Trip Start May 31, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, July 7, 2006

After almost two weeks of working non stop in Varadero, I've just about had it. What first seemed like an amicable working environment turned out to be complete chaos combined with too much negative energy. I could probably write an entire book on the things I've seen and heard inside that place. But after a final run-in with the owner, I resigned.

Some of the things that happened in Varadero can be described as plain insane. For instance, a new chef was hired. Oliver, a crazy 30 year old German, turned out to be one of the best chefs in Europe. So said his résumé and also the piles of magazines, tour guides, newspapers clippings and awards he brought mentioning him as one of the best chefs in Europe. You might think what was this amazing chef doing in a lounge-restaurant in a small town in Palma de Mallorca? Well, he doesn't need to work; he's settled here with his girlfriend looking for some peace and quiet next to the beach. He once passed by Varadero and since he was bored and dying to cook, decided to ask if we needed a chef.

He was, of course, hired instantly, under the command of the Italian head chef, Federico. One day after starting as a chef, during an afternoon shift, Oliver suddenly burst into curses and screams, complaining about the menu and the kitchen which was way too small for the menu.

You have to understand that this was the kind of person that one day showed up at work dressed in his chef clothing, in a kayak. I suddenly saw a strange looking red kayak in the sea and as it drew nearer, I realized it was Oliver coming to work. When he got to the shore to where our customers were seated, he realized everyone was staring at him in disbelief so he raised his red oars in victory for all to see.

After his tantrum in the kitchen, a meeting was called with the owner and manager to which I eavesdropped all I could (I just love a scandal). Oliver gave managing and cooking lessons to the manager and the owner and insisted the menu be changed at once if they wanted to succeed in their "pathetic little restaurant". The usually highfalutin owner finally lowered his head and agreed to a change in the menu.

So Federico and Oliver got together and in less than 15 minutes whipped up an amazing menu, with fewer dishes but more flair. Instead of breakfast and lunch they put together an exquisite brunch menu which would be easier to prepare in the small 4-fire kitchen. Cold cucumber soup with crab meat and herbs, a club sandwich which had the potential of being the best club sandwich in the area, and sexy fish plates with flower petals and raw vegetables in sweet balsamic reductions....these were some of the new dishes.

It was discussed with the owner and manager, and after much resistance it was accepted. It's been 4 days since this menu-incident happened. The menu is still the same, Oliver has creatively sent the owner to eat shit, Federico is about to resign together with the rest of the kitchen staff, and each evening clients complain and walk out after waiting too long for their meal. This was Oliver's main concern when he proposed the new menu; the current dishes were too complicated (yet plain and ordinary) for the capacity of the kitchen and the small kitchen staff. So in his absence, Oliver was proved right. Despite this, there still have been no changes made by the hard-headed owner who is too proud to accept his lousy decisions.

A note on the owner, Alberto. He is not a liked man here in Porto Petro or in Cala d`Or. He says it's because he is young and successful and drives a Porsche and has two yachts and people are basically envious. I believe though, that generally, people here are not envious. Most of the people who own businesses are successful; people here are generally wealthy and live well. The problem with Alberto, unlike his egocentric beliefs, is not his success and wealth, but rather his cocky and pretentious manner, his drug-related reputation, and his general despicable self. This is what makes people not like him.

My problem with him was that most of the day he was coked out, treating everyone like idiots (including me), as if we were his slaves. The day I resigned, Ed and I had been asked to show up at 8am to open up the restaurant. We were there at 8am sharp and continued to sit there by the door until 11am when Alberto decided to show up. Not even apologizing for showing up 3 hours late, he told us he wanted everything done in half an hour: cleaning the terrace, mounting the tables, setting up the lighting, the decorations, etc. We tried to work as fast as we could but Alberto was apparently in way too much of a hurry and even before we could unlock the chains that were holding the chairs and tables together, he started inviting people in for breakfast. Having no one else in the restaurant to serve them, Ed and I had to juggle cleaning the place up and serving the customers, and also enduring Alberto's constant useless commands.

Instead of helping he was making things worse, rushing us about and treating us like retards. I told him to relax and let us do our jobs and Ed even questioned the service he was giving to his customers.

That afternoon I spoke to the manager, who is a nice Argentine and was quick to understand my dislike for Alberto. I told him I could no longer work for a man who puts me down morally and who is constantly sucking the energy out of me. All in all, I left through the front door as my parents always taught me, in good terms with everyone and being thanked for my hard work and good disposition.

Ed also wanted to quit but was convinced to stay cause of the fundamental need of someone to run the bar appropriately, and after being offered more money he decided to stay. I can see though that he is quickly growing more and more discontent with the working situation there. It is only a matter of time until he gets fed up as I did. In the meantime, he is earning good money. Better one of us out of a job than both of us.

So I am now unemployed. There are a few working possibilities that have been presented but I don't want to talk about them yet in fear of maybe jinxing them. In a few days I will have more news on my working situation. Meanwhile I am taking time for personal grooming and for reinstating order and cleanliness in our apartment which was a total mess.
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