Wednesday, May 29, 2013

BotH: Chapter 5

As I was driving up the Provo Canyon this last weekend I saw a ton of "so-and-so wedding" signs and it sparked the wedding chapters in my mind. I'm going to do it in two chapters because the Royal Wedding needs its own.

Chapter 5
The first summer that I worked at The Resort we did several weddings. Guests paid a lot of money for their family and friends to stay the night, location reservations, catering, decorations you'd think that everything would be flawless. Think again. The Catering Manager, the Banquet Manager, the Executive Chef, the Banquet Chef, and the Pastry Chef had never sat down to discuss what options are and are not feasible for a wedding. And somehow their subordinates never coordinated either, thus creating wedding panic all the time.

After the bride and groom cut the first piece of cake, my Banquet Captain, Barney, somehow became in charge of the man who cut cake. I'm telling you right now that if I was the bride and I saw how he massacred my cake, I would have freaked out. And even though part of it was his fault, some of the blame also needs to be assigned to the managers that didn't stop crazy brides from making ridiculous cakes. The Catering Manager would sit down with the bride and groom before the wedding and have a tasting. I was the server assigned to the tastings so I saw a lot of this unfold. For a cake tasting our Pastry Chef would make each person a platter of 4-5 cake samples and 4-5 frostings that they each could mix and match to decide on flavors. Though it wasn't offered, at some point brides started requesting fresh fruit in their doesn't seem like a ridiculous request, but when you have a cake that has a lot of thin layers and you're trying to cut through chunks of fruit with a cake knife it tears your cake apart. Then the Banquet Manager or Catering Manager would freak out and yell at the Pasty Chef. Guess who's fault it wasn't? Yeah, the Pastry Chef. The Catering/Event team never said no to requests, so when it came to the practical application of table setting, placement, service, food, etc. there was always problems. And somehow they were always surprised...what do you mean we can't fit a 400 in a 200 person-capacity ballroom? Duh idiots.

One problem was serving large weddings plated dinners. Guests at the weddings saw a huge ballroom where dinner would be served. Us servers, in the back of the house, saw a huge kitchen that we had to carry hot-as plates with our bare hands (yeah, we didn't get gloves for the longest time) from one end to the other. The team was divided into usually 3 or 4 servers per section, depending on the size of the table being served.  I was on the team that had to run to the opposite end of the kitchen and enter the ballroom through the doors furthest from the prep area. Yes I burned my hands, but what was even worse was that I remember spilling sauce off the plates all over my stomach because we were in such a rush with such hot plates. I felt so bad serving the dinner looking all junky. The other problem with large weddings was keeping the drunk guests under control. Usually weddings had open bars, which was nice for us servers because we got gratuity off of all the drinks served-- the more they drank, the more we made. Since it was at a hotel where wedding guests either had or could get a room, you didn't have to cut them off unless you knew they weren't staying or became belligerent. Somehow misfortune happened to me again and at one wedding I was serving the table with the guests who showed up drunk. As I was trying to serve these two men the salad course, they refused to acknowledge me so I had to remove the napkin and menu from their plate, lay the napkin across their lap, set the menu to the side, and serve them their salads. And if that sounds tricky, I had to do it while I was holding three salad plates. Needless to say I was annoyed. These two particular men were kicked out of the wedding right around the time the main course was served.

There were two things about weddings that I did like. First was the entertainment. We would have mini-dance parties in the back of the house when there was a good DJ. The drunk entertainment was also awesome. At one wedding the bridal party sang a Michael BublĂ© song and they were terrible! It was hilarious. The second good thing about weddings was the food. If the chefs made too much for a plated dinner (usually didn't happen) or if there was left over food from the buffets we got to chow down afterwards. And the cake...oh the cake! My favorite was the wedding that had the red velvet layered with cheesecake (like the Cheesecake Factory) and it was amazing. I got a stomachache because I ate so much --I didn't eat enough before I went to work and around 11 I was starving so I scarfed it down. And that particular wedding had lamb as the main course, which I don't like so I didn't eat any "real" food.

Weddings were always interesting, both good and bad interesting. The Royal Wedding was probably the most interesting I was involved with, and that is Chapter 6 ;)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Why I'll Miss ABF

It just hit me today that Alex is leaving in a week to enter the Missionary Training Center for his mission to San Antonio, Texas. To put it simply, I will miss that guy a lot. Alex and I have a different relationship than the rest of our siblings. In our nucleus we are the only whole-blooded siblings. We have lots of half/step brother and sisters, but the fact that we grew up together from day one and that we have gone through so much together makes our bond a lot stronger than with some of our other siblings. And yes, I'm playing the favorite card right now. Here's why. Growing up Alex and I were always close. Even though we are seven years apart we always managed to get along most of the time and stay close. We went through the divorce together, moving, adapting to new step-parents, divorce-related fighting (let's be real, how many divorces are happy? Not a lot). My dad says that I'll miss him/he'll miss me more than my mom because I raised him. I don't believe that. I think that us growing up together and being there for each other is while I'll miss him. When he was little and would cry because he missed our dad, I would talk him to sleep by telling him to dream of happy things-- like Batman, or video games, or whatever. He probably doesn't remember that, but I do. Another reason I'll miss him is because he is so freaking hilarious. If you know Alex you know this to be true. He's a laid back kind of guy and gets along well with pretty much anyone he meets. I know that will be such a great trait to have on his mission. I'll miss joking with him (we just get each other, ya know?), playing Mario and Michael Jackson Dance with him, watching movies that we are slightly obsessive about (Moulin Rouge), and having sleepovers. Yes, as adults we do that. He'll come to my house and hang out with me and the kids, or I'll stay up there with the kids. Oh, speaking of, Julia...she loves Uncle Alex so much, I hope she adjusts okay to him being gone. He'll probably miss her more than he misses me (most people do...). I feel like I'm writing an obituary, HE'S NOT DEAD, he's just gone for two years and I will only be able to receive mail/emails from him. That will be weird because we've never done that before. Starting next Wednesday, my brother will be Elder Fuentez. I don't know if I'll be able to say goodbye without crying, or say anything that I've written, so that's why I'm writing it now. Just in case.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

BotH: chapter 4

Chapter 4
The 6-month Curse

It was the policy at The Resort that you couldn't advance into a new position or department unless you had been at your current one for six months.There were two problems with this. First was when help was needed in certain areas immediately- a lot of positions were vacant because of this policy. This was one of those policies that caused The Resort to get in its own way, especially since they always wanted perfection in its staff. The other downside was that this caused a lot of ladder climbing. Usually getting promoted every six months is quite an achievement, but when your resort is suffering because of lack of good employees, they will move up unqualified people into positions that need to be filled. In order to seem like you were qualified (and unfortunately SO many people weren't) you had to seem like you were a perfect employee whenever the bosses were looking. This whole area of ladder-climbing middle-management would throw people under the bus if it meant they looked better for upper management. No one would ever take the blame, learn their lesson, fix the problem, and move on. The buck was passed all the time. You wouldn't expect some of the people who had years of experience to do this, but it happened daily. The other problem was that these middle managers had their heads so far up their superior's butts that they missed chances to really make a difference and a memorable experience for a guest.

Mr. French was a super rich guest (the one so rich that he wasn't on the internet) that stayed with us a couple of times. He was very demanding and very particular about how he wanted his stay to go. Because he flew in from France he had jet lag so he requested to use the spa after hours when no one was there (like 2 am). Initially his butler, Ernest, said no (in a respectful way) because there were liabilities with no one being there. Mr.French complained to the General Manager, who then allowed him to have unrestricted access to the spa. Mr.French, because he is mister rich and powerful, invited a friend in with him and the two of them trashed the spa. The next day when the Spa Manager got there the fighting began. The General Manager denied responsibility and didn't want to be the one to tell Mr. French that he couldn't have unrestricted access anymore, so he handed the issue down to the Front Desk Manager, Carol. She denied responsibility since it was the Spa's problem, not hers, and passed blame and responsibility of breaking the news to the butler. The butler had nothing to do with Mr. French trashing the spa, yet somehow no one would take the blame, fix the problem, and apologize to the Spa staff. And because everyone was afraid of Mr. French they made the butler tell him that his after-hours spa access was revoked.

Carlos was a nice guy, but he was a taker. Some people are givers and some, like him, were takers. He transferred to our hotel when it opened to be the new Private Dining Captain. He had been at his old resort for about a year and was a Captain there as well. His boss, Alex, was the Private Dining Manager and he was absolutely the most amazing person ever. Somehow these two made it work and when Alex transferred to Puerto Rico (about six months after the resort opened--surprise surprise) guess who filled his spot? Yes, Carlos. He went power hungry and it ended up being really hard to work with him. Once he got that Manager position he became a dog-eat-dog kind of guy. The only good thing is that he took responsibility for a lot of things, but he also took ALL the credit for anything good that the department did. And less than six months after he was in the Manager position I saw him applying for new jobs within the company, just at another location. He came in and built everyone up, and then he planned to abandon us. After he became Manager he left to go assist another property with their opening in Puerto Rico (where Alex had gone) and we were afraid that he might never come back (which was a real possibility). He extended his stay about a week extra, too, which sucked. Right at six months he transferred to the restaurant to be their Manager and completely left our department hanging (our department was struggling with getting ready for the busy season). And literally the second he transferred, if anyone needed anything (Private Dining and the restaurant shared a kitchen so we were always around each other) he would tell us he didn't work in PD anymore and to find someone else that could help. He would literally be standing next to us, with the solution, and say no. Then, six months later to no one's surprise, he transferred to Florida for another new position. I got on his LinkedIn profile and he totally lied about his positions and fluffed up his resume to make him seem more magnificent than he was...

I could go on. Perhaps I will another time.

Friday, May 17, 2013

My Mother's Day

I love Mother's Day, and yes I know it was last Sunday, but I really wanted to share mine with you. We went to church in the morning and it was short this week, which was kind of nice, then we headed up to my mom's house for dinner. We kept her in the dark about what we were making and just showed up and started cooking for her. It was kind of fun to surprise her :) I finally got some pictures of me and the kids, which I have been dying to do, and we had a great time up at her house!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

BotH: chapter 3

Chapter 3
The Hotel Heiress
Sundance was my first encounter with any celebrities at the hotel. Other departments had already been working with them, so I was excited to finally get my chance to see one. I was a greeter at the main entrance for a Toyota-sponsored event in which I handed each guest a spiked hot chocolate as they came in. As I was standing there at the doors Paris Hilton walked out to wait for her ride into town. She wasn't party of the Toyota-sponsored event but she still managed to get her photo opp in front of their banners. Did you know she smokes? I didn't until then...Anyway, I saw her for two minutes and I thought that was pretty cool.
A couples of days later I was grabbing extra hours by helping out in private dining (room service) when Candace and I were asked to go do a clean up in a room that hadn't been serviced for a day so we both needed to go. When we got to the room no one was there and as we cleaned I noticed the room was full of soda bottles laying on the ground that were half full, food barely eaten off its plates with cigarettes put out on them, and mostly that it wreaked of smoke (and not just cigarette smoke). Some of the food had been there for days and the room was crowded with shopping bags and luggage so it was hard to navigate through everthing. This particular suite had the living room and bedroom separate and as Candace was in the bedroom I noticed all of the luggage had Paris Hilton written all over it, kind of like how Louis Vuitton does his luggage. I remember saying to Candace, "who would want Paris Hilton written all over their luggage?" Duh, right?! That was the look Candace gave me, poor brain took nearly five minutes to realize whose room I was in! What struck me the most was how small of a room she had, especially considering the posse she had with her.
I hope they charged her for smoking in her room...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Best bakery-style cupcakes

So for quite a while I've been looking for a good frosting recipe. And not just any frosting, but the kind the grocery store bakeries make... I know that in the world of frosting this kind isn't highly esteemed, but I really like it sometimes...ok a lot. Anyway, over the past few holidays I have experimented with different recipes and techniques and for mother's day I nailed it!
This time for the cupcakes I used a boxed mix. It suited the situation this time...
Frosting Recipe
1/2 cup butter, room temp
1/2 cup shortening
1 TBL corn syrup
1 tea vanilla
2+ cups powdered sugar (I used a third of a bag)
Beat (and I do mean beat) the butter and shortening using a paddle attachment (a whisk attachment will take forever) until the butter is no longer yellow, about one minute. Add in one cup powder sugar and mix to incorporate. Add the corn syrup and vanilla. Add another cup of the powdered sugar and once it incorporates beat it for two minutes. If you want a thicker frosting for piping and whatnot add more powdered sugar. If you just want it light and fluffy to spread on the cupcake then don't add more.
Tips: make the frosting in a cool kitchen. I did it about three hours after the cupcakes were made and it prevented the frosting from separating.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

BotH: Chapter 2

I feel like I need to give enough background for you to understand the irony or humor in certain situations, so I apologize, but hopefully this will be one of the last "background" chapters.

Chapter 3
Do's and Don'ts

The first two days of my employment at The Resort was intensive brand training. Brand training consisted of the history of The Resort (it has a lot of locations around the world), the do's and don'ts of service, and the do's and don'ts of our resort in particular. The next two weeks were then broken down into training in our departments.

I was in awe the first few days. That is the best way to describe it. The Resort is huge, easily the biggest hotel I had ever been in, and it was fancy. When you walked around and toured the property that was the only word to come into mind- fancy. Walking around the back of the house (non-public/employee-only areas) was confusing at first, but it almost felt like you were working on a cruise ship. The main floor to the guest was actually the third floor for employees. It was like being in the belly of the beast.

With a resort this big and with a reputation to uphold (Candace, you may giggle here) there were a lot of rules. Employees couldn't clock in more than five minutes before/after a shift. This was sometimes problematic since most employees were shuttled to the resort from the other side of the mountain and the shuttle only came every thirty minutes. This was probably the most complained about situation for the first few months. Employees weren't allowed on the property when they weren't on their shift unless they had permission--really funny story about this one. Employees had to meet/exceed all of Forbes' 5-Star and AAA 5-Diamond requirements for service. Not as easy as you'd think. You could say "assist" but not "help." Appropriate ways of saying "yes" were, "absolutely," "certainly," "but of course," and "it would be my pleasure." Use the guest's name whenever possible. Never say "guys" as in, "how are you guys doing today" unless the entire group was male. Things like that. Very nit picky, very important to The Resort, and really hard to get used to.

Luckily for me AAA and Forbes didn't include or rate banquets in their criteria to obtain a 5 star/diamond status. Unluckily for me my Banquet Manager was...a piece of work, and she was probably more strict than any undercover AAA/Forbes employee. Even after being trained, we couldn't set the tables until she showed us how before each event. You couldn't go on your lunch break, even if it was scheduled, until she told you it was okay. Needed to go to the bathroom? Better ask Melissa. Couldn't find her? Then you my friend were SOL. Big time. A lot of these do's and don'ts were unnecessary, but some were obviously important even if it was hard to understand why at the time.

Friday, May 10, 2013

BotH: Chapter 1

Chapter 1
The People of The Resort

There are four types of people who stayed at The Resort. During orientation as we marveled how fancy our resort was, we were taught how to treat our guests and what working with the various types of guests would be like. The Resort did not categorize them in this way, that is purely me and how I found them to be.

First you have Regular People. They are everyday people who save money to go and enjoy themselves for a weekend. Sometimes they are uber cheap because they can barely afford to stay there, but they are usually nice people. Most Regular People tip well because they know how hard it is to make money and they realize that we, like them, are also just Regular People. In the first few months I was there I saw Regular People mainly at events like weddings and some conferences, but I didn't work with them regularly until I had been there about eight months and switched departments.

Then there are the people who Think They're Rich (TTR). The TTR were mostly local patrons, mainly real estate agents, brokers, attorneys, socialites, etc that yes, they were rich, but in the scheme of "richness" around the world they weren't that rich. I'd say they were under $500,000 a year (not that that is something to scoff at...). I worked in the banquet department when I first started so I was around The TTR a lot. Rarely were they friendly or conversational and most of the time they treated the staff (and their friends for that matter) like their crap didn't stink. They were not the most fun people to be around...and they didn't tip well. The fun ones were the socialites who showed up to every party to hang out with The TTR and booze it up, usually making fools of themselves. There was a blonde who came to so many parties and you could hear the whispers among the guests wondering why she was there or see the looks of so-and-so has had to much to drink again. As entertaining as she was, this business man, Mr. Rude, was probably one of my most memorable experiences while working with The TTR and I'll get back to him later.

Then there are The Rich. These people are rich. Richey Rich rich. Some of them were so rich that you couldn't find them on the internet, and not because there was nothing to read about them, but because they had the internet cleaned of their presence. A certain man traveled with a security team every time he was at The Resort and rarely talked to us directly...but we'll talk about him more later. The Rich were also usually famous--but not celebrity famous-- famous in their own spheres of influence: CEO's, President's & VP's, Owners, etc. These people were the Bill Gates of their companies, just not as well known publicly.

Lastly there are The Celebrities. Since we were in Park City there was a pretty large celebrity circle that would come to ski or attend Hollywood-Type events (like Sundance). We had special training on how to interact with The Celebrities, mainly remembering to use their pseudonyms instead of their real names, even if it was ridiculously obvious who they were.

The employees that I worked with had varying degrees of experience in either food service or resorts, sometimes both and unfortunately sometimes neither. A lot of them were from all over the world and some of them had the most fascinating stories to tell. I want to go ahead and introduce you to the people you will hear about the most, there is kind of a lot.

Butlers: Nigel, Mike, and Ernest
Banquet team: Ben,Candace, Remy, Me, my mom, Tia, Susie, Christie, Rob, and Lee.
Banquet Bartenders: Chris and Ryan
Private Dining: Carlos, Alex, Josef, and  Steve
Registration and Reservations: Alicia, Ron, and Lucy
Chefs: Phil, Tony, Orrin, Billy, Jake, Eric, and Chelsea
Various management people: Melissa, Mr. Great, Amanda, Carrie, and Lori

Back of the House: Introduction

It has taken me a really long time to put pen to paper with regards to Back of the House. I have always envisioned it in my mind as an episode of The Office, but after a while I realized that as funny as that may be, it wasn't really what working there was like most of the time. I realized that my thoughts-turned-stories were more of a drama with bits of comedy sprinkled in...a dramedy???

Since some of my friends still work at The Resort, I will use fictitious names throughout. And no, it wasn't really called "The Resort." As I get all of my names sorted and thoughts organized I hope that it will be an enjoyable thing to read about the experiences I/we had there. The only person's identity who I won't change is my mom's because it is integral to know that a mother/daughter pair worked together. Plus, she helps fill in the gaps with some of the stories. All of these experiences either happened to me, I watched them happen, or they were relayed to me from someone directly involved. The hearsay is quite entertaining as well and I'll let you know what it is when I come across it. Also, I'm calling each section "chapters" but in reality they're more like mini-chapters. Or sections. Or...I don't know...a short story.

With all of that being said, I hope you enjoy chapter1 of Back of the House.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Pork Carnitas

From nowhere I had this huge craving for pork carnitas. I searched all over to find the kind that I was looking for and I finally found it on Our Best Bites (big surprise). I made some changes since I didn't have 4 lbs of pork, but for the most part I stuck to their recipe. I omitted the bay leaf (don't have any...) and added 1/2 a seeded/veined jalapeno. This was some righteous pork and even the hubs liked it!

For the pico-type topping:
1/2 roma tomato, diced
1/4 diced onion
1/2 jalapeno, diced
1 TBS lime juice
Pinch of salt and pepper
Mix and garnish :)

For the cabbage slaw:
1/4 cabbage, thinly sliced
1 TBS lime juice
1 TBS orange juice
1/2 tea red wine vinegar
Pinch of sugar, salt,and pepper
Mix everything together and let it sit for 10 minutes to soften up, then serve over carnitas.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Changes to the blog

I've been thinking for a while about how to effectively run two blogs and I've decided to make some changes to our personal and business blogs. I will continue to post product reviews/recommendations, but they will be moved to the Little Cabbage blog. So will toddler-approved recipes. I will keep our personal blog more personal, i.e. about our family, adventures, and I will start Back of the House here (promise). I will also keep our recipes and selling secrets on our personal blog...i think. Lots of changes coming so please bear with me :)