What I learned From a Las Vegas Sous Chef

As a teenager I had a job working in a restaurant at The Maxim Hotel & Casino in Las VegasNevada. It was one of a number of interesting jobs I had growing up in the gaming capital of the world.

Part of my job was to refill dressing containers in several workstations throughout the restaurant where waiters and waitresses prepared salads for the guests.

The restaurant was on the first floor, and the salad dressing was in a walk in cooler on the second floor. Every day, sometimes twice a day depending on how busy we were, I would take the elevator ride to the second floor and move a 50 gallon trash can on wheels filled with ranch dressing out of the walk in cooler. I would then use a large ladle to fill smaller containers and take them back downstairs. Ranch was by far the most popular dressing in the restaurant, as the others were made in 5 gallon containers that I could easily lift and pour to refill.

On this particular day the giant ranch garbage can was filled to the brim, and for whatever reason, I decided to push the container out of the walk in cooler. Just as the wheel of the can was at the threshold of the cooler door, the elevator, which was immediately to the left of the walk in cooler, opened and the can caught on the threshold of the floor tipping over and spilling 50 gallons of fresh buttermilk ranch dressing out of the walk in cooler, into the elevator and down the elevator shaft.

It seemed like it took 10 minutes for the can to fall, and I was powerless to do anything about it. There was a thick white blanket of salad dressing covering the floor and elevator car in all directions.

Within moments, as if an alarm had sounded, the Sous Chef walked around the corner and stopped dead in his tracks. I looked at him, he looked at me and without anyone saying a word I started to clean up the mess while he decided my fate.

Let’s just say this. Cleaning up 50 gallons of buttermilk ranch dressing is no easy task. There were brooms, buckets, towels, tablecloths, mops and a variety of other items involved.

The kitchen floor and elevator was restored to its former glory. The elevator shaft is a different story, as I am sure there is still evidence of this incident there to this day.

When the Sous-Chef returned to inspect my cleanup, I was expecting to get an earful, or maybe even lose my job, but what happened next not only surprised me, but stayed with me to this day.

It was the end of my shift, and by the time I had cleaned the mess up, it would have been time for me to go home already. He then said to me. “Well, lets make some more.” Then he instructed me on where to get the ingredients from the coolers and showed me how to make 50 gallons of buttermilk and sour cream ranch dressing from scratch in a large Hobart Mixer. This man never raised his voice and never reprimanded me for my mistake.

What he did instead was to teach me the power of taking responsibility for my actions by restoring the loss that I had created so no one else had to suffer from my mistake by having to do without, or make the dressing again.

After more then 20 years, I still try to remember his name, and although it will probably never come back to me. His simple act of kindness will stay with me for the rest of my life.

What I also learned from that experience was, when moving a 50 gallon container of salad dressing on wheels, you should always pull, never push.

Life is good, spread the word.

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