I started as a dishwasher the first summer in the States in Steins Gourmet Deli in Montvale, NJ.
When I walked in to ask for work-opportunity, it was Phil that I talked to. He was originally from Lebanon. He and Jay (photo above) were partners at the time.
They had this seasonal partnership, on and off. So when I walked in for the first time, Jay wasn’t there. Phil asked me what kind of work are you looking for? “Anything”, I said.
He said they needed help in the kitchen. “My partner is not here now. He will tell you how much you get.” I was happy that I had a job.
It was sad and tough for me to get back to school as the summer was nearing end. Firstly, I had told them that I was gonna be working for at least two years; otherwise I would not have gotten the job, no choice. Then while working there I got so close to these Spanish friends in the kitchen that it was emotional to say them good bye.
I felt I had betrayed Jay and Phil.
With tears I walked out the back door, at the end of that summer.
Next summer, the year 2007, I moved to NY. It took so many explanation on my part to convince them that I had left Salem and was going to join this community college in Suffern. They did not believe in the beginning but I was liked by everyone and was such a caring worker that they had no choice. They were happy to have me.
This time I did not wash dishes. They asked me to prepare lettuce & tomatoes for use in the front for lunch sandwiches. I machine-sliced potatoes to make fried chips; it was given for free, in a 1/2lb container with an order of a panini sandwich. People loved these chips. Was discontinued later(took too much time for preparation- slicing, frying, putting in container), we heard complaints from many for months.
We had delicious sandwiches. On this image, you see wrap sandwiches, healthy sandwiches- low-sodium turkey, fat-free cheese, was served on a bed of mixed greens with fat-free balsamic vinaigrette dressing on a side. Jay always had something new in his mind. He was good at it.
We had this healthy choice for breakfast in the morning. You could have eggwhites with scallion or mixed veggies and fat free cheese on whole wheat bagel, whole wheat bread, whole wheat warp or any bread you like. Many customers concerned about calorie asked us to scoop out the bagel.
Egg Bagels you see above. Willy (from Egypt), a to-be-so-fun-around guy rolling it.
Rolled bagels needed to be kept out covered with plastic for hours before storing them in the cooler. We served hand rolled, kettle boiled, oven cooked bagels. People loved it.
You know I was working in the kitchen preparing vegetables and cream cheese etc. One day Carmen- this lady working in the front, asked me, “You speak good English. Why don’t you work in the front with us?”
I had never taken an order before. Didn’t know about cheeses. Didn’t know about dressings. Didn’t know how to use register. I was nervous.
A tough journey I made but everyone was so helpful that I made it and a time such came, I was on top of things. I remember great help offered to me by Carmen, Fernando, Leslie, Dave and Melina.
We worked like a family.
Dave(on the right) happens to be one of the most smart friends I ever had. There was nothing that this guy did not know about you and he was a player. Rob (on the left) was funny. I always said he was lazy but now only remember of being a nice guy. Johny almost hit when he found out about the note I wrote to Jay asking his dismissal. Oh, it was embarrassing.
Leslie was the lox guy. He cut it so nicely, no one could get close to him. He supported me a lot. I remember the times I have spent with him in the Deli, at the apartment- fixing his computer, sharing Heineken. Leslie, if you see this post, I tell you again that I am much grateful for all your support. I hope you are in good health.
In the kitchen I worked with Elisabeth, Marleni, Maria, Pancho, Lupe, Silvy, Shara, Jose, and Pattrisha. Everyone of them so good at their job and always having fun. We had a huge kitchen.
Patrisha, the main cook; loved teasing her, after I moved to the front. When Willy made fun of her, I always supported her. She liked Dave, but he had a girlfriend. She always got tease around this matter. When there was nobody to make fun of her, she found ME. Hehe..
We used a lot of chicken for Grilled Chicken, Fried Chicken Cutlet, Chicken Noodle Soup. We also served hot item for lunch like Chicken Marsala, Chicken Teriyaki, Chicken Cacciatore etc.
People liked freshly oven cooked Bacon.
Alfonso known-more-as Pancho used to sing beautifully Mexican songs. A nice guy he was.
Large electric grill we had in the kitchen.
About six people worked in the kitchen and same number in the front.
There was a small section all the way up front for sitting.
It used to be filled with customers during breakfast and lunch time.
Most times I started early in the morning, cup of coffee and bagel around 7.30am. Breakfast, fried eggs or peanut butter and jelly on 8 Grain bagel around 11am. Around 2.30pm we had lunch. Home before half-past four.
In this Deli I got to meet this wonderful lady full of love. We fought often, She was so beautiful and I liked her so much that I always made things tough for her. What a way to show love..
But she always cared about me. Always told me “Behave good.” I was a brat those days. Melina, I have learned from you how to care someone, how to have love for people, unconditionally. I miss you. Thank you very much for being there, being amazing, being wonderful, simply.
(I composed it instantly, that’s how I usually do. No revision, oh I am lazy. Why do I even write? This post covers about 20% of the story. Hope I get chance to bring out the whole thing. I want to write about Joe, Lori, Carmen, Sylvia, Sara, Fernando, Eric, Elisabeth….. so many sweet memories. Thank you all!!)