Hello everyone. Thank you for stopping by today. Each month I am going to try and share a snippet from my second memoir in the series of, Behind The Kitchen Doors. This memoir is about the last year working at Chateau Lake Louise and moving to Jasper Park Lodge. Both luxury hotels and resorts in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. This is a work in progress and as I share it helps me work out timelines and memories. Writing memoir is lonely, but I am not alone. I am right here on the page and that fills me with joy.
Like everything in hospitality, things move fast, guests coming and going, servers flipping tables for the next seating. Chef’s chopping, prepping, plating. Housekeeping cleaning rooms, front desk checking in and checking out people on a rotation. Romance was no different.
The start of any romance between employees seemed to be on a tilt-a-world ride, get on and hold on for dear life because it’s going to be a bumping ride.
I had my eye on Anthony, for weeks. I knew he was single because there was talk about how he dumped the Poppy Café, family restaurant, chick because she couldn’t stop doing cocaine. She begged him to stay with her, or said the rumor mill. What intrigued me was Anthony’s morals. What I didn’t know was his mother was a user. When he was a kid, he watched his mother and step father be taken away by the police for possession. He lived his with grandmother for a bit and when he moved back in with his mother things were normal. Or so said the rumor mill.
It’s awful when people share initiate conversations with their lovers to their drunken friends who embellish the story.
Anthony and I started off slow then quickly were inseparable. I was such a geek when I told him that my dad sent me Keith’s from home. He implied to save him one, he would love to spend time with me.
Marion Ann: Why are my knees shaking.
Sis: He’s hot.
Marion Ann: Too hot for me.
Sis: No way – get on that.
Anthony was good-looking. He was tall, gorgeous and had charm. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He fit in at the Lake perfectly.
Sis: You just didn’t want to see it.
Marion Ann: How could I get past those eyes.
Sis: So blue.
Marion Ann: So blue.
Anthony’s eyes were that baby crystal blue color, Paul Newman style, how could I resist.
Over the next week Anthony and I missed each other. He left me notes on my door, ‘I knocked and no one was home…”
After work I would head to the pub but I never saw him. When he was at the pub I was working and vise versa. On my days off I spent time in Banff, I needed to get away from the Lake, the nightly routine of working until 10:00 pm then rushing home to change to hit the staff pub, Stables, to buy three or four drinks to have before last call was becoming tiresome.
Sis: We seemed to be saying this often.
Marion Ann: It was the only thing to do.
Sis: I’m sure I can think of something else.
Marion Ann: I know.
I was aware I could have been writing instead of sitting in staff pub drinking my tips away. But I was enjoying myself. I liked sitting around talking wit friends. We bitched about guests, supervisors and each other. It was the way to decompress the constant feeling of being on. Smiling for six hours a night, being perky, being positive, bullshit conversations about football because it was an easy Segway to talk to most Americans.
When I left my tables to head to the kitchen, I would lose the smile and go into prep mode for my food orders. I sensed how the rest of my team was doing, everything was about timing, one missed minute could throw me into the weeds, where it would take more time to get back to a smooth service. It was better to be on top of the service than saunter around thinking everything would work out.
Serving was about time management, multi-takings, having several sets of eyes on your tables, the bar, the kitchen and the reservation book.
If the kitchen got behind the whole team was screwed. We would be waiting on any given coarse and there was nothing we could say. The Chef would be yelling at the cooks to move faster, then the servers to pick up the food even faster. It was a nightmare. There were not many nights like this but when it happened, it felt like the whole world sucked you in and spit you out with a broken soul.
One night I had a tour in the upper section of the Edle, the fine dining room at Lake Louise. Think of a sunken living room, with five steps up from the main floor. This section was not used often because going up those four small stairs took an extra minute of time that set me back to attend to my tables on the main floor. It doesn’t sound like it should be difficult, but think of it this way.
In a typical one-bedroom apartment, think you are entertaining all your guests in the living room, then another few people show up and there is no room, so you offer the bedroom area that is about twenty steps away. Then four more people show and they are seated in the bedroom. Twenty steps away from your main guests now seems like running a mile. You are now running from your living room to the bedroom to make sure that everyone is taken care of. Touch each table, does anyone need a refill on their wine, beer, scotch, and water? Are the appetizers going to be ready to go out to the table in the bedroom at the same time as the entrees for the first table that arrived sitting in the living room? It’s a juggling act that I saw as a Tetris game, each piece had its place and would fit perfectly if you did all the right things at the perfect timing. Until one of your table’s orders a flambe for dessert.
Flambes were my favourite dessert to offer to tour guests because it was an additional ten dollars at the guest’s expense. Their four-course dinners that were part of their meal plan included a regular dessert, ice cream, cheesecake, tiramisu, the basics. Flambes had many moving parts, liquor, fresh fruit, crepes, a flambee cart, and fire. Every tour guest agreed to the additional cost and that possibly meant more money for me.
I either could lie to the guests and tell them that the all the carts were being used and there would be a wait, which would be more time for me, or, I would ask for help from the captain server or I would attempt to take on the show and lose time with my other tables.
This time I asked for help. I couldn’t afford to get out of sync with the tour. I would be making the same amount of money. The tour was guaranteed grats. There may be the ten dollars upsell on the flambee but no guarantees on an additional tip.
Everything happened quickly in the F&B world. You had to keep up or fall behind.
Thank you for taking the time to read this snippet. You can find my debut memoir, Behind The Kitchen Doors ~ The Summers, HERE.
If you liked, Kitchen Confidential and the Grand Budapest Hotel, you will enjoy this eye-opening life experience of one employee’s journey of working for a luxury hotel in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.
Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…