RAPA NUI Pt 1 – I GET THE NOD

My second BBQ landed me, literally, on to Easter Island.

So after the filming for Axe Murderer ended I, again, found myself at loose ends. It had been exciting working on a movie crew and I had met some very lovely people but, the real world beckoned. I picked up the newspaper and began searching for a job, a real job. You see, the real reason that I went to culinary school, other than to impress chicks, was merely to increase my knowledge of food, wine and cooking. All of these I achieved. Prior to my enrollment and subsequent ceremonious graduation, I was a manager at the Vintage House Restaurant in Orinda CA., a small little post rural town that had grown up to be a community of comfortable earners. I started there as a bartender, learned how to wait tables, volunteered for the management training program and worked my way up to the position of General Manager. The world had become my oyster. Surely I had shucked enough of them by then.  All of this was fine and good. In my training, I spent almost a complete year working in all three of the owner’s kitchens improving my basic skill set. After which I began my managerial career with what is commonly referred to as: Working the floor.  Working the floor is somewhat like working a room. My job was to check in on all the guests, make sure the seating was organized, help the waiters if they got busy, but mostly it meant going in to the kitchen to help with the washing up.  The ‘Dish Pit’ as we call it, not the cooking line, is the place that can make or break a restaurant. Not on my watch, I said.

My 5 years with this company was wonderfully educational but the owner’s, and respect them I still do, were Steak House old school about their kitchens and cooking. The basic skills I learned there got me started but they possessed definite limits. What I needed was a proper education. So off to culinary school I went I to learn the difference between a ‘sachet’ and a ‘sashay.’ The plan was for this new knowledge was to propel me in my career as a fine dining restaurant manager. So upon completion of my studies, back on the job hunt was I. A quick thumb through my local rag and a potential position presented itself. It was a job, as a manager, in a corporate restaurant somewhere down in Danville.  From the first week, I realized that this was not a good fit but, I like to eat, so I stayed. With my previous experience, combined with my newly attained education, I quickly found myself chomping at the corporate bit. The plodding along, lockstep, in the too-well-worn company groove was breaking this stallion’s spirit. I was not happy, nor were my fellow managers with me. Something had to change.

Back to Axe Murderer for a moment. As an FYI, every movie crew has at least one or two different caterers on set at all times. Craft Services provides food and coffee all day long along with the proper caterer who provides at least two hot meals a day. Over the course of my film career, I have performed both tasks. On Axe Murderer, where I was Mike’s private chef, the owner of the catering company approached me one day to hand me his business card, just in case. (The only cell phones we had back then were the size of old military radios, and they definitely did not hold any contact information.) To this day I still do not know why I held on to his number.  I figured that my one movie would give me enough stories to tell my nieces and nephews for quite some time. But hold onto it I did, until that fateful day when I realized that the corporate way, was just not my way.  I dug out the smudged and creased card from my cigar box of things and placed a call. Tom Morales was not in, so I left a message.

The following day I received a call back from Memphis Tennessee. It was Tom, of TomKats Catering. (Tom’s wife is named Kathy, hence: TomKats.) Now I would like you to read the following line with a rich Southern accent.

“Tom,” he said to me, “I don’t know why you called me, but I need a chef down on Easter Island next week!”

Most people ask me, “How can I get into Hollywood?”

Answer, mostly: Right place, right time.  And a safely kept business card in the bottom of your cigar box.  Now this is the point in the story where it really begins to take off.  But I will save that part for tomorrow.

Until Tomorrow,

Tommy Judt

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