All Shook Down has been trying for weeks to find someone who works in a venue kitchen to dish the dirt about band riders and rude customers. We found them to be a remarkably insular bunch (not a Gordon Ramsay in sight!) and almost gave up until we found Kalene Nickelson -- an ex-kitchen staffer for The Fillmore who was only too happy to let us know what it's like on the sweatier side of the food counter. Here's how to work in the kitchen of a music venue without throwing leftovers at the audience.
Be Prepared for Pointless Questions
"Um, guys? Whatever you order is going to be served to you on paper, so when you ask 'So what do you recommend?' it feels totally condescending and entirely pointless. Seriously dudes, you're talking venue food, not the French
Laundry, so there's little opinion to be had either way. No one got up early to
find the best local parsley for your garlic fries, and -- just a heads up -- the cheese in that
quesadilla you're going to get is from Costco. It's all straight-forward but pretty darned tasty, so just pick one and move on."
Accept That You Won't Leave a Shift "Party-Ready"
"Smelling like grease, beef, cheese, spilled beer, dish water,
disinfectant, smoke machine, and 1,200 other people's colognes after work
doesn't make you the belle of whatever ball you're planning to go to
afterwards. The free shows and free posters made the job worth it though -- especially when the food rush died out soon after the show started
and you could hover
around the balconies to watch."
Be Prepared for Band Ass-Holes
"The Vines [remember them?] and their
people were eating dinner upstairs before their show, when all of a
sudden the singer, Craig Nicholls, spit out a mouthful of food, threw
his plate on the ground, grabbed his skateboard, did an ollie on the
carpet, and skated off, tossing his beverage behind him. The server and I looked at each other with dropped jaws. It was a real
'Hey-Assbag-Your-Mom-Doesn't-Live-Here' moment. I mean, I know rock
supposed to leave a crumb trail of destruction in their path, but the
Fillmore is a historical and rather lovely establishment. It is one
thing for a drunk or someone getting their groove on to accidentally
spill a drink, but to intentionally soil any part of the place is just
head cook was a real killjoy. When he wasn't fighting with his ex or
moping, he was showing just how intense he could be by slamming things
around unnecessarily. I don't think he was taken that seriously, but the
mood in the kitchen was far less jolly and jokey when he was around."
(Ex-Fillmore chef Emily Wall confirms: "I'll tell you the truth -- most chefs are assholes, me included.")
Beware of Entourages
"Folks trying to use whatever loose association to an artist or verbal pass into the green room to try and get special treatment are very fond of telling you 'I'm
with muzique'. I heard it over and over -- apparently 'muzique'
rolls deep. Thankfully, whatever irritation occurred during work hours was always swiftly blocked out by delicious post-shift shots with awesome co-workers."
Keep an Open Mind About Music
"You get to see a lot of random acts that you wouldn't have paid to see, and that's great -- I fell for Mission Of Burma after working their show; and I
passed on the catering provided and bought his own vegetarian meal from
down the street. I like George Thorogood and vegetables both very much -- I
just expected to see the 'Bad To The Bone' guy actually gnaw on one! It
was a little disenchanting to be honest. Willie
Nelson shows were always the best though. Aside from Willie ruling, his fans are
stoned, old hippies with the munchies. Because they are largely a
maturing crowd, they are beyond being cheap, so they do order food and
they do tip (unlike a great deal of other people). Plus the old dudes will usually add a slightly flirty/creepy
wink to the transaction, which is always entertaining."