Saturday, October 13, 2007

Closing Time

After I was old enough to stay out later and not really going to school anyway I started the closing shift. There were pros and cons to the closing shift as with anything else. I went in at 8PM and we closed at 12 on weeknights or 1 on weekends. The main disadvantage was this was the time all of my other friends were off work and hanging out and by the time I got off most of them had gone to bed.

Unlike the other shifts where there could be 2-3 managers on duty, during the closing shift there was only one. This was great if I was in the mood for a snack. Butch was outside smoking most of the time but I later found out that he didn't really care anyway.

It took 2 of us to close the kitchen which was fine for the most part, except during busy seasons where we were slammed by rushes all night. The problem with this was that we wouldn't get started closing until the store was actually closed. This also slowed the porter down which in turn slowed down the breakfast shift.

Our main responsibilities were making food, putting food away, washing out the mini meat freezer and the Sinbad, filtering or replacing the grease, washing dishes, and sweeping. Sometimes I would go in and there were still dishes up from breakfast. Pans with grits in them are disgusting. They don't even boil them, they microwave them.

About two hours before close one person would take any extra dishes we didn't need to the sink and wash them. Then they would empty out the Sinbad into garbage bags and spray it out.
The same person would empty the mini meat freezer as well as the spec freezer into the large freezer in the back. Afterwards the spec freezer got wiped out and the mini meat freezer got sprayed out with hot water.

The other person got to clean the fryers starting about an hour before close or earlier if they could get away with it. I for the most part got away with doing it 2 hours before close. This was important if we wanted to get out on time since it generally took about an hour of work to finish with the fryers and on most nights we couldn't consistently work on them without having to stop and help our coworker make food at some point. Whoever was doing the dishes generally made any food unless it got busy. If the person filtering the grease finished first they would handle the food.

The fryers were easy enough to clean. The first step was turning the fryers off. After a few minutes we used a metal rod that had a 90 degree angle on it to remove something similar to a grill and drop it into another fryer. Afterwards we used the same rod to raise the heating element. This is the part that heats the grease, similar to the element on your stove. There were pipes underneath each fryer that allowed the grease to flow from the drain to the other equipment without splattering all over the floor. To open the drain and let the grease out there was a small lever with a ring that needed to be lifted, acting as a safety. If the grease needed to be changed we simply drained it into a small storage tank which got dragged over to a large storage tank and sucked up through a hose. Every now and then the heating element on the large storage tank would go out and the grease inside would solidify, so we'd either end up dumping the grease down the drain or leaving it to solidify to dump in the garbage the next day.

After the fryer was drained we sported elbow length black heat-resistant gloves. These things smelled rank and apparently never got washed. When you took your arms out of them they were left with the smell of B.O. until you took a shower. We were supposed to wear goggles but they were just as nasty as the gloves and so nobody used them. We would scrape the solid chunks left over from breading of onion rings/chicken/etc using an ice scooper. Anything left was scrubbed down the drain using a scrub pad. The small storage tank had a metal filter on the top similar to the kind used on a clothes dryer. It captured the crud and was easily removed for cleaning. After scrubbing the inside of the fryer with a scrub-pad, it was time to finish up with a rag. Now that the fryer was all clean it was time to add more grease. The vegetable shortening we used came in 50-pound square boxes with a bag of grease inside. The easiest way to reload the grease was to cut the box open at the corners and then cut the block of grease in half horizontally. Half went into the fryer and was mashed down below the heating element. The heating element was then lowered and the second half got mashed down all around the heating element. This part was important because if the element came into contact with oxygen it would start smoking and could possibly catch on fire. For this reason I would keep my eye on it as it was heating back up. If it started smoking all we had to do was cut the fryer back off for a few minutes. The grease around the element would melt enough to cover it.

Filtering the grease was basically the same. Instead of draining the grease into the small storage tank we'd drain it into a filtering machine. If we didn't clean enough of the crud out of the fryer it would tend to clog up the filter, forcing us to replace it. A little bit of crud leftover was okay as we could spray it off with the hose that refilled the fryer before closing the drain. After closing the drain we simply had to wait for the grease to fill the fryer back up. It probably took about 10-15 minutes for the grease to heat back up after filtering and probably 20-30 minutes for fresh grease to melt.

Towards the end of my torture/tenure working there, Dick decided that the grease shouldn't be done until we were closed. This was a terrible idea as it made us get out much later than we were supposed to and also slowed down the porter.

After the end of each shift I would let my car warm up while smoking a well-deserved cigarette. This was made even better during the winter since I could get into a warm car and relax for a little bit before my next day in hell.

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