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Coolfish By:Chef Thomas G. Schaudel


The Hilarious List Goes On...

Barred From Drinking

A woman wants to book a shower at Cool Fish. The problem is she essentially wants it for free. How much is this, how much is that. Can't you do any better? (Where are we in Juarez?) After an hour of handling I'm exhausted. She settles on a basic party package, which is cool, but decides there will be no alcohol served, basically because you have to pay for it. OK, we were all looking forward to a nice dry shower. About a week before the party the phone calls started. With only seven days left until the party, she puts on a full court press to lower the price. How about cutting your staff a little, would that lower the price? What if we don't use waitresses and we serve ourselves, would that lower the price? What if we don't turn on the air conditioner, would that lower the price?
(I know what you all are thinking, but I couldn't possibly make this up.) We say three or four "No's" I really don't remember. The big day comes. The party is to start at 1:00. At 12:55 the woman arrives. She walks in the front door, points at the bar and screams three or four times "WHAT'S THAT, WHAT'S THAT, WHAT'S THAT?" "WHAT'S WHAT?" "WHAT'S THAT?" (I'm thinking there's an ax murderer here.) Finally we say, "WHAT'S WHAT?" She says "THAT." "You mean the bar?" "Yes, get it out of here. If my guests see it they will order a drink." OK let's say I can find a spot for those 427 bottles of liquor in the next 3 minutes, don't you think the big mirrors, the forty foot shelf and those 14 stools are a dead giveaway? "Cover them with tablecloths!" "You're kidding." "Do I look like I'm kidding?" "No actually you don't, that's the scary part." There we were covering the entire bar with tablecloths when one of the waiters asks the obvious question. "What the hell are you doing.?" "Covering the bar." "Why?" "The woman doesn't want her guests seeing the bar and I couldn't get a Hollywood set builder to fly out here on three minutes notice." "You mean the woman who's throwing the party?" "Yeah" "Hey chef, she just asked me for a glass of ginger ale." "So give it to her." The waiter is now hysterical."

No listen to me. She has a flask of booze in her pocketbook and wants it as a mixer. "I'm still in therapy."

One Hour Martinizing

I have a soft spot for seniors. I was lucky enough to have two sets of Hall of Fame Grandparents and I tend to think of seniors as my grandparents were kind, selfless, nurturing, being good at most things, most are. The one thing though that I've noticed in my 35 years in the restaurant business, that older people do not do well is martinis. A little background here for the uninitiated. Martinis are the express train to oblivion. The only reason they gave the drink a name is because you couldn't have a socialite, (strange job description, don't you think?) dripping in diamonds sporting a designer gown, asking a bartender for a glass of gin. How would it look? So they ask for a "Martini." Very civilized, very chic, very strong. A martini is what you want to order when you need to get the job done in the least amount
of time possible. Musing. Party of five arrives for dinner on a Sunday night. Mom, Dad, the two kids and grandma. The perfect nuclear family. "Any one care for a drink?" Grandma Says, "I think I'll have a martini." (Uh oh) She slams down the first one and orders another. Grandma drinks the second one before the appetizers arrive. From the reports I received, she got this real dreamy look on her face, which then turned to fear and out she went. Cold. On the floor. All hell breaks loose at the table. The parents are trying to deal with grandma, the kids are flipping out, the wait staff cramps up, and I'm informed there's a problem at table 23. No kidding. As I arrive grandma is on her back out cold and her son-in-law is trying to revive her. Her daughter says "There's something wrong with Mother." I'd say that's accurate. "Do Something." "Is she on medication?" No. "Has she had anything to drink?" "Two martinis." "When did she have them?" In the last three and a half minutes." "Was there a contest I wasn't aware of?" "Can't you do something?" I will do almost anything to help someone in trouble but you have to admit that giving mouth to mouth to a very old woman is a pretty large order. I figured that responsibility resided with the son-in-law. Kind of a bonding thing. Just as I was about to pronounce her dead, unofficially of course, the EMT's arrive. They revived her with some O2 and got her back to her chair. "Mom you shouldn't drink like that. That's dangerous. You could have hurt yourself." After everybody including the EMT's were done doing their "Dr. Phil" on this woman, she said to them, "Stop already I was just a little tired." Isn't that fabulous? That was the first time in my life I saw a person get totally hammered, passed out, got revived and ace an intervention all in twenty-three minutes. It has to be a record.

High Steaks

Well, it didn't take long. Opening night at Thom Thom, a man comes in by himself and sits down for dinner. The waitress takes his drink order and informs us that there's something a little strange about the guy. "I can't put my finger on it but he's a little strange." Great. The appetizer course passes without incident. He orders a Filet Mignon for his entrée. It goes to the table, he cut a 1/16" of the end and tells the waitress "This is not medium, I don't want it. It's too well done." She brings it back. "It's too well done." I cut it in half and it's perfect, and I mean a perfect, medium. I send it back out to show him that it's medium. "Nope, don't want it I want another steak." It's not worth the fight. "Put on another filet and make it medium rare." It goes out. It comes back with a 1/16" sliced off the end. "It's too well done." Now I decide we need a satellite cooking school opened near table 12. "Sir, it's a culinary impossibility to have your steak medium all the way out to the end. That's the part that sits on the grill. The medium part is inside. "Nope, Don't want it. I'm not going to only eat the inside of my steak, besides, it sucks! (Of course) The waitress says, "what do you want me to do?" "Unless you have a degree in forensic psychology, just take it off the bill." She does. Now he says to the waitress, "I didn't mean for you to take it off the check." I love that line. Heard it a
thousand times. Let me understand this. You ruin two perfectly good pieces of steak at a combined cost of $52, just so you could pay for them, leave hungry and tell your friends at the asylum what a great time you had at Thom Thom? Have I got this right? Just when I think it can't possibly get any more ridiculous, the
waitress comes to me and says, "check this out," There in the leather check holder where you place your credit card or cash for your bill was a gift certificate for $100 from the previous restaurant, and he wants his change in cash. Still think I could make this up?

10,000 Reasons to be Grateful

This actually happened about 18 years ago when I owned Panama Hatties, but it's too good not to include. I came to work early one morning and I was walking past one of the booths in the dining room, I spotted a brown paper bag in the corner of the booth seat. I'm thinking, these guys have to clean up better, I can't believe no one saw this, and as I picked it up I realized its pretty heavy. I look inside and to my total disbelief I see stacks of rubber banded $100 bills – $10,000 worth of $100 bills. Wow! (My prayers are answered) I'm thinking I have a very large down payment on a 1957 Fender Stratocaster. But you know, at some point you have to live with yourself. I understand the Michael Milkin thing. Steal a half billion dollars, pay $250,000,000 in fines do a year and a half in federal prison teaching economics, and when you get out you have $250, 000,000 left. That's doable. But to sell your character for $10,000–Nah. So we told some regular customers that we had found something of value and if they or anyone they new lost something of value and could describe it, that I would be happy (Did I say Happy?) to give it back. A woman came in one day later and says, excitedly "My friend lost a lot of money and someone said you found it" I explained that I found something and if her friend could describe it I would give it back. She said "Here's her number give her a call." I call and get the husband, "Hi, I heard your wife may have lost something in my restaurant and I'm trying to locate her." "Thank you I'll tell her to call you." "Thank you." Eighteen minutes later the woman comes roaring through the front door asking for Tom. "I'm Tom." She says "You Fu–king Asshole" I'm looking around the dining room for the asshole, but we're the only two in the room. Now I realized it's me. "What kind of a Fu–king asshole calls someone's husband and tells him she lost $10,000? Now he thinks I'm a moron." I know this woman a total of ninety seconds and I already have three "You fu–king assholes" under my belt, so I think I'm entitled to a little fun (Hey she started it) I said, "What are you thinking about? I found a watch." Dead Silence. "I thought you found my money." "We all make mistakes." That was the only time I enjoyed watching the blood drain from someone's face. "My husband's going to kill me." A good lawyer, a jury of his peers, temporary insanity, I think he's got a shot at beating it. " Look what I'm going to do. "(Tears)" "Ok" I said, I have your money, and I have to tell you I agree with your husband's conclusion on your intelligence. You're not only a moron, but you're very rude and the sworn enemy of common sense. But, "To be fair," I said, "As I'm giving you back this money I'm beginning to believe you're right about me being a total Fu–king asshole." I gave her the money she thanked me (What ever) and turned to leave. She walked to the door, fumbled in her pocketbook, turned around with a $20 bill in her hand and said, "Here this is for you." I said, "As tempting as that twenty is why don't you keep it and apply it towards charm school.


Remember that soft spot for seniors thing? I'm over it. A party of four women arrive at Starfish on a Saturday night at 8:00, done up hair, clothes, makeup, they look great. The two daughters were twenty something, mom's in her fifties, and grandma was between seventy five and one hundred and twelve depending upon the plastic surgery. "Table for four please." The hostess explains that it will be about an hour wait for a four. That's ridiculous, were not waiting an hour to eat here. There are plenty of restaurants we can go to. (On Saturday night no reservation?) We explain, "Ok it's not personal for us, good luck come back another time. "Grandma, I don't think so." Out the door they go, but before they get to the parking lot there's a conference, they return. "We'll wait for a table. Could you see about seating us more quickly." I know where this is going. We explain, "We don't want to get off on the wrong foot here, it probably won't happen so if you're not happy with waiting an hour, we should probably do this another time. "No, we'll wait." "Great." Eleven minutes later grandma comes to the hostess station and says, "We have been waiting for an hour, where's our table." Now we're hysterical, but we're trying to hold it in. Surprise laughter is the best. We recover momentarily and explain, "Come on now your fibbing you haven't been here an hour. We're going to seat you as soon as we can. It's very busy, try to be patient a little while longer. (Why do we use a patronizing tone to older people like we do to babies") Anyway grandma's
having none of it." "You're not going to seat us now?" We explain (Again in baby talk), "As soon as we have an open table we will get you right down. "Grandma says" "Were leaving!" and proceeds to stick up her middle finger two inches from the hostess nose. Yup, flipped her the bird right there at the podium. I didn't actually see the offending finger because it happened so fast, and I don't think it was the emotion that bothered the hostess. It was the finger itself. They tell me it was rather stumpy in an arthritic kind of way, withered with bumpy knuckles, a yellow nail from years of oxygen starving polish and garnished with a thick black hair coming out of the center of a mole. You could probably hear someone giving a finger like that. As the finger was being described to me, I was as close to wetting my pants as I had been in more years than I care to recount. The humor was short lived, though, after I realized what that finger was capable of doing to my sleep after eating pizza late at night. So now Grandma wheels around and goes out the door. The two daughters follow, embarrassed, and the mother passes the hostess' desk, looks straight up in the air, rolls her eyes and says, "She does this everywhere." Does it get any better than that?

Drugs, Ya Gotta Luv 'Em

My ex-wife is one of my best friends and works for me part time to help me out with hostessing duties. She's patient, friendly, kind, and has a great sense of humor. (She needed one to be married to me). Therefore, a great hostess personality. Or so you would think. A party of four is informed there will be a thirty–five minute wait for a table at Starfish one night.
One of the men is very "antsy" and keeps coming over to Diane at the podium. "Is it ready, is it ready, is it ready?" The table directly behind the hostess desk becomes available (it's not the most private table, admittedly) and Diane brings the people over there. The "antsy" guy –
"This is UNACCEPTABLE!" Diane says, "OK. It's just that I thought you were in a hurry and I was trying to help out, "Antsy", "SORRY, UNACCEPTABLE." "I'll let you know when another table is ready. "FINE!" Five minutes later the table behind the first one becomes available. Diane brings the people over and they sit and seem somewhat happy. "Antsy" says, "I'm sorry I yelled at you. It's just that I'm taking medication and I'm hungry." Diane, "That's O.K. Enjoy your meal. I'll be back to check on you later." Diane returns to the table and says, "Is everything O.K. here?" "Antsy" grabs her and squeezing a little harder than you should says, "You get away from me! You call yourself a Hostess? Get away from this table! GET AWAY RIGHT NOW OR I'M NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT I'M ABOUT TO DO!" (I know how he feels. She is my ex) Diane, totally at a loss for words, walks back to the hostess desk and now she's mad. The manager goes to the table to try to calm the guy down. "Keep her away from this table. I'm not responsible for what I'm about to do. She's no hostess. I'm on medication." That was the one part we were fairly sure was true. It just didn't seem like it was the right prescription. On the way out, he said something to Diane. She said something off color about his mother and they had to be separated again. It was like Ali and Frasier after the bell. "Hey Di, looks like you just met your future ex–husband." Then we all just lost it.

Currying Favor

One night at Starfish a woman orders mussels with thai red curry broth as an appetizer. She's not happy. What's the problem? "This isn't the same red curry broth that I had the last time. Did the chef change the recipe?" "Hold on, I'll check." The waitress asks Dan, the chef, if the receipe was changed. He said "No. It's always been the same." (Editors note: I've been using this broth so long that I have dishwashers who can't read the recipe that know it by heart. So we know Dan knows it.) The lady says it's not the same as last time. "It's the same broth." Now the manager Ann, goes to the table and assures the woman that it's the same broth as last time but if she's not happy and would like something else, she would be happy to get it for her. "No, I want the mussels with the same broth as last time. You people are lying to me. I know what probably happened. It's Sunday and you probably ran out of broth on Saturday and the chef was too lazy to make it, so he probably bought some in the supermarket on his way to work. (This is getting to be like a Kennedy assassination theory. Magic bullet, anyone?) Ann goes back to the kitchen. "Dan, are you sure it's the same?" Dan (annoyed), "I've made 5000 gallons of the stuff. It's the same." Ann, to the woman, "Maybe you were mistaken about what you had, could it have been a nightly special or something like that?" "What do you think? You think I'm crazy (first time the word came up and we didn't say it. Ya think?) "That woman over there has the mussels. Let me taste hers." (I'm not kidding) "I'm sure she wouldn't mind at all, but could we keep this between us?" "Oh sure, you don't want anyone else to know that you're a bunch of liars and you serve supermarket food." This is getting good, right? Now she gets up, goes to the kitchen window and asks for Dan. "Hi, I'm Dan." She says, "You're a liar and you serve bottled thai red curry broth with basil, sesame and lime." Ever seen that at Shop-Rite? I didn't think so. Now she proceeds to tell Dan and Ann that she's a food critic (for Ladies Bad Behavior Journal) and she is going to write a column telling everyone that again, we're liars and serve supermarket food. My manager calls me and asks what to do. Since I have more experience with crazies than Hannibel Lechter's attending shrink, I know exactly what to do. "Tell her that you called me and I said to fire Danny effective immediately." Ann, "You're firing Danny?" "No, tell her I said that even though Danny is a decent family man, an exemplary employee, and a fine chef, I will not tolerate anyone lying about the fact that we use supermarket thai red curry broth with basil and lime, ever, I guarantee you she will be happy." Ann tells her, she's thrilled. "At least Tom had the courage to admit that I was right. Now I'll
come back and give you another chance. Can't wait. Heh, heh, heh.


Check this out. A couple comes to Coolfish one night, sits down at the bar and orders cocktails. The bartender asks if they will be eating dinner with us tonight. They said that they were, but they were going to wait awhile and enjoy their drinks. Cool. About an hour and a couple of drinks latter they are ready to be seated. The hostess seats them in the bar dining area and gives them menus. They order another round of drinks but are not ready to order yet. Then the man disappears. Vanished. Gone. He was gone about twenty minutes when we realized something was wrong. He wasn't in the bathroom, he wasn't outside smoking, he was gone. We assumed they had a fight and he left. Hey, it happens. She's sitting there alone, he's gone, and we're wondering what to do. Then, about a half hour later he returns, (get this) with an entire take-out dinner for two from an Italian restaurant, complete from rolls to tirimisu. He removes all the stuff from the bag and the two of them dive into the food like they're going to the electric chair. I swear, I'm not kidding. (I find myself saying that a lot lately). So now the two of them are eating an Italian take out meal in my restaurant, with my silverware, on my table, using my napkins, and the man says to the waiter, "Can we please get some water here?" Everyone is completely dumfounded. At this point
we are all laughing uncontrollably saying things like "Can you believe this?" It's a surreal moment. You're watching something, and you see it, but your mind just doesn't compute. The wait staff, "Should we throw them out?" Me, "Nah, this is too rich to miss." So we let them
finish. The man, completely dismissing the fact that he's a freak, asks the waiter for the check. Believe this? The waiter brings the check for the two drinks ordered at the table. Nineteen dollars and fifty three cents. Cheap date, right? Oh, by the way, fifteen percent of nineteen dollars and fifty three cents is two dollars and ninety two cents. Thanks for coming in.

Nine and a Half Weeks

Table number eight is definitely a power table. Coolfish, back left side corner. If you're feeling romantic, that's the table. A young couple, very much in love, as I was to discover later, was camped at #8. They were having dinner on a reasonably busy week night, and as the night was winding down the wait staff was beginning to clean up. There were a few tables left in both dining rooms but most of the other diners had gone by 10:00. That's when we first noticed it. It started with a peck on the cheek followed by a smooch. Followed by a kiss, followed by the super bowl of tonsil hockey. Hole Lee shit! These two are going at it like they're at the Commack Motor Inn. I gotta tell ya, sex, unless you're one of the players involved, looks ridiculous. So we're trying not to watch and laugh, but, you know, it's kinda hard. These two are carrying on in the back of the restaurant for about an hour. Not a care in the world and no thought about who could be watching. By this time, we are growing impatient because we want to close the dining room, but the make-out is so intense that no one is willing to go and tell them to leave. We wait, talking at the bar. I look back fully expecting clothes to be flying off and there's no one at the table. The busboys are just about to go in and clean up and I see an ankle flying up in the air from the banquet behind the table. Then another ankle, a foot, and a Manolo Blahnik. Uh oh. On one hand I'm totally impressed because there isn't much room back there. On the other and it needs to stop before it gets totally out of hand. Now, I don't know if this fits a Bill Clinton definition of sex, because everyone still had their clothes on, but Mickey Rourke would have been proud. Instead of ice water, an idea that was already on the table, we threw the lights all the way up. Thank God one of them noticed. They sat up, straightened out and said (at 12:30), two and a half hours after the kitchen closed, "are you closing?" I wonder if they had the oysters?

Is This On the Level?

We have two levels in our dining room at Coolfish. The left side is at "Street Level", the right side is one step up. I can't tell you how many times people have tripped up or down on that step. If I could remove it I would, but it's impossible. Not that they haven't given it their best efforts, but thankfully no one has hurt themselves. There are times when it looks like an audition for Chevy Chase doing Gerald Ford. We have, by law, a light on the step. We also have had at various times, reflector tape, a hand rail, sign and a wait person saying, "Watch your step." It simply doesn't matter. So now I just wait patiently for someone to kill themselves so I can finally retire. Here we go. A middle aged couple is being lead to their table in, of course, the right side dining room. "Watch your step." The woman is leading the way. Bang. Her instep hits the step, ignoring all the warnings. She is launched forward about 2 1/2 to 3 feet in the air. She had a look on her face that indicated that she knew she had blown it. I'm not up on
gymnastic lingo so I can't really tell you if it was a front summi with a double lutz or a figure eight with a half gainer, but I'm telling you it was the most fabulous dilger I ever saw. Her feet were actually above her head when she landed. Try it. It ain't easy. If she had only pointed her toes she gets a 10 from the Russian judge. O.K. She hits the deck arms flailing, bouncing, screaming. Her husband comes running over, bends down and looks to make sure the light is on. His wife is thinking wheelchair, he's thinking lawsuit. I'm standing right behind him when he looks up and I said, "It's on. Too bad, huh?"

Once again I find myself thanking my friends Morris and Rosalie Sendor for allowing me this magazine space. Great magazine, right? You guys are the best. Thanks for the patience. Oh, hey, get this. I was in a very toney restaurant one night having a glass of wine at the bar. The manager came over and says, "Hey, Tom, you wont believe this. A woman just sent her dinner back saying it wasn't how it was described to her, which was true, by the way. She said she was sorry to send it back and felt funny about it. She asked the manager if he would quietly take her shrimp back because that crazy chef who writes those articles is in the bar and "I don't want to wind up in the magazine." "Maybe we got em thinking?

Fresh Herbs, Tom



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