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The kitchen guys will manifest their displeasure by screwing up servers' orders, subjecting them to a stream of verbal abuse, or threatening impromptu sexual-reassignment surgery with a meat cleaver. I've met several waiters who have at least one knifethrowing-chef story in their repertoire. The servers at Amici's aren't saints either. Always shifting blame for their screw-ups onto the kitchen, they act like the cooks are dirty hoi polloi unfit to tie the servers' shoes. They respond to the kitchen staff's taunting with juicy comebacks …

When peaceful coexistence develops between the front and back of the house, it's because there's a good executive chef or general manager at the helm. By making everyone realize that they're in a symbiotic relationship, that cook and waiter in the long term need each other, good management can be like Jimmy Carter at Camp David, brokering a cease-fire between historical enemies.

Unfortunately, Sammy, the manager at Amici's, is a good example of how not to run a restaurant. A short fat Syrian man with the demeanor of a smug cherub, Sammy's a verbally abusive, power-mad sexual deviant—traits not uncommon in restaurant managers. Underpaid and aggravated that the waitstaff takes home more money than he does, Sammy extorts the servers into paying him bribes. Want to work on the lucrative Friday and Saturday shifts? Switch a shift? Take a vacation? Sammy's response is to hold out his hand and say, "Pay me." In addition to abusing his authority, Sammy, a married man with children, revels in making salacious comments to the female staff and spends most of his free time trying to get into their pants. He does little to encourage cooperation between the front and back of the house. In fact, I think he does his best to keep everyone fighting and off balance. "Divide and conquer" is Sammy's motto. All in all, he's a despicable little man.

Amici's head chef, Fluvio, hates Sammy's guts. Forty years old with long black hair tied into an aging hippie ponytail, Fluvio wears thick eyeglasses that are always smudged with grease, and his ample stomach seems incongruous on top of strong legs conditioned from years spent working on his feet. In addition to his native Italian, he's fluent in Spanish and speaks a good bit of Arabic and French. He runs a professional kitchen, but he's intimidated by Caesar, the manipulative and tyrannical owner who treats everyone who works for him like livestock. Caesar, an Italian raised in South America, acts like his restaurant's a nineteenth-century plantation on the Argentinean pampas. Expecting the kitchen staff to address him as "patrón," he has a penchant for calling the busboys "peasants" and the hostesses "whores."

FROM: Are You Rude? Take the Test!
Published on October 15, 2008

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