Somehow my parents found the money for my first year of college, then I was on my own. Having cooked at a summer camp throughout high school I talked my way into a job in the flight kitchen at our airport. I only made 22 cents more per hour more than the dishwashers, but a got to dress like a cook. I was a kitchen assistant assigned to, Andre, a pencil thin Swiss chef with anger management issues. I once saw him grind a piece of raw veal into the meat vendor’s face because it wasn’t pink enough, “This is f—ing COW!!” Of the hundreds of people who worked in the building, Andre was the only one who didn’t work for my employer, Host International. Andre worked directly for Scandinavian Airlines and was virtually immune from management meddling. This fact bothered Steve to no end. Steve was ex-Army and my shift supervisor. An all around creepy guy who only called me “college boy.”
My job was mostly prep work. For the first few hours before Andre got in I would crack 600 eggs, de-bone the ducks, peel 200 tomatoes and on and on. Andre did all the First Class and Cockpit meals. Nils did the coach class breakfasts. Nils was a very friendly guy with a hair net and a drug problem. He began to call in sick on Mondays and Fridays.
After several months I was certain that Andre still did not know my name. He never spoke to me. I tried everything to get him to warm up but nothing worked, until I noticed his taste in women. Andre liked them big, the wider the better. I found myself making up excuses to get Andre out of the walk-in fridge so he wouldn’t miss the Darigold rep walking by. He would actually go slack-jawed and make an unconscious high-pitched little moan as he watched her pass. I felt like a pimp and he still had no idea I existed.
One day, Steve walked over with a red face and told me to start the breakfast meals. “If that hippy ever shows up I’m going to fire him anyway.” I had watched Nils enough by now to know what to do; throw five sheet pans of bacon in the oven and start making 200 omelets, eight at a time. Since the eggs are finished on the plane, these omelets were more like a crepe, a pan of raw egg cooked just enough on the bottom to roll it up. Then I remembered my bacon and ran over to take it out. But, it was gone. Steve was standing calmly at the other counter next to several hundred pieces of burnt bacon.
“Ever been fired, college boy?” Steve asked with a smile.
I heard Andre’s voice from behind, “First pay him to cook, then you can fire. You a–hole.”
Steve began to shake slightly, but then he just walked away. As Andre returned to work I heard, “Five more pan of pig, Mr. Jim.”