Geez Louise!

So I spend my days in a kitchen now, a pretty big and busy kitchen! I work with a very large and diverse staff from countries and cultures all over the world and its fabulous. Well, mostly it is. Many various languages are spoken in our kitchen and English is definately only one of them. Coming from a long line of English speaking family, indigenous to Salt Lake City, Utah, with only my 6 years of Junior High and High school French, I am at a distinguished disadvantage when it comes to clear communication at work.
As Chefs working together, good communication is essential in the kitchen. In fact, now that I think about it, good communication is essential in all aspects of life. But currently, for the sake of my career, I am saving up for the Rosetta Stone. All I have to do is decide which to learn first, Spanish, Bosnian or Vietnamese! Any of them would be a good start.
Today was a little slower day than most Saturdays in my kitchen, but it is amazing how ‘not speaking the same language’ can put a snag in an otherwise smooth service. There were just three of us on my station today. Mama Than is my supervisor, a tiny little bit of a person that carries a big…knife. She is Vietnamese and 71 years old, she speaks, and understands, almost no English. Luisa is from Argentina, she speaks Spanish and Portuguese. Luisa speaks a little more English than Mama, but understands about the same. So my chances of misunderstanding them and vice versa, are huge. Also, at 5’4″ I am probably a foot taller than Mama and a good 4 inches talker than Luisa. I am like the jolly green giant of Garde Manger with them. So as the newest member of the group, I am often feeling like the big, obnoxious, American. Like I said, fabulous.
Anyhoo, here is todays riddle, how many little chefs does it take to find the horseradish? Mama asks Luisa to make creamy horseradish, but Luisa comes back and says she can’t find any raw horseradish. Mama misunderstands and again, tells Luisa that is why she needs to make the horseradish. I am watching and listening to them go back and forth, round and round, and it reminds me of the old ‘whose on first?’ routine. I am understanding the disconnect here. I jump in to try to clarify. Luisa is nodding furiously at Mama as I try to explain her problem. But Mama doesnt understand me either. So she throws up her hands and walks off saying something in Vietnamese, with Luisa trailing behind her, speaking in a very fast Spanish. I go back to what I was doing. Then Luisa reappears, calling my name. After a minute I get that she wants me to come help her out with Mama and the horseradish. I walk back to the cooler with her to find Mama climbing the shelves looking for horseradish. Suddenly they are both talking to me loudly, in their respective languages. I say, in my best American, “geez Louise! Its like the United Nations back here. How many chefs does it take to find the horseradish!” With that, they are both quiet, looking at me. And then, Luisa says in her cute little Argentinian voice, “Dee, what geezy leweezy?” I begin to laugh. Soon we are all laughing. I find the horseradish and we all go back to work.  Crisis averted.
It seems that laughter is the language we all understand. Thank goodness and…Bon Appétit! (…there’s that French!)


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