A 27-year-old McDonald's employee in Pennsylvania was singing the old Burger King theme song last week: She wanted it her way. And she's going to sue to make her point.
Philly.com reported yesterday that Natalie Gunshannon was expecting to get a paycheck after working at a McDonald's in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania from April 24 through May 15. "When she received her first paycheck," the philly.com story says, "enclosed was a Chase Bank debit card with instructions on how to use it and the fees attached.
"Her future earnings would be deposited into the debit card account and she could access her money from there.... When she returned to work she asked her supervisor if she could be paid by check or by direct deposit. She was told the card was the only option."
My late father hated taking his four young children to restaurants. But he did it anyway.
For one thing, he believed that the only serious way that youngsters truly developed a sense of behaving properly in a restaurant dining room was to actually eat in a restaurant dining room. We did not eat in the kind of places that we now call "kid-friendly" (although my parents were always relieved to find a Howard Johnson's restaurant on the highway, because they did not trust little "Mom and Pop" diners - too many of them had unspeakably dirty bathrooms).
As a waiter, I never minded waiting on families with small children (although the post-meal cleanup could be daunting). Not everyone can afford a baby sitter, you know? That's why I was sort of reeling when I read about a sushi restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, banning all children from the premises. Yes, the combination of sushi and toddlers probably isn't a great one, but is it all that preferable to eat a California roll in a child-free environment?
It's only Tuesday, but it has already been a hell of a week for restaurateur Shirley Van Black.
Van Black has operated the Grandview diner Shirley's Homestyle Restaurant for 19 years. Back in the 1960s, this venue was a Dixon's Chili franchise.
Business has been up and down at the blink-and-you'll-miss-it venue, located at 12704 South U.S. Highway 71, over the last few years (particularly the dinner business), and the 74-year-old Van Black says she has had to use part of her Social Security income to keep the business afloat at times. But the worst was yet to come: Last week, a telephone scam artist convinced Van Black that KCPL was on its way over to shut off her electricity - KCTV Channel 5 first reported the story and its ultimately happy outcome - and insisted that she needed to pay the $631 bill over the phone immediately.
"I was told, 'You have to pay it now. Hurry, hurry.' I should have been more suspicious, but the call made me so nervous," says Van Black, who was recovering from a recent fall at her home that left her bruised and shaken.
She paid the bill, only to find out that none of the funds went to KCPL. That's when fans and longtime regulars of the restaurant sprang into action. Motivated by the news report of Van Black's loss, customers piled into the cafe on Sunday.
The neighborhood surrounding the Kansas City Art Institute was once one of the most exclusive suburbs of Kansas City, lined with stately mansions (including the former August R. Meyer estate, which has been the centerpiece of the Kansas City Art Institute campus since 1927) that are, for the most part, no longer private homes. One of the grander homes in the neighborhood, which is bordered by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, was the red-brick manor home constructed in 1907 for Dr. William Stone Woods, who was the chairman of the National Bank of Commerce at the time that he built his three-story Georgian Revival home at 4343 Oak.
Over the last century, the Selby Kurfiss-designed building has had several owners and been used for a variety of purposes: in the 1920s, it became a dormitory for the Missouri State Nurses Association, and after the Art Institute leased it in 1949, it was used as a dormitory for female students until it was sold to a local lawyer, William Pickett, in 1978. Pickett lived in the home until his death in 2009.
For the last two years, 29-year-old John Sabates has been overseeing the renovation of the Woods mansion into an eight-bedroom bed-and-breakfast (Sabates prefers to call it an "art hotel") for the building's owners, his parents, Dr. Roland and Marcia Sabates. When the new business, the Oak Street Mansion, officially opens later this summer, it will also serve as a showplace for much of the art collection that Dr. Sabates has collected over the years.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard, during the years I was a server, a customer gripe: "If your employer would pay you a decent wage, I wouldn't have to leave a tip."
My response: "But they don't, Blanche. And they're not going to as long as they can get customers to subsidize our salaries and the National Restaurant Association to aggressively fight a rise in the tipped minimum wage."
That shut them up pretty quickly.
Saru Jayaraman, author of Behind the Kitchen Door and co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, a national restaurant workers organization, has heard all the same arguments for not paying restaurant worker a living wage - and then some.
Like many former restaurant servers, I have a lot of memories of customers who were almost too impossibly difficult to deal with. I try not to think of them. I learned, over the years, to become more tolerant to the customers who insisted on customizing their dinners with a lot of substitutions: "Can I have half-chicken and half-beef with my pasta instead of just chicken? Can it have green peppers instead of red? Can you make it with ricotta instead of parmesan?"
As a server, I frankly didn't care if the customers asked for the moon instead of red sauce. What I did care about was the kitchen crew screaming at me because making a lot of custom substitutions on the line was time-consuming - particularly on a busy weekend night - and often required upgrading the cost of the dish. There's a good reason why "No substitutions" is frequently seen on modern menus. You want a complicated custom-made dish? Make it yourself at home.
One thing I never experienced, in all those years, was a customer handing me a list of requirements and a bag of pasta and insisting I have the kitchen prepare their meals to their exact specifications. I've known chefs and managers who have kicked patrons out of the dining room for less serious infractions.
And that brings me to a recent fracas in New Jersey involving a vegan couple claiming to have been cheated by a restaurant after they brought their own whole wheat pasta to the restaurant and were not given a discount on their tab. New York Magazine headlined its report on the story "Are These the World's Worst Restaurant Customers?"
But when I popped open this particular bag and put the first chip in my mouth, it was soggy. I spit it out. Then I noticed that all of the chips inside were mushy - except for a round, hard object the size of a pingpong ball.
It's no secret that we have a serious sweet tooth here in Fat City. And we love bakeries. Old favorites (like Jonathan Bender's report on the move by the venerable McLain's Bakery in Waldo) or really, really old favorites, like the long-razed Vienna Model Bakery & Cafe in the River Market, which lured in playwright Oscar Wilde back in 1882. Will someone please revive this forgotten business?
The subject will be bakeries - all kinds, all over the metro - this morning at 10 a.m. on the Central Standard Fridayprogram on KCUR 89.3 with me (someone who really needs to stay away from bakeries) and fellow panelists Emily Farris of feedmekc.com, Gloria Gale of 435 South, and Christine Becicka of Ingram's Magazine.
If you can put down that doughnut long enough, call in and join the conversation at 816-235-2888.
The words "All You Can Eat" are magical to some diners, anathema to others. Restaurant veterans often look down on them, unmercifully. "I wouldn't eat at a buffet - any buffet - if you put a gun against my head," said one chef who asked to remain nameless. "I mean, I have friends that cook at buffets."
Room 39's chef and co-owner Ted Habiger says, "Buffets as restaurant are terrifying to me. But a buffet line at a wedding or a special event is a different thing. And I'll admit that there's one kind of buffet that doesn't bother me. Those Mongolian grill-style restaurants where they cook the food in front of you."
Me? I like the concept of the all-you-can-eat theme, but I'm frequently disappointed by the array of dishes set out before me, where quantity, rather than quality, is the selling point.
That brings us to today's Central Standard Friday program on KCUR 89.3.
When Colby and Megan Garrelts opened their newest restaurant, Rye, in Leawood this past December, they made a shocking admission: The flaky crusts for the house-baked lemon-meringue pie and molasses-rich MoKan nut pie were made with lard. Yes, lard, that legendary ingredient which creates the lightest, flakiest pie crusts - and renders such a dessert verboten to vegetarians. (As Fat City has reported before, it's rare to find a restaurant or bakery ready to admit using the product anymore.)
The Garreltses aren't alone in celebrating lard. The joys of rendered pig are espoused in a cookbook (published by Kansas City-based Andrews McMeel) titled 100% Natural Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking With Your Grandmother's Secret Ingredient. The softbound cookbook was created by the editors of Grit Magazine, whose editor-in-chief, Oscar H. Will III, tells Fat City: "Lard is making a comeback, partly because of the slow-food movement and partly because the lipid hypothesis - that saturated fats are dangerous - has been debunked."
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