Diary of A Restaurant – Ch. 14: Segar ArrivesOct 29, 2020
A Story Written By Kevin Gallagher
Segar’s arrival the next day was like a homecoming. Beaming, Rajah made introductions and toured him through the restaurant. When they reached the dishroom, he began a brisk demonstration of the job for Segar. He set to work with a serious expression outlining each task, but his excitement was clear and his face broke into a broad smile when he turned to his handsome son.
We wondered how much Segar was absorbing, jet-lagged from his flight from India the day before, and not a little dazed at being thrust into this strange new environment, but Rajah was confident. When he had finished the tour, he got changed, waved a cheery goodbye, got on his bicycle and went home. We were reassured by the fact that Ravi was prepping at the back of the kitchen and able to answer Segar’s questions calmly and point out efficiencies.
From time to time throughout the late afternoon, compact low-riding cars blasting South Asian music would pull up at the back door and friends or cousins of Segar would spill out and into the kitchen for a quick visit and a hug. Many of them we knew because they were part of Rajah’s stand-in crew, and if a waiter dropped off dirty dishes while they chatted, any one of them was likely to rack them up and slide them into the dishwasher. As a result the dishes and cleanup were done in record time and Segar whisked away for further celebration.
No one was more excited to see Segar than Ravi. Cousins and best of friends, they became inseparable. They laughed and talked as they worked; Segar would help Ravi with the prep and in turn Ravi when he was free would slip into the dishroom to give Segar a hand. With Ravi and Vera, his brother-in-law, as guides and his own spirit and drive, he was soon confidently navigating the restaurant and the city.
A few days after Segar started, Donna celebrated a birthday. Anne thought we should celebrate with some bubbly after work. “I think she needs cheering up. Haven’t you noticed she’s been singing that Marianne Faithful song – “At the age of thirty-seven, she realized she’d never ride through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair.”
“Yeah, but we play it all the time.”
“I think it’s more than that; she seems a little down.” said Anne
“Well, I did accidently mention the Sherman wedding this morning.”
The mention of a stressful catering event from the past was always sure to deflate Donna’s persistent optimism.
“Was that the one where the nagging mother of the bride had her threatening to take a bath in a bus pan on the dining room table?”
“Yes, and she might have if Judi hadn’t shown up to support her.”
I had been out of touch, catering another small, interminable luncheon. So our friend Judi, who was managing Hernando’s Hideaway, that Tex-Mex restaurant on Yonge Street, had in answer to a distress call from Donna, left work early to support her.
“Ah, yes let’s do it; for that memory alone she deserves a celebration.”
Two thirds of the staff showed up with bottles, so there was ample to keep us toasting well into the early hours. Looking at Segar, delicately holding a champagne flute between his thumb and forefingers and weaving slightly, I thought,
-Doesn’t he have school in the morning? Is he old enough to be drinking?
A few weeks later, we hosted the wedding reception of our good friends Kathryn and Brian. When dinner service was finished, the kitchen staff was graciously invited to join what was now quite an exuberant celebration, and Segar was in the centre of it all, dancing and singing. Sashaying up to the bride, he kissed her on the cheek and exclaimed, “I love this country!”
“Do you think he’s going to think this is normal for the restaurant business?” asked Donna, “because he’s in for a big surprise!”
Segar was going to school full time and working five shifts a week at the restaurant but he never showed a sign of fatigue nor did his enthusiasm wane. Both he and Ravi were always keen to help with even the most tedious tasks around the kitchen, anxious and delighted to learn. You could see what a pleasure it was for Donna and Anne to have such engaged apprentices, when they were so often in the position of having to motivate staff to do the job. And if the boys became too boisterous, Vera with his focused and serious demeanor, calmed them down.
There was no doubt that having Segar around seemed to give Ravi’s confidence a huge boost, so it wasn’t really surprising when he caught Anne one afternoon, just as she was getting ready to leave for the day.
“Anne, can I make a soup tonight?”
Anne had to laugh. We all knew the story of her applying for her first cooking position at the By the Way Cafe. The owner had waved away her proffered resume.
“Just make me a soup” he said,
“What kind of soup?”
“Any kind. Anything you need, let me know. I’ll make sure you have it.”
Anne made the soup and got the job.
“Okay Ravi make me a soup. Maybe we’ll serve it for lunch tomorrow.”