate can't touch ours." This is the one I especially love.  "You know, we're from Manhattan and your restaurant is like a Manhattan restaurant." What does that mean? I've got a bulletin. Zagats N.Y. is littered with low food ratings. There are fabulous restaurants in Manhattan and some lousy ones, zip code not withstanding. And you can spot Manhattan dwellers a mile away. There's nothing like a Prada outfit at a farm stand if you want to blend in with us locals. I've had couples, dripping in jewelry, Gucchi, and attitude tell me, "You know, we're from Manhattan." I have got to cut my hair and start dressing better because apparently I look like a moron. Don't you love to fake the surprise? "You're from Manhattan? Wow,........ I would have guessed Brattleboro." Nothing but good clean fun. Anyway now that I have that off my chest I feel better. A woman and her husband walk into the restaurant. The woman tells the hostess, "We have a 5:00 reservation under the name so and so, and we're from Manhattan. I'm not quite sure why she needed to tell us that other than to elevate her status at the front desk. I have to try this the next time I eat in N.Y. "Hello. I have an 8:30 reservation under the name Schaudel, and I'm from Carle Place. Actually upper Carle Place, not that I like to brag. I wonder if they would get it? I'll let you know. Sorry, I digress.  So armed with the knowledge of her reservation time, her name, and city of origin, we proceed to find her a "Manhattan-like"table.  The lady, "No, not that one…Um, no, I don't think so........... Yeah that looks a little better, ......but it's much too dark.  That one looks good.........  I like that one."  It never fails. No one who does the furniture shopping routine is ever happy with a table unless someone else is sitting at it. It happens one hundred percent every time. The Hostess, "There's someone sitting there."  The lady, "Yeah, I know.  Ok, well…" The hostess, "Surely we can find one you're happy with."  The lady, "Ok we'll sit over there."  The hostess, excitedly, "You mean that one? The one with nobody sitting there?"  The woman, "Yes, that one........  I'm sorry if I'm giving you a hard time but it's just that…well…you know …we're from Manhattan......and....you know"  The hostess, "I know you're from Manhattan, I know."   The couple sits and the lady says to the hostess,  "Can I ask you a question?"  The hostess, "Sure."  The lady, "Do you think an eighteen hundred square foot, three bedroom, two bath home on the bay, is worth 1.5 million dollars?"  The hostess, "Huh?" The lady, "You know, we're from Manhattan and everything is so much more expensive there and I don't have a grip on this market."  The hostess "You should check with a real estate agent out here."  The lady, "Yeah, I know but … we're from Manhattan and we don't know anyone out here, but thanks anyway.  The waitress comes for the drink order.  "Can I get you anything from the bar?"  The man says "Do you have any decent wines by the glass?  You know…we're from Manhattan and well…you know."  This is great.  He's in a wine producing region, surrounded by wineries, telling people who study, serve, and drink wine, that simply living in Manhattan makes you an expert on wine, and apparently every other subject.  I've just got to relocate.  The waitress, "Are you ready to order?" 


The woman, "We would love to sample some of the local stuff you people do out here. (You people?)"  Is any of it any good?  You know we're used to eating in Manhattan and…well…you know..is it…good?"  This is where I'd love to have some fun and say, "Oh no, the food is awful here. We've been serving unadulterated garbage for five years now, and pride ourselves on getting worse every year.  You know…we're from the "sticks."


Back to the lady.  She pulls the waitress back to the table by subtly waving her arms like an electrocution victim and screaming, "Excuse me waitress!!"  This is a great technique for flagging down a taxi, but horrible in a restaurant.  Even if it's not a Manhattan restaurant.  The waitress runs over to the table hoping to quell the riot.  The lady pulls the waitress' arm down so they are eye to eye, and then in her best conspiratorial, let's not let anyone else know tone, says, "I don't like the bread.  This isn't like the bread we get in Manhattan."  The waitress, "We bake our bread here everyday, it's the only bread we have."  The lady, "I don't like it."  The waitress, "What would you like me to do?"  The lady, "I don't know, but you would never get bread like this in Manhattan.  The bread is terrible."  Dinner arrives. She had duck.  The lady, screaming, waving, says, "EXCUSE ME.  WAITRESS!!"  The waitress runs over.  The lady, "This duck is a little fatty.  The ducks I'm used to in Manhattan are leaner."  This is a piece of duck knowledge I must confess I never knew.  The only possible explanation for this is that, and I'm just guessing here, it probably takes a duck about four hours to fly from Jamesport to Manhattan.  I've got to believe that's worth at least a three to five hundred calorie burn.  The resulting buffed duck is way easier to render than the chubby little fellers we have out here, so therefore, it results in a much leaner duck. Gratefully dessert was served without anyone getting hurt. They paid their check with a Manhattan credit card, left a Manhattan tip, and walked to the front desk.  The hostess, "How was your dinner?" The woman, "It was fabulous. I tried some of the local wines and loved them. Dinner was great. The best food I've had…outside of Manhattan, of course. We're from Manhattan you know." The hostess, "That's great. Thanks for coming and we'll hopefully see you again soon." The woman, "Oh no,we would never come back here." The hostess, "I don't

understand. Didn't you just tell me that dinner was great and you loved the wines? What's wrong?" The woman, "Your bread stinks." Only in New York friends, only in New York.

#4 Kleptomaniac Octogenarian

After all my moaning about bad restaurant behavior, and especially stealing, it borders on hypocrisy that I should relate this story. This is out of the archives and although I shouldn't think it's funny, I just do.  No apologies. The greatest restaurant thief I ever knew was my friend's grandmother. Absolutely the best. Fearless, stealthy, clever, and inventive. Kind of like McGuyver, but larcenous. Something happens when you reach eighty. The perceptions change and the lines between what's acceptable and what's unacceptable begin to blur. Example:  If I slip and use profanity at the dinner table everyone's horrified. If my mother does they all crack up. You are given way more wiggle room as you age. The same is true for stealing. When you are young, it's

a crime, (unless of course you steal from a restaurant, then it's called an entitlement) when you are over eighty it's cute. Anyway, my friend's grandmother was to restaurants what Willie Sutton was to banks. When she died I helped him clean out her house. I couldn't believe it. Restaurant Depot would love to have her inventory. I could have opened two restaurants, with what was in her basement. Glasses, dishes, and silverware in all patterns and colors. Some in sets of six, which indicated multiple trips to the same establishment. Ashtrays were very well represented.   There were hundreds of cases of Sweet and Low, Equal, and Splenda, as well as enough tea bags to keep the good people of Boston partying for a month. I would swear I saw a 6' x 8' sign in her garage that said "Milleridge Inn" but I can't be sure. When my friend first told me about her I was skeptical. Although I've known some great restaurant thieves, one night I witnessed an event so above and beyond anything I'd ever seen. Ever since that night I've come to recognize her as "The Greatest." Bar none. I went to a dinner with my friend and his family.  We were celebrating "Grandma's" one

hundred somethingth birthday in her favorite restaurant. (I didn't have an AARP card, so the doorman gave me a hard time, but I did get in).  The restaurant was out of a time warp. I don't know if I can use the word anachronism in a sentence, but I certainly know the meaning. My friend suggested I sit next to Grandma. His logic was that since she knows I'm in the business, she will behave. I was thrilled to have a front row seat to what potentially could be a very funny night so I agreed. Ten of us sitting around the table, talking, laughing, reminiscing, with the smell of fried chicken and mothballs wafting through the dining room. "Pass the bread please," someone said. As the breadbasket was going around the table I saw Grandma eyeing it like an eagle eyes a mouse. She finally said, "Tom, that's a beautiful basket." Me, "You mean the breadbasket?" Grandma, "Yes, don't you just love it?" It was a wire and wicker thing with birds hanging off it. Me, "I guess it's nice, in a breadbasket kind of way." Grandma, "I think it's beautiful actually.

I'd love to have one like that." My friend then says, "What are you and Grandma talking about?" Me, "Nothing. She was saying how much she likes the breadbasket." My friend says, "Oh no, she's going for the basket. Don't let her take it. It's too big. I don't want her to be caught and embarrassed." I say, "Ok, I'll keep my eye on her (laughing). He leans across me and says to her, "Don't you even think about taking that basket. For once just enjoy dinner and BEHAVE!" She says to my friend, "Don't get all worked up. I don't need you telling me how to act for God's sake." That seemed to be that, but as soon as my friend went back to the conversation at the table, Grandma turned to me, winked and said, "It's as good as gone." Now I'm hysterical, but I'm trying to explain that it's too big, she'll get caught, she'll be embarrassed; heck, I'll be embarrassed. "Don't do it," I say. She was resolute. She said, "Haven't been caught yet young man and I've dealt with better restaurant operators than you I might add." Now I'm laughing so hard I'm crying. Who would suspect this regal lady with her flower print dress, the angelic face (with a little too much lipstick) and the beauty parlor once a week, sleeping sitting up in the chair hairdo, to be the Princess of Darkness? The answer: No one. She's going on and on about the basket, my friend is getting more and more angry and I can't stop laughing. At this point I have to go to the bathroom but I don't want to miss anything. He says, "You're encouraging her by laughing. This is serious." Me, "Serious? A heart attack is serious. This is fabulous. I can't believe you would deny me this entertainment." Grandma to the waitress, "Can we have more bread?" Now the basket is on her lap under the tablecloth. My friend, "What if it was your grandmother?" Me, "I'd be mortified." My friend, "So." Me, "It ain't my grandmother." And so it went. He's flipping out, she's hatching a plan, I'm on the floor. Out comes the cake and candles. We all sang Happy Birthday (God-awful). Grandma made a wish (the basket) and proceeded to spit all over the cake blowing out the candles. Coffee, cake, and saliva, does it get any better? My friend's father gets the check, my bladder is screaming, and Grandma channels McGuyver. As the check is paid everyone gets up to leave. Grandma removes the bread and napkin from the basket, taps out the crumbs, waits until everyone is about three steps ahead, places the basket on her beauty parlor once a week, sleep sitting up in the chair head, and struts out the front door with one of the best old lady hats I've seen since my Aunt Pauline was alive. The look on my friends face was all I could take. I literally wet my pants.

#3: Reality Mint

I would like to spend 15 minutes in a locked room with the first guy that decided that a "free" mint at the end of a restaurant meal was a good idea. Who doesn't like mints? Who doesn't like free? See the problem? Then, throw in an aging boomer population and you have a recipe for disaster. Just for the record, before I recount this tale, the amount of mints a person is willing to steal is totally related to their age. You would think kids would be the most likely, but you would be wrong. It's the greatest generation has the cleanest breath in America. Anyway, here goes.


I have a customer who religiously comes in once a week with her husband for dinner. I'm guessing late seventies, early eighties. They always arrive at 5:00. This is roughly about a half an hour after the hostess fills the mint bowl on the table in the foyer. I've come to believe that she comes so early so that no one else grabs a mint before she plunders the thing. They know all my employees, so when they arrive, there are a lot of "Hellos," and "Hey, how are you's," catching up on the week. They are really, really nice people, except for the fact that, in any other business, with any other product, she would be considered,  well....... a criminal. But, hey, I'm in the restaurant business where stealing is considered an entitlement, remember? Five o'clock is also the Price Fix zone and they enjoy that. And that's cool because that's why we do it. I just don't remember the ad that says, "Restaurant: Price Fix 5:00- 6:30, $25.95, includes three courses and thirty seven pounds of individually wrapped mints." The first time we became aware of the problem was about six months after they started coming in. They had just left when one of the other customers asked the 65,000 dollar question, "Hey do you guys have any after dinner mints?" The hostess Diane, says, "Sure, they're on the table in the foyer." The man, "I don't see them." Diane (annoyed), "They should be right there on the table sir, I just filled them up before dinner." The man, "Nope, don't see 'em." Diane (more annoyed) walks around the hostess desk, and into the foyer saying, "Sir, they're right…......" The two of them are staring at an empty bowl. One dumbfounded, one amused. The man, "Maybe you forgot to put them out." Diane, "No I did not." I can't understand it. Only two people have finished dinner and left and…This is where Diane started to resemble Edith Bunker, when the light finally comes on. "I'll bet the so and so's took them." The man, "How many mints could have been in the bowl?" Diane, "Twelve hundred or so." The man, "Wow." So Diane reloads the bowl and begins to hatch a plan

to collar the alleged culprit. For the next few weeks every time they came in, Diane would try to catch her taking the mints. Not that we ultimately care all that much about the mints themselves, it was just great fun. And let me tell you she's clever. They would talk at the hostess desk on the way out until a customer would have to be seated. As soon as Diane would bring someone to a table, they would break for the mint bowl, load up, and make for the car. Is this great or what? Then one day I lost my sense of humor. One of my employees, I'll call her Dingbat, left one of the drawers on the mint table open a little bit. This normally wouldn't get another thought, but this is where we store all the mints. Yup, you guessed it. One bowl and two drawers full of mints vanished. A case of mints. They had to be working as a team. I'm sure he's the lookout. Gotta have one right? I'm trying to picture him watching the dining room, as she's stuffing mints in her bag, pockets, bra, girdle, socks and shoes. Got any idea how many mints are in a case? Thousands.  You know, I spent a lot of money on security

cameras for the restaurant. I have a camera in the bar watching a bartender who would never steal. A camera in the office where there's no money. A camera in the kitchen where, by the end of the day, my crew doesn't even want to look at food. A camera in the storeroom in case someone tries to make off with one hundred pounds of Hi-Gluten flour, and a camera on the loading dock for whatever it is I'm supposed to be watching out there. The salesman told me that the money I saved with the security cameras would pay for them in a year. How's that for a sales pitch? Here's what the sales pitch ought to be. "I'll put a camera on your mint bowl and one on each peppermill, and in one year you will be able to retire." My bartender, Mark, had the best idea yet. He thinks we should set up a "mint cam" and have it hooked up to a flat screen

in the bar. Now that's reality entertainment. Anyone know Mark Burnett?

#2 Lost and Found

You ever notice that there has never been, in our two hundred and something year history, one great explorer from Long Island? We've got musicians and authors galore, actors and actresses, business titans, but not one great explorer. Not one. You know why?  It's because we, on Long Island, couldn't find our tush with a set of directions, two maps, and a Lo Jack. You think I'm being harsh? Ask any hostess if you don't believe me. We just can't get there from here. It's true. Here's a little "Direction irony" for you. When you give directions, no one listens the first three times. Then on about the fourth or fifth attempt you sometimes get a pertinent question, sometimes not. On attempt number eight or nine, some feinged interest, and maybe some writing. When it finally dawns on them around attempt number ten or eleven, that they have no idea where they are going because they've been yelling at the children, giving instructions to the housekeeper, and listening to

Dr. Phil the whole time, you have to start from the beginning. And go very slowly so they can repeat every line. "You take 495"...

"I take 495..." "Get off on Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway"..."I get off Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway...." and so it goes. A simple

direction calls usually only last about forty minutes to an hour so that's why I employ about twenty hostesses. Thank God for them because I don't have the patience. Not often, but every once in a while, even with all my experience, I'll still pick up the phone. It's God's way of telling me that I have too much free time. Me, "Tom speaking". She, "I need directions." Me, scared, "Where are you coming from?" She, "Hauppauge." Me, "Ok take the L.I.E. to exit 44 North." She, "Brandon, stop hitting your sister. Excuse me. What was that? " Me, "Take the L.I.E. to exit 44 North." She, "Exit 44 is that north or south?" Me, "North. Take that to Jericho Tpke. west." She, "No don't put them in the dryer with the colors. Yeah chicken is good. They love the fingers. I'm sorry. What did you say?" Me, "To Jericho Tpke. west." She, "West?" Me, "West." I should tell you here that the woman had a very distinctive voice. Kind of like Minnie Mouse on steroids. So, as excruciating as this was becoming, everytime she said something to me, or one of the other thirty seven people she was conversing with, I had to stifle a laugh. She, "Ok, I go west on Jericho." Me, "Yes." She, "Then what?" Me, "Then you go about...?" She, interrupting, "How far? ......John did you call the Millers?...... What did you say?" Me, "I didn't say anything, I didn't get the chance." She, "Oh, sorry. There's a lot going on here." Me, "Here too." She, "What do I do when I get to Jericho Tpke." Me, "Turn red. Sorry, just couldn't help myself". She, "You're funny." Me, "Yeah, I'm a scream." Me, "Take Jericho about two and..." She, "Can I put you on hold a minute?" Me, "Sure, take your time. I've got nothing going on." The funny thing about call waiting is that the second caller gets all the respect. You call first, and then you get kicked to the back of the line when the next person calls. I'm always tempted to hang up and call back so I can get back to the front position. Mature, right? She,"Sorry that was my babysitter. Ok, where were we? Me, "Take it two and a half miles..." She, "Give her a piece! What's the matter with you?! God! Sorry." Me, "Two and a half miles. Go under the over pass..." She, "Where's the over pass?" Me, welling up, "Two and a half miles..." She, "Oh you said that." Me, "Go under the over pass and our sign is three tenths of a mile on the left." She, "Three miles on the left? .......John, could you please do something with these two?!..... Three miles on the left?" Me, sobbing, "Three tenths of a mile on the left,  tenths of a mile." She, "On the left or the right?" Me, "On the left." Every direction call, just when you think you're done, has the recap. I love the recap. She, "Ok, so I take the L.I.E. to exit 44 north. Then I take Jericho Tpke. west two and a half miles. I go under the over pass and you are three miles..." Me, " Three tenths of a mile." She, "Oh, that's right you said that. On the right or the left?" Me, "Left." She, "That was easy." Me, "Yeah, a piece of cake." Notice the whitty food reference? I thought about having a cigarette for the first time in twenty five years when I finally hung up, because I was so exhausted. Little did I know, later that night, I'd have to do it again. A frantic call comes into the hostess station at about 7:00. The hostess buzzes me in the kitchen and says, "There's an extremely agitated woman on the phone with a funny voice asking to speak to you." Me, "Did she tell you what city she was calling from." The hostess, "What are you talking about?


Pick up the phone, ok? " Me, "Tom here." The lady, in one of the longest run on sentences in recent history, says "I called you for directions and now we're lost and I have a seven o'clock reservation and my friends are already there and we're going to be late and I don't know where we are and my husband won't ask for directions and it's your fault and I want a free drink when I get there."


Me, "Calm down. I'll guide you in on the phone." She, "I can't believe we're lost. It's your fault and your directions were horrible." Me, "Try to find a street sign and give me a name or find out what country your in and we'll figure it out." She, "This is your fault. Some directions. I hope you cook better than you direct. This stinks...wait a minute. I think we're coming up to a light. Me, "Ok, look for the sign." She, "Yeah there it is. I can't read it yet. Hold on, ...hold on. Wait.....it's .....Jericho Tpke!" Me, "That's good." She, " Do I make a left or a right:" Me, "Are you heading north or south?" I swear to you this next exchange is verbatum. She, exasperated  ,"WHAT THE HECK DOES IT MATTER?!!" Me, "Make a left." I hung up. Five minutes later I got another call from Minnie. She says,"We still can't find you." Me, "Where are you?" Once again, I feel compelled to tell you that the next exchange is absolutely  verbatum. She, "We are in your parking lot. We can't find the entrance." Me, "I'll send out a search party." By this time, my staff of smart alecks knows what's going on, so about six of them go out the front door and start waving. She, sheepishly, "From where we were parked, the bush blocks your sign." Me, "I would have thought the three foot blue neon fish on the twenty foot awning would be a dead giveaway. She, "I'm so embarrassed. Did you have to send six employees out?" (Even she was

laughing at this point) Me, "I was afraid you wouldn't see the first five." She, "You're pretty funny." Me, "Yeah, I'm a scream."  

1. On The Side Bomber Hall of Fame

This story was told to me by an ameteur cook and restaurant fan.  It was too good not to get into the hall of fame.  To get into the hall of fame, the performance had to pale all others by comparison and I'm the sole judge and jury.  I think you 'll agree that this one fits that bill. 

A friend of the man who told me this story was in charge of catering at the River Cafe in Brooklyn.  In the early summer of 2001 he booked a wedding to be held in November of 2001. They settled on a price and made the contract.  Now get this.  The woman who booked the party came in the weekend after September 11th and asked to see the manager.  The manager took her into the office and asked her how he could help her, and this is what she said.  "I think we have to renegotiate our contract."  The manager "How come?"  The woman "I think you should reduce the price (and get this) because THE VIEW HAS CHANGED." To his credit, the manager who is French, with a Frenchman's temper, told her to get lost.  I think that pretty much says it all. Like I told you, it's pretty ugly out there.

Thanks for reading.

Fresh Herbs,

Tom Shaudel-owitz

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