Welcome back to Restaurant Confessionals, where we talk to the unheard voices of the restaurant industry from both the front- and back-of-house about what really goes on behind the scenes at your favourite establishments. Today we hear from an LA caterer on the front line.
For three years, I was a waiter and caterer at one of the trendiest hotels and restaurants in Los Angeles. There was never a dull moment.
For one thing, we're a dog-friendly hotel and a lot of people, especially celebrities, bring their dog. This was a place with really nice antique furniture and the dogs were always sitting on the furniture and at the table. There are a lot of dogs walking around and sometimes they fight and you have to separate them into different tables. A certain celebrity's dog bit one of the servers in the ankle and it was bad. He had to go to the hospital.
You take their order, and then you're just like, "OK, what does your dog want?" And they'll be like, "He'll have a side of steak, medium rare." You're like, "Do you want the prime rib or do you want the Kobe beef?"
I remember when I first started, there was this woman who ordered a side of chicken for the dog and was very specific about the way it needed to be cooked and how much seasoning to use, and I was like, "Oh my god. The chefs are going to kill me," because we don't do a ton of modifications. But they weren't fazed at all. They were like, "No problem. She comes here all the time. It's Rover." From that point on it became completely normal.
After awhile, you just take their order and then you're just like, 'OK, what does your dog want?' And they'll be like, "He'll have a side of steak, medium rare." You're like, "Do you want the prime rib or do you want the kobe beef?" And usually they get some sort of side greens or carrots—sautéed spinach or something. For breakfast the dogs will have waffles. This is literally all the time.
Most people wanted bottled water, Evian or Acqua Panna, for their dogs. This one guy wanted ice cubes in the dogs water, but he didn't want our ice from the hotel. He wanted special ice that was purified.
Working there was fun, but it was also kind of sad. There were a lot of celebrities looking to be seen and looking to stay relevant, and there was a lot of desperation. There were also a lot of drugs—a lot of drugs. People would be doing lines of coke on the table. I'd get tipped in weed. Often.
I got tipped in cocaine too, but I always gave it away because I don't really like cocaine. But I did coke deals all the time. The best—for lack of a better term— was at this really big party, and this major celebrity had been asking all the caterers for coke. On one hand, this was the last thing we needed. But on the other hand, we have a certain obligation for taking care of the clients and also for keeping our reputation for being able to party.
Our host got punched in the throat, and our bellman was choked. People get nuts if they can't get in or they can't get their way.
So I made a phone call and told this guy I'd come find him when I got it. He proceeded to follow me around for 45 minutes. Finally I got it and I gave it to him, and two seconds later I see him go into the bathroom with this young girl—and he's a married man. On the way out, he comes out and smacks me so fucking hard on the ass—it was so degrading and disgusting, and I was so pissed—and he was like, "This is for your troubles," and hands me a bag of coke.
I gave the bag to one of the other caterers, and the guy comes back like an hour later and he's like, "I need that back," and I told him I didn't have it. He kept arguing with me, so I went up to his friend (another major Hollywood celebrity) and was like, "Hey man, I think your friend needs to go home," because at that point he was so disheveled that I was afraid that he was actually going to die, so they put him in a cab and sent him home.
The people that were particularly terrible weren't the celebrities, but their entourage. We blacklisted A LOT of people. A lot of people go off on you and swear at you. Our host got punched in the throat, and our bellman was choked. People get nuts if they can't get in or they can't get their way. A lot of celebrities would walk out on their bills and then we wouldn't get tipped, and we'd have to figure out where the money is. We'd get screwed a lot.
It was like a movie scene. There were about 20 people, and they were all fucked up. They all thought they overdosed and were dying or having a heart attack. It just looked like a zombie apocalypse.
One of the funniest things that ever happened was at this 50-year-old's birthday party. These people came in from out of town and they all got their hands on some edibles—I can't remember if it was brownies or chocolates—and it's difficult to tell how much is in these things, and they obviously didn't know what they were doing. So they all started freaking out.
It was like a movie scene. There were about 20 people, and they were ALL fucked up. They all thought they overdosed and were dying or having a heart attack. It just looked like a zombie apocalypse. And they had the most expensive flowers, and beautiful dishware, tons of food that they didn't eat because they couldn't. It was just such an amazing scene.
They were panicking on the floor, people were rocking back and forth, throwing up. Literally two were in the bushes throwing up, one was in the corner in the trash can, one was in the foetal position, one was crying, and we literally had to call an ambulance because they thought they were dying.
It was hilarious, but it was a fucking disaster, and the whole hotel found out about it. The paramedics were really annoyed they had to be there. They were like, "You're not dying. You're not having a heart attack. You're just high."
Every night was something new. I could go on for days about the stories from that place. It's fun to look back on, but I'm so glad I don't work there anymore.
As told to Brad Cohen