Phil: The Little Man Who Makes My Life Hell


It's several years ago, I am 24 and at my second executive chef position. And I hate Phil. Never in my life have I met such a callous and uncaring worker in the restaurant industry. Phil does not give a crap about me, my problems, my mis en place or the fact that I am hungover. Phil sucks.

I can hear Phil in my sleep; his monotone droning drives me crazy. The other day, Phil barked out “five fish tacos; one New York, rare—no salt, light pepper, sauce on the side and a side of steamed vegetables—two salmon and a chicken Caesar salad.”

When Phil barks I am expected to remember exactly what he wants. On busy nights, order after order comes into the kitchen and soon, Phil is overwhelming me and the cooks. I desperately ask Phil to stop and repeat himself. If I forget what Phil says, I will mess up the orders, my restaurant's reputation and, probably, a server’s tip.

“I said, 'sauce on the side'” says Joe Q. patron, looking down at the steak placed in front of him, the sauce lovingly drizzled over the steak with an artistic flare. The server swoops the plate up and walks it back to the kitchen window.

“Customer wants this sauce on the side,” says some English major server.

“You should have told Phil!” I scream, fixing the problem by washing the steak off and then re-grilling it for a few moments. I hand it back, with a little steel ramekin of sauce, thinking that I have destroyed my own art.

“I did,” says the server.

“Bullshit,” I say. “Phil didn’t say nothin’ about a New York SOS [sauce on the side].”

It is times like these that Phil is consulted and his word is law. Phil is not a person. Phil is the ticket machine, the little printer that chefs have that rings in orders. We give him a name—one that changes from location to location—to keep our sanity. We'd be crazy for yelling at something without a name, right?

  • Wrong Phil.

Phil is the truth, the way, and the light in disagreements between cooks and servers. If it is printed, then it is proof.

Every now and then I catch glimpses of servers and customers watching me talk to Phil.

“Medium rare, no blood? That is impossible, Phil.”

“Damn it, Phil. The sauce is what makes the pasta. This can’t be SOS.”

I am not sure if it is confidence inspiring or just confirming what people already know; chefs are nuts.

Randy King is the Executive Chef at Sysco Food Services of Idaho. He has served as the Executive Chef at several locations in Boise including Richard’s in Hyde Park, Crane Creek Country Club and the Doubletree Riverside Hotel. Randy is a member of the American Culinary Federation and has been awarded the elite status of Certified Executive Chef. He can typically be found behind a stove making a mess ... and something delicious to eat.