Serving 165 people is usually a good, rollicking night for us. Serving 165 people when we don't have power is something entirely different.
Years ago, lengthy power outages in our area were commonplace. At least two or three times per year, we would be without power for a minimum of a day or so. When I cooked my audition meal for the place that brought me up here, we had a power outage. When the GM and I were trying to shake the dust of this place off our heels, power was out. After PG&E was hit with hefty fines for poor maintenance of equipment and lines however, the outages stopped coming with such frequency, and in recent years have lasted merely hours.
When the juice went off about 2am Wednesday and didn't go on in a couple of hours. I knew we were in trouble. The wind had been howling all night. Later I heard reports of 60mph. I thought of the massive meat order we had received in preparation for New Year's Eve.
In times like these, I'm glad for small-town life. My father-in-law brought me a small generator to power the reach-ins on the line. My contractor neighbor brought me 2 generators, one powering some lights in the kitchen, one sort of powering the walk-in. We pulled out more candles and flashlights, I built the first fire we've had at home for two or three years and stopped by the local radio station so they could announce that we'd open at 2pm to serve a late lunch.
Our years of training people that we are open for dinner only has worked. We did only a few tables between 2-5. It was just nice to have a place for our staff to congregate and be with other people, doing something, rather than sitting their cold and powerless homes.
We worked on a limited menu, focusing on the more perishable items and on preparations that produced less smoke. No grilling. We managed to serve most of the items on our menu. And serve we did. It was chaotic, our weakest waiter was somehow in the most difficult section but everyone pulled through, albeit roughly.
I stayed until 2am to help the dishwasher. We switched the power from the walk-in to the dish machine nearing the end of service so we could attack the mountain of plates, cups, scorched pans, butter ramekins and flatware that was piled up. I gassed up the generator and left, after hearing reports from PG&E that they expected power to be restored between 7-9pm the following day.
The whine of an external hard drive woke me up. Glorious day, we had lights. I hustled down to the restaurant and met Mr Buttcrack, the fridge mechanic who had wired up the generator to our panel. We got everything back onto PG&E's grid and I assessed the damage. Not too bad. The only thing we had to toss was some pork skin in the freezer and two small slabs of curing pork belly.
We gave our staff ample rewards for giving their very best. All that cultivating of a family atmosphere and supportive work environment paid off. Everyone who was on the schedule showed, save one busser who had a plausible excuse about being stuck behind downed trees, and people who weren't on the schedule came to lend a hand, including one former waiter who is back working with us during her school break of 5 weeks.
Our outlying areas were still without power last night. I haven't yet checked reports. We had a birthday table last night, linger and linger. Knowing they were going home to a dark place helped us keep a good humor about staying later than we should. Well, that and that they are really good customers.
Two nights ago The Sardine crawled about 6 inches. And I thought the power outage was going to keep me running.