Tuesday, December 26, 2006


I tell this story very well... lets see if it works on paper........

Steve Felenczak was the Chef that opened the Ft Worth Hyatt in 1981. He was Polish, proud and a very good Chef. He had graduated from CIA, the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park NY. He was the first Certified Executive Chef I had ever worked for. After the second time that I called him “Bossman” he explained to me that “Bossman” was the guy that ran the Penitentiary and that I should call him “Chef”.
He also taught me that the first thing you say to Potwashers and Dishwashers was “Good Morning” or “Good Evening”. This has served me very well over the years. He also explained to me that we were not here “Just to learn about cooking”.
After 1 and 1/2 years at Ft. Worth Hyatt, a 900 room property, Chef got a big promotion. He was to become the Executive Chef at the Baltimore Hyatt, a 1700 room Hotel. It was to be a huge promotion with more money in a very prestigious part of the Country.
The day before his last day, the Health Department showed up for a routine inspection. Within a few minutes it was apparent that the Health guy was in a foul mood. He began taking off for the slightest of things. As he toured the kitchen, Chef and the health guy began to argue and get louder. At some point the Mr.Health has seen enough. They go to the Chefs office where he tells the Chef “I am SHUTTING YOU DOWN!!!”
Chef says “You can’t shut me down”
Mr. Health counters with “Like hell if I can’t”
Chef reconsiders and says “Well maybe you can, but not before we go to see the General Manager”
So up to the G.M.’s office they march. As Chef is leaving the kitchen he is livid.
He points to us all ( all the Kitchen Staff has been standing around watching this event) and says in an angry whisper “Get this place cleaned up!”
Once in the G.M.’s office, Mr.Health tells the G.M. that he is "shutting this nasty-ass kitchen down."
The G.M. proclaims “You can’t do that!”
“Like hell if I can’t” counters Mr. Health.

The General Manager knows he has been upstaged...
“Well maybe you can, but not before we go to the Mayors office."

Now the stage is set. The Health Department wants to shut down the most prestigious Hotel in the city on the day before the Chef is to go on his big promotion. It could put the promotion in jeopardy. Chef was sweatin’ bullets. To the Mayors office they march, Mr. Health, The G.M. and Chef. Once in the Mayors Office, Mr. Health tells the Mayor of all the Violations and how filthy the Kitchen is. The Chef pleads that this is all “Mickey Mouse” stuff and just not that bad.
The G.M. says “Mayor, this is the finest Hotel in the City, it’s the Chefs last day and they can’t just shut us down”.

“Like Hell if they can’t” says the Mayor, who cannot let his Health Department become without muscle; “But not until I see this Kitchen for myself.”

The Mayor wants to tour the kitchen personally and may have the final say as to whether Chef actually gets his promotion.
Can you imagine? The day before he is to leave?
So back to the Hyatt they Parade. Mr. Health, Chef, the G.M. and the Mayor walking the long six blocks to the Hotel. The whole while the Chef is trying to plead his case to the Mayor.
What was going through the Chefs mind I can only wonder. Can you imagine such a Black Eye on the Eve of a promotion so large? His entire Professional career may hang in the balance.
So through the lobby they go and pass the double- doors through the Waiters Station and into the Main Kitchen where….

There is the Banner that reads;


strung over the entrance to the Main Kitchen and the “going away” party is all set up. Chafing dishes with food, carving Station w/ tenderloin and a Wet Bar. Spared no expense, the Mayor and Heath guy were in on it from the get go. In fact the Mayor and Health guy are now shaking his hand and slappin' him on the back. Half of the Employees of the hotel are lined up and clapping.
Three cheers for the Chef.
The look on the Chefs face is unbelievable. Talk about relieved. He says to me “ I could’nt figure out why you’se guys were just standing around lookin’ STUPID”.
This is the coolest and possibly cruelest thing I have ever been a part of…now, I’ve written it down. I only wish I knew who dreamed it up and if it has ever been used again!
OLD LADY... Have you ever heard anything that approaches this?


Old Lady said...

I shall ponder-the '80s were very interesting years!

Barbara said...

This is a great story, with a happy ending just as I like them. You must have been in on the surprise all along, right? Do you stay in touch with the Chef? Why don't you come work for him in Baltimore? It's just down the road from DC! But that's right, cooking for a living is in your past...

steve said...

Barbara, I would love to forward this to Chef Steve... I have just this moment sent an EMail to a contact that may be able to put me in touch with him...
Chef always called me his "little troublemaker' in honor of a certain event that nearly ended my carreer with Hyatt before it ever got started.

steve said...

But that is a whole 'nother show!!!

GrizzBabe said...

Ohhhhh, you can't tease us like that. You must make that story your next post! ;)

Mother of Invention said...

You mean it wasn't your idea?!!! Wouldn't surprise me!

What a fabulous story with such a twist! I thought it was like those kids accumulative stories that keeps on going."not until we see the Senator....Not until we see the president!"

Great post, Steve.

Hey, tell us about the event you said in your reply to Barbara!

banquet manager said...

I would have had a meltdown then pissed myself. Great story as usual.
So You Want To Be a Banquet Manager