It’s a bit hard to believe, honestly. Almost five years ago now I landed my first job in a restaurant, in the busy tourist town of Belfast, Maine. This restaurant is known as The Nautilus; a nautical bar & grill sat right upon the waterfront, gracing the heavily trafficked town boardwalk, and auspiciously sharing a large parking lot with several docks and slipways. The view is beautiful, and conducive to a booming summer rush.
Hot, Busy Summertime
Now if you’ve never worked in a restaurant before, you may not fully understand the sheer business some of these places do. During the peak summer season, we were pulling upwards of 700 people a day. Some places do more, but they usually have longer hours too — we did not open until almost noon. And then the fun began.
I started in the middle of June, which would be right about when things really started kicking off. With no prior experience, it was a rough start. Now mind you I did not immediately begin cooking; I began my career as what was referred to as a “runner,” and if there was ever any indicator as to just how busy the cooks are during their shift, this man’s job title was it.
The primary duty of the runner is quite literally to run and fetch anything the cooks might need at any given time.
- Chowder’s low? Go grab a pot and put some on.
- Mashed potatoes are gone? Get ’em in the steamer.
- Fry guy is out of onion rings? Better get chopping.
In the very little free time you had, you would be keeping busy with simple prep work.
But the entire reason this person exists is because the cooks are so damn busy, they can’t even step off the line for ten seconds to go grab something when they need it.
It’s on you to listen intently and be ready to pounce at a moment’s notice, all while juggling your various other tasks. The runner was also responsible for cooking off lobsters, shucking oysters (fun stuff), and any prep work that didn’t get finished that morning.