Chef John Malik

a writer trapped in a cook's body

A Doughnuts for Amy excerpt on Charles Dickens’ Birthday

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“Nick?”

“Yes ma’am?”

“Do you have any news for us?”

“Well, I’m concerned about Colonel Armstrong.  I don’t think he is eating much of anything these days.  Coffee in the morning and his meals often come back just barely eaten, although he claims that everything is fine.”

“Nick would you like me to pay a visit to Mr. Armstrong?  Maybe just a courtesy call and see if I can get anything out of him?”

“Yes, please Penny, would you?  Other than that, Miss Sommers, I think we’re good in hospitality.  We’re putting the finishing touches on our Memorial Day picnic, the staff has for the most part come to terms with the takeover, and Mr. Torres is getting the job done.  The Dodger called out today, so I guess I am cooking today.”  Grant offered Nick a puzzled look.  “Who’s the Dodger, Chef?”

“Bobby Dodge, one of my lunch guys.  He’s a really good cook, but he struggles with multiple bouts of the brown-bottle flu and can’t seem to find the maturity he needs to succeed in life.  He likes wearing a Dodgers ball cap, but I started calling him Dodger after that character in Dickens’ Oliver Twist, the artful Dodger.  You know, the one that was always dodging the authorities, the 12-year-old orphan that ran this children’s underworld crime ring.  You remember, right?”

“Oh, I remember trying to read Oliver Twist in high school, Nick.”

“Of course, Miss Sommers.  Oliver Twist’s theme was social repression and the problems created by an unjust society.  Dickens created the Dodger to lend an aura of authenticity to that novel.  See, Dodger spoke in this carefully researched street dialect and …” Nick realized that he was getting blank stares from most of the room.  “Um, well, it’s not that important.”

“Nick, let’s make sure we are tracking his absences, please.”

“Yes ma’am, of course.”

“OK, thank you, Nick.  Good news people, we’re getting a bus.  Harriett has purchased a 15-passenger bus for us that will be arriving next week, and the corporate folks are going to put a unique wrap on it … maybe our logo or something similar.  Cassidy, there’s no need for you or any of the drivers to get a commercial license.  This will be a white Ford with a wheel chair lift, an automatic, and it doesn’t have air brakes.  I believe the wrap will be done by someone in Atlanta, so we should see the bus by the end of next week.”

“Amy, who is deciding logo placement?” asked Jeanine.

“I think that either Harriett or Rivers will, but I’m not sure.  I do know that the IT guys called and asked me if we had some stock photos they could look at, but other than that, all I know is we’re getting a bus.  That means we won’t have to rent anymore, which will be great for the members.  Cassidy, I want you and Franklin to go to the Verandas in Columbia next week.  They have the same bus, and I want you to be familiar with this vehicle before it arrives so you can give the other drivers tips the day it arrives.  Will you please make that happen?”

“Yes ma’am, that’s a great idea.”

“One last item, I’m going to host an all-staff meeting and since we have three shifts and so many employees, I want to have three separate meetings for each shift, maybe four.  Here’s what I’m thinking.  In two weeks on Wednesday, we have a 7 a.m. and a 2 p.m. meeting.  The following Thursday, we have a 3 p.m. and a 10 p.m.  Our ballroom is open those days.  The meetings should last about 30 minutes or so but I think with this schedule, everyone should be able to make the meeting.  And last thing, I would like my department heads at all four meetings.  Each of you will have five minutes for any topic you believe should be brought to the staff’s attention.  I will want to approve your topic at least five days prior, which should give you time to make any adjustments.  Any questions?”

Daniel Stern spoke up first.  “Did ya say we gotta go to all four them meetins, Miss Sommers?”

“That’s correct, Daniel.  Each one of you will have five minutes to go over anything that you would like to convey to the entire staff, understand?”

“Yes, Miss Sommers, I understand.”

“Thank you, Nick.”

Daniel looked down at his notebook and shook his head.  “If there are no further questions, then that’s a wrap.  Have a great day everyone.”   Nick gathered up his clipboard and folder then held the door for everyone as they left.  Amy was the last one to leave and as she was leaving, she caught Nick’s eye. “Nick, I remember trying to read Oliver Twist when I was in high school lit, but it sounds like you were one of those guys that set the curve in English class.  You must read a lot?”

“I actually have a degree in English Lit, Miss Sommers, from Louisiana State in Baton Rouge.”

“You have a degree in literature, Nick?  I never would have guessed.”

“Come on, Miss Sommers, I’ll walk with you.  May I carry something for you?”

“That’s very kind.  Would you mind holding my purse for me?”  Amy held out her red and gold Marc Jacobs purse.  Nick hesitated.  Amy grinned, then handed him her black leather laptop bag.  “That was a close call, boss.  I almost took you up on that one.”

“Oh, I seriously doubt you would have carried my purse, Nick.”

“Well, I guess we won’t know, will we?”

“So you’re from Louisiana?”

“Yes ma’am, from Hammond.  It’s a small town on the north side of Lake Ponchartrain, maybe 60 miles from New Orleans.”

“And have you always cooked?”

“Well growing up in south Louisiana … sure, everyone cooks.”  They reached the elevator and Amy stopped and hit the call button.  “Miss Sommers, if we take the stairs you may have a bit more time to pry some more information out of me.”  Amy looked at Nick, glanced at the glowing red call button then turned back to Nick.  “Ok Nick, we’ll take the stairs, but what I meant was have you always been in the restaurant business?”

“I guess so.  In high school, I started washing dishes at the Jacmel Inn, the only nice restaurant in Hammond.  Then I bussed tables and one night, the salad guy didn’t show up.  Chef Harry threw me on salads and I never looked back.”  They reached the bottom of the staircase and Nick had to resist the urge to bolt up the stairs two at a time.  He let Amy take the first step up then matched her stride.  “So, what made you major in literature?  I would have guessed you have a degree in business.”  Damn, this woman moves so slow he thought.  “My Dad was an oil engineer, he worked offshore a lot and, uh, he wasn’t around much.  My Mom was a school teacher, and I guess she was more of an influence on me.  I suppose there was a time when I thought I would teach, but I had restaurant jobs during my college years and I really loved it.  So did my Mom, because I cooked a lot at home.  She was very proud of me when we opened the Tavern.  How about you, Miss Sommers?  Always been a nurse?”

“Honestly, it was something I dreamed about when I was a little girl.  Whenever we played dress up, I was always the nurse.”  They reached the top and turned towards the office suite.

“When the boys in your neighborhood played army, did you ever join them so you could be the nurse and bandage their pretend wounds?”

Oh my gosh!  Yes I did, Nick,” she said sheepishly.  “So how long did you have the restaurant, Nick?”  He opened the door to the suite of offices that Amy shared with Jessica and the sales team.  “Eight years.  Listen Miss Sommers, I really need to get going.  Do you mind if I just drop your bag on this table?”

“Oh yes, that’s fine, Nick.  Thank you very much.”  Nick turned and headed out.  “You’re welcome, Miss Sommers.”

“And please call me Amy,” she called, but he was already on the other side of the threshold and the door was closing.

Author: ChefJohn

Cook without tattoo, writer without a pen

One Comment

  1. Sweet excerpt. I have to send this to a friend who is on a quest for books with characters named Penny. Looking forward to reading the entire book.

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