Before the next time you order a pizza for delivery, take a few minutes to understand the training and effort that goes into making the process of delivery even possible.
For instance, hiring a local doesn’t necessarily guarantee that such a person will know his/her way around the town in which he/she was born and raised.
While I had seen such a display more than once, one stood out from all the rest. A local native and graduate (I think) of the local high school, I hired this young man (mid-twenties) to deliver pizzas and wash dishes—two compatible chores in an Italian restaurant. On his first day, we had a delivery order of three pizzas to a local bank that was less than a block away. Our little town has five banks and a credit union. It’s not hard to find any of them and I just figured that if one had lived here for more than a few months, one would know where they were.
Wally was that one who didn’t. I told him where it was. He left with the pizzas and went to his car which was across the street. He drove to the bank to deliver the pizzas, turning that less-than-a-block walk into a four-block drive. I suggested he make future deliveries to that bank on foot.
As luck would have it, the bank called in an order—three pizzas—the very next day. Wally asked where the bank was.
“You don’t remember from yesterday?”
“It’s around the corner, down the alley. Can’t miss it. It hasn’t moved.”
Wally took the pizzas, got into his car, and drove down the alley to the bank.
On the third day, he remembered. He walked.
Now, you may find all of this unbelievable, but trust me it’s true.
My delivery-dish guy actually asked the location of the high school from which he might have graduated. Who knows? Nor did he know the location of the City/County building—our little town’s place where government business is conducted.
“It’s where you got your driver’s license,” I told him.
“I don’t have a driver’s license,” he said.
“And now you don’t have a job,” I explained.
Next up on the delivery hall of fame was an oldish woman whose daughter was a friend of mine. While Donna had a great sense of knowing where she was and where she was going, it took several delivery attempts to convince her not to carry the pizzas tucked upright under her arm. She was something of a vegan who didn’t know (or had forgotten) that the toppings would slide right off a pizza held in her preferred way.
Delivery continued in some fairly amusing ways but became prohibitive as worker’s comp and liability insurance became too expensive for our business. More than ninety percent of our business was dine-in or pickup, so I wasn’t doing the restaurant any harm by ceasing the service. I was pleased to do so.
Adagio had thirty seats—a small restaurant by any estimation. Our kitchen was small, as well. On any day when I had the full complement of back-of-house (kitchen) workers it seemed really small. I had designed my kitchen based on an idea expressed in a magazine article about a restaurant in Paris. The mantra, as reported by Thomas McNamee, was a chef explaining why his kitchen was so small; “When we want to hike, we go outside.”
Keeping all that in mind, I realized that a set of kitchen skills was less important than who the potential hire might be. Basic skills could be taught; personalities were a different ballgame.
My job application, while collecting necessary data, featured a few questions that left applicants shaking their heads: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten in? Create a menu for a family gathering. Do you always wear your seat belt? Never? Do you like to participate in or watch sports? Which ones?
Each question provided insights into the applicant. Both the best restaurant and family gathering, though skewed by personal economics, were interesting for the obvious reasons. The answers to the seat belt question demonstrated levels of respect for self and authority. Sports? Many of my best employees were high school boys who played team sports: they knew about teamwork, hard work and discipline. My worst front-of-house hire was a snowboarder who hated team sports, never wore his seat belt, and showed no respect for his fellow workers.
Dinner at Adagio took about an hour-and-a-half. One server I had hired came from the giant tourist restaurants in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He was adamant that dinner should take no longer than 45 minutes. His battles with me—chef/owner—were relentless. I suggested he apply for work at Outback or Applebees. He didn’t last long.
I saw a lot of potentially good cooks. One was a high schooler I was willing to underwrite for a year’s apprenticeship in Italy. He had already earned a fine set of knives and would have had a great start to his career. Sadly, an affinity for drugs put an end to that career—before it had even really started.
Photo illustration by Courtney A. Liska
Crépinette, ground or minced meat patties seasoned with herbs and wrapped in caul fat, are a decadent treat. Although pork is the most common meat used, any animal protein will work well. You’ll have to go to a butcher’s shop to special order the caul fat.
1½ cups pork meat, ground
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. freshly chopped thyme
1 tsp. freshly chopped parsley
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1 Tbs. flour
1 Tbs. salt
1 Tbs. pepper
1 Tbs. dried breadcrumbs
120 grams caul fat or little more than ½ a cup, tightly packed
1 onion sliced
Butter to fry
Add the chopped garlic, egg, the chopped thyme parsley and savory, the dried marjoram, the flour, salt, pepper and the breadcrumbs to the ground meat in a bowl. Mix it all well and leave to marinate for a minimum of 15 minutes.
On a board, spread out the caul fat, add 1-2 handfuls of the meat mixture into the center and wrap the caul around the meat to create a patty and to seal the meat. Cut extra parts of the caul off. Repeat the procedure for the rest of the meat mixture.
Then heat up a big pan with butter and some of the crépinette parcels into the hot pan. Fry first for 5 mins on 1 side, then turn and fry on the other side. The caul will melt away but keep the patty together and that is the aim. Fry an all sides slightly light brown.
Serve hot with a simple cream sauce, roasted vegetables, rice, mash potato and a salad of raw red radishes.