“The death rate will get higher.”

Story 12

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The cases are soaring. Everyone is on edge, so much so that if someone coughs or sneezes you twitch as though a fighter plane is circling over Manhattan.

Today, the Mayor, went on television and said 1,871 people in New York City tested positive for Co-vid 19 and 11 people have died.

“You heard that too?” Chef asked.

Nobody answered.

We are down to a staff of two in the kitchen. Chef wears the same jacket he wore yesterday, which must drive him nuts because he always insisted on starting work with a clean jacket. But, Chef has more on his mind than the tomato stain on his white jacket.

Suddenly a cell phone vibrates. Chef stops deboning the case of chickens. He props his phone against a sauce pot.

“I hate these damm Zoom calls,” Chef yells to nobody in particular.

The restaurant manager’s face appears on Chef’s phone screen.

“Can you believe what’s going on?” she asks.

“Almost twelve hundred positive cases and eleven deaths, right?”

“That’s double yesterday’s count,” the manager said. Her voice without tone. Her face lacking that glow when she used to stand in the dining room and greet customers.

“Did you get the case of chickens?”

Chef picked up his knife and continued deboning chickens.

“Working it now.”

The restaurant manager smiled, but Chef wasn’t looking at his phone anymore.

“How much longer do you think we can keep this going?”

The restaurant manager didn’t know, or she wasn’t saying what she knew.

“Last night we did forty deliveries. That’s not going to be enough to get us through this madness. You do know that, right?”

Chef didn’t wait for the manager to respond. He worked fast. One chicken after another. First, Chef put the chicken on his cutting board, with the chicken breast side down and the legs towards him. Next, Chef ran his hand over the chicken’s skin until finding the backbone. Once Chef found the backbone, he ran the tip of his knife down both sides of the bone, which made an awful sound. Then Chef cracked open the keel bone and folded the chicken open with his hands. Finally, like a boxer standing before a speed bag, Chef sliced the chicken separating the thighs breast and legs. Chef put each chicken part into a different container.

He always warned us about talking on the phone while working, but today he forgot his own rule.

One chicken remained while Chef spoke with the restaurant manager.

“You have any ideas?” Chef asked.

“Ideas about what?”

Chef sharpened his knife with a steel.

“Our income is dropping 75 percent everyday we stay open while our operating costs remain and the death rate is going to get higher.”

Chef never finished his sentence. The tip of his knife sliced his left index finger, splattering blood on the cutting board. Chef cursed then wrapped the bottom of his jacket around the tip of his finger. It didn’t take long for Chef’s blood stain to mesh with yesterday’s tomato stain, which is when Chef ripped off his jacket.

“Tell me we don’t have another clean jacket anywhere,” Chef said.

Nobody said a word.

And that included the restaurant manager, whose cell phone battery died soon after Chef cursed.



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“It’s a very big step.”

Story 11

Tuesday, March 17,2020

“This is what hell looks like,” Chef said.

He wheeled his bycycle to the back of the kitchen muttering, not aware only two of us came to work.

“Biked past the New York Hilton and it looked like the day after a nuclear attack. Nobody on the sidewalk. Not one effin taxi zooming up Sixth Avenue. Not one person on a street corner waiting for the lights to change. You can take a hundred hits of acid and never see anything like what I saw this morning.”

The back doorbell buzzed.

“Who’s that?” Chef asked.

The porter walked toward the door. The bell buzzed again, and the porter shouted in Spanish.

Our produce guy wheeled his hand truck into the kitchen, stopping in front of the pickup station. Chef looked at him then at the boxes on the hand truck. A case of Driscoll strawberries. A flat of raspberries. Ten heads of chicory. Five heads of radicchio. A ten-pound bag of green beans and a dozen eggplants.

“What’s all this for? You know we are closed except for takeout and pickups,” Chef said.

The produce guy slid his hand truck away from the boxes, which stood between him and Chef.

“Who the hell ordered this crap?” Chef asked.

The produce guy took out the delivery ticket from his back pocket and put it on the pickup station.

“You need a pen?” the produce guy asked. “I swiped this one the day I got released from Rikers.”

Nobody laughed because he told us about Rikers the first time he brought us stuff.

“First tell me who the hell ordered this crap.”

The produce guy rubbed his chin and took off his baseball cap.

“You going to sign for this, or what?”

Chef tapped his fingers on the table.

“Tony must have ordered this fifteen minutes before we laid him off. Remind me never to hire a horse player again. Those guys never tell you nothing.”

Chef used the produce guy’s pen. When finished he wiped his hands on the side of his pants.

The produce guy wheeled his hand truck out of the kitchen. He went maybe five yards then turned and started speaking.

“Who’s this guy Fauci?” Donald J is putting alot of faith in this doctor nobody heard of. You know anything about him?”

Chef picked a strawberry from the flat and popped it in his mouth.

“What did Donald J say?”

“Lockdown is a big step.”

“That’s what DJ said ?” Chef asked.

The produce guy laughed.

“What are you laughing about now?” Chef asked.

“You should wash that stuff before you eat it,” he said. “That’s how people get really sick.”


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“This is a national problem…”

Story 10

Monday, March 16, 2020

“Nine deaths,” said the sommelier.

She sat at the bar with Chef and our restaurant’s owner. One looked worse than the other, yet none of them had a problem sipping the Dom Perignon Vintage 2010 the sommelier brought up from the cellar. The restaurant’s owner looked so distressed he didn’t seem to mind she poured a champagne listed on our menu for $450.00.

Chef brought the champagne flute to his lips.

“You know what I heard?” Chef said.

They sipped the champagne not noticing me mopping behind the bar.

“No, what,” said the restaurant’s owner setting his champagne glass on the bartop.

“New York’s already got nine hundred and fifty cases and Jersey’s got almost a hundrfed fifty.”

The sommelier took a second sip and then a third of the champagne. She reached for the bottle and topped off everyone’s glasses. The owner looked at himself in the mirror behind the bar. Then he turned and gazed around the dining room. Twenty empty tables set for tomorrow even though we’ll be closed.

Nobody said anything until Chef finished his champagne and asked if anything was left in the bottle.

The sommelier lifted the bottle off the bar and filled the glasses for Chef and the owner.

“Thirty thousand a month,” said the owner. “That’s what it costs me to keep this place going.”

They let him talk without interruption.

“I’ve given this place three years of my life and something like $2 million dollars.”

Chef looked at his watch, tapped his fingers while watching me push the mop bucket back into the kitchen.

“So, if customers can’t come to us, then we’ll go to them,” Chef said.

They lifted their glasses and sipped what little champagne remained.

“You got to be crazy,” the owner said. “You think I am going to make my nut by having you serve up take-out orders?”

He looked at the sommelier as though she had a better idea.

“Well,” she said. “Nobody is telling us we can’t sell and deliver what wines we have in our cellar.”

The ran a hand through his long dark hair. “Yeah, that will work perfect, just like writing a letter to a congressman and asking for help.”


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“They’re Shutting Us Down.”

Story Nine

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Chef returned home from work an hour later than usual. All the lights off in his apartment. His girlfriend asleep on the sofa while ‘The Hunt,’ starring Emma Roberts, Betty Gilpin and Jason Blum played on their television. Chef looked at the screen for a minute then walked over to their liquor cabinet. He reached for a bottle of gin, which is when his girlfriend awoke from her sleep.

She sat straight, starring at the television screen then at her watch.

“You’re late.”

Chef poured gin into a glass.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Drinking,” Chef said.

“You’re drinking it straight?”

Chef finished the gin in two gulps then poured more into his glass.

“What the hell is a matter with you now?”

Chef sat in a chair facing the television. He looked at the screen then at his girlfriend.

“Can you shut this crap?”

She reached for the remote.

“What the hell is your problem?”

Chef sipped the gin.

“They’re going to shut us down. It sounds nuts, but I know they are going to shut all restaurants and bars because they are worried. The City now has 329 confirmed cases.” Chef said.

His girlfriend rubbed her eyes and leaned back against the sofa’s cushion.

“You worry too much.”


The two of them didn’t say anything to each other for five minutes. Chef finished what was in his glass then walked back to their liquor cabinet.

“Drinking isn’t going to help. You know that, right?”

She reached for the remote and continued to watch ‘The Hunt.’

‘What’s this movie about anyway?” Chef asked.

Chef’s girlfriend smiled for the first time since he came home.

“I don’t know,” she said sort of laughing. “Something about a bunch of strangers who wake somewhere and they don’t know how they got there or how they are going to get out of there.”

Chef laughed, but it wasn’t one of his loud laughs.

“You know another four died today,” said Chef taking yet another sip of gin.

She didn’t know that four died today, but she watched the news and remembered hearing about 329 confirmed cases.

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Waiting for Happy Hour

Story 7

Friday, March 13, 2020

The bartender counted her tips when Chef took a seat at the bar.

“This is nuts,” said the bartender putting fifty dollars in her pocket.

“Slow?” asked Chef.

She ran a hand through her long straight hair.

“Three weeks ago, I pulled in fifty dollars in two hours every Friday night.”

She put a glass with ice in front of Chef and filled his glass with Glenlivet Whisky.

Chef lifted his glass and sipped the whiskey. A smile appeared on his face, but the smile did not last long. Chef put his glass on the bar.

“You don’t have to tell me,” Chef said. “There are only so many coutertops you can clean in a kitchen before you lose your mind.”

The bartender laughed, but it was not the laugh you heard from her weeks ago.

“You heard Broadway closed, right?” Chef said.

The bartender reached beneath the bar for a damp rag.

“What a shame,” she said wiping the bar top.

Chef looked at his glass of whiskey. He wrapped his large hand around the glass.

“You think Broadway will open again?” asked the bartender.

Chef sipped his drink.

“You’re asking me?”

Just then the pastry chef sat at the bar. She scrolled her iPhone.

“A hundred thirty-five thousand positives worldwide.”

Nobody said anything until the pastry chef asked for a double Queens Cocktail. When the bartender started mixing her drink, the pastry chef went back to scrolling her phone.

“Almost five thousand so far,” she said, her voice sullen.

Chef finished his drink and pushed the glass forward. “What are you talking about?”

“Deaths,” said the pastry chef.

Minutes later the bartender gave the pastry chef her Queens Cocktail. The scent of the gin, vermouth, and pineapple juice eased the atmosphere at the bar.

“You know this might get worse?” Chef asked the two of them while motioning for more whiskey.

The pastry chef sipped her cocktail and held the glass over the bar. She looked at herself in a mirror along the back of the bar’s wall.

“Today’s Friday, right?”

Chef scratched his head. “What does that have to do with anything?”

The pastry chef took another sip of her cocktail. “Well, Sunday is still going to come no matter what direction this insanity takes. Isn’t that right?”

She looked at the bartender who forced a smile. “Well, at least the president declared a national emergency. It’s not as if he’s ignoring all this, too.”

Chef finished what remained in his glass. The bartender asked if Chef wanted more whiskey. “Not tonight,” Chef said, putting the glass on the bar top. Then, he stood and put on his coat.

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For further reference:



How Fifty Percent Capacity Lead to March Madness

Story 6

Thursday, March 12, 2020

“Now we are in March madness, aren’t we?”

Nobody laughed.

They sat in a windowless basement office. The door shut and cold pizza in the middle of the table. Excel spreadsheets in front of each person with tabs for the kitchen staff, the floor crew, office personnel, and the maintenance crew.

“If we’re limited to fifty percent of capacity, then we’ve got to cut a third of our staff,” said the restaurant’s General Manager.

Chef spoke first.

“So, what are you talking about? I have five cooks that already cover thirteen shifts in seven days.”

The restaurant’s owner tapped her fingers on the table.

“We have no choice if we want to keep the restaurant going,” said the owner.

“What are you talking about here?” asked Chef.

The General Manager looked at the owner. She nodded her head then turned away.


“Two what?” Chef asked.

The General Manager reached for the pizza box, but realizing the pizza was cold he pushed away from the table.

“You’ve got to lay off two cooks.”

Chef coughed.

“You’re crazy.”

The General Manager shook his head.

“We’ve got no choice.”

Chef leaned back in his chair and squeezed his eyes shut. The grill cook had been with Chef for seven years. He never called in sick and always picked up his phone if Chef called on his day off. Last week the cook’s son received a diagnosis for an anxiety disorder and needed to see a therapist. The Garde Manger cook started with Chef years ago. Everyone knew they once were involved, but that happens in a kitchen. One saute cook put out three thousand dollars last week to bail his brother out of Rikers on a trumped-up drug charge. Another saute cook is splitting from his wife and just started looking for an apartment. A garbage truck hit the roundsman’s sister and he buried her three weeks ago. The pastry chef came to work last week with two black eyes. Everyone begged her to stop seeing her girlfriend, but she is reluctant to follow advice and says work is her Happy Place.

The floor manager did not have it any easier than Chef. If anything, he had it harder because he had to pick the names of four servers. Deciding who to lay off in the office was easiest of all the choices. The bookkeeper did not hide the fact she planned to leave at the end of the year and retire to a condo in Fort Lauderdale.

What happened next was not pretty. The names of hard-working decent people were read aloud as though they were items in an auto parts catalog. The restaurant owner kept quiet during that discussion. She crossed and uncrossed her legs while scrolling her phone. Or at least she did not say anything until everyone decided they needed to go upstairs and get fresh air.

“I hope you realize this thing is not going away so fast,” said the restaurant’s owner. She looked at her phone and started reading aloud from her screen without making eye contact with anyone.

“Cases in the United States have now passed 1300, including 38 deaths.”

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“Can Anything Else Go Wrong?”

Story 4

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The pastry chef looked distraught. The convection oven died. She checked the outlet and fuse box but could not get the oven to work.

“Can anything else go wrong?” said the pastry chef to nobody in particuliar.

For a moment, the kitchen crew laughed. The chef looked at his watch and then at that tray of creme Brule sitting in the oven.

“You’re not going to get that finished in time for lunch. Are you?”

The pastry chef shook her head. She tapped her foot on the floor.

“You got anything in the freezer?” asked the chef.

Both walked to the freezer box.

“We’ve got sorbets leftover from last night’s dinner service,” said the pastry chef.

The chef scratched his head.

“More than three types?”

The pastry chef lifted the freezer box cover. Along one side were conatiners of sorbet.

“Five types,” she said, smiling for the first time all morning.

“What do you have?” asked the chef.

The pastry chef flipped the freezer cover back open. She placed each container on a table.

“Kiwi. Raspberry. Mango.Lemon. Grapefruit.”

The chef looked back at his watch.

“Give me an idea for a sauce to serve with your sorbets.”

The pastry chef looked confused.

“A sauce with my sorbets?”

The chef glared at ther pastry chef. Suddenly he started tapping his foot on the floor. He tapped three times and might have continued if not for the restaurant manager calling his name. The manager stood at the kitchen door.

“Can I see you for a minute,” said the manager to the chef.

The chef turned back to the pastry chef.

“You’ve got two minutes to come up with something.”

The chef followed the manager into the dining room.

“They’re thinking of shutting us down,” said the manager.

The chef took a step backward.

“What are you talking about?”

“The cases are cliombing. Everyone’s worried.”

“Shut us down?”

The pastry chef pushed through the kitchen door. She had one foot in the dining room and one in the kitchen.

“Praline sauce,” said the pastry chef.

The chef and manager stared at each other.

“That’ll work,” said the chef. “At least for today,” he added flatly.


Recipe for Praline Sauce:


Story 3-Monday, March 9, 2020

The sous chef worked the saute station because he was shorthanded cooks. One called in with a fever. The other had the chills. A bevy of tasks ran through the sous chef’s mind as he added chicken broth and balsamic vinegar to a pot while swirling in butter. Meanwhile conversation amongst the cooks continued.

“We were at the hospital last night.”

“Not you too?”

The sous chef shook the pan. His hand squeezed the pot’s handle.

“No, not me,” said the sous chef watching the liquid reduce in the pot. “Her father is eighty-one. We called an ambulance. They took forever. We only got to Elmhurst at midnight.”

“Wasn’t he just in the hospital?” a cook asked.

The sous chef shut the flame. A cook held a sieve for him. Another set up a bain-marie. The sous chef poured the liquid through the sieve.

“Two weeks ago, right before his birthday. Last night he felt feverish and started coughing.”

The head waiter entered the kitchen.

“We’ve had several cancellations.”

The sous chef looked at the wall clock above the kitchen door.

“That sucks,” said the sous chef. “You mind if I make a phone call?”

The sous chef stepped away from the line. The cooks continued talking amongst themselves. All had trouble sleeping. One got up early to watch the news.

“You saw that photo?”

“What photo?”

“The president shaking hands with the congressman.”

“You heard about that congressman, right?”

The floor staff entered the kitchen. They wiped menus with damp cloths. The excitement gone from their faces. One asked the floor manager if she could leave early.

“Let’s see how it goes,” said the floor manager.

The sous chef returned to his spot behind the line. He set saute pans on the stove without saying anything.

“You okay?” a cook asked.

“He’s positive.”

Nobody said anything. The floor manager sent his crew into the dining room.

Seven minutes later the first order arrived.

Sauteed chicken with balsamic glaze.