** Update 11/29/2010 ** I was informed by the author Kenneth Suna that a portion of the proceeds of this book will be donated to the Washington D.C., Capital Area Food Bank http://www.capitalareafoodbank.org/
** Full Disclosure ** the Author, Kenneth Suna asked me to review his book and sent me a copy of it, (Thanks Ken) Just thought you should know, now on to the review.
Many times we walk into a restaurant, sit down, order, eat and leave without having any inkling about the drama that goes on behind the scenes. If you have ever wanted to peek around the corner and find out what happens in your favorite restaurant this is your book.
“It’s A Miracle…” is a fast read at 129 pages. I finished it in less than 2 ½ hours while traveling. Part of that speed though is Kenneth’s skill in story telling. Pulling me in to his day to day at the Texas Cafe as an expediter, he tells a roughly chronological story of his time in the restaurant industry.
(An Expediter, is someone who puts the finishing touches on the food before it goes out to customers)
A restaurant is never a dull place to be and the Texas Cafe is no different. With a great mix of staff and regular customers the Cafe seems to be a great place to work. However Ken details about the encroachment of the vermin. Yes, there are rats, and roaches but the biggest vermin seem to be the management that impede “service with a smile”.
I particularly like how Ken shows his coworkers. There is a human quality to them that shines through the pain, drugs, alcoholic binges to exhibit love, camaraderie, and teamwork. The staff does this under great pressure and duress that is fueled by the management in the Cafe. If this book was a novel the managers would be the villains. As each manager is listed in turn, the fortunes of the Texas Cafe limp downward. De-constructing a viable restaurant and making it a special kind of hell for its employees seems to go hand in hand throughout the book.
Working in a restaurant requires passion. Many times the pay isn’t great, the work conditions are deplorable, but the love for creating food drives people on. It’s A Miracle They Ain’t Dead Yet, knocks the walls down and exposes what it takes to make a go in this demanding field. Unfortunately working in adversarial conditions day after day eventually grinds people down.
There are some funny parts as well in the book. Detailing one exchange between a customer and Ken about how much a halibut weighs. The answer from the chef, “Tell these morons they’re eating the largest halibut that I’ve ever seen. Tell them it weighed six hundred and fifty pounds. The fish was named Anthony. He had a wife two kids and a dog.”
This book is more than a bunch of anecdotes however. It is an account and journal of what makes a restaurant tick. It is a tribute to the working masses that behind closed doors, churn out mounds of food for the hungry in us all.
The food industry pulls people together through blood, sweat, and adversity. Ken is no longer in the restaurant industry and that makes me sad that I lost this brother in arms.
I very much enjoyed reading his book and I hope that he continues to produce great books like this in the future.
Spend the scratch, get the book and join the club, you’ll be glad that you did and you too will be saying, “It’s A Miracle They Ain’t Dead Yet”