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The Corporate Chef's Guide to Cafeteria Customers

Aug 17, 2007
Ah, the life of the corporate chef! Amidst the hustle and bustle of the business world, each of the suit and tie set pays daily visits to your little domain, the corporate cafeteria. In your day to day job cooking for the cubicle minions, you're bound to recognize a few of these types from the customers at your own cafeteria.

Cell-Phone Sally
Glued to an intense conversation during her entire cafeteria visit, Sally is cursed to go through life with one hand, one ear, and no attention span. At least she's easy to please. You're kind of tempted to serve her raw dead rat just to see if she'd notice. Her only criteria for food is that she gets something that doesn't require much chewing so she can gulp it quickly between sentences. She's a big yogurt fan.

Pilfering Pete
Pete uses the purchase of a 98-cent cup of coffee as a license to scoop up 20 napkins, 5 each of the plastic utensils, handfuls of condiments, and anything else that isn't nailed down. Pete never orders food, since he apparently sustains himself entirely on packets of pickle relish and mayonnaise back at his cubicle. One can only picture how it is in Pete's department, where purchasers are puzzling over where all the pens and Post-it pads disappear to.

Weasel Wally
Wally is working his way up from the ground floor, and he's in a hurry. Blowing through the cafeteria like it was a NASCAR pit stop, Wally believes that waiting in line is something only other people do. Wally will grab the first food item he finds, cut through the crowd brandishing his tray like a battering ram, throw money at the cashier on his way past, and eat standing up over the trash can. At least you don't have to put up with Wally long; you only have to clean up after him. Even better, the company is starting to think about him in the same way.

Viral Vickie
Vickie has an immune system which is every bit as good a defense as the facial tissue she's constantly honking into. How strange it is, then, that she trusts everyone else to be more resistant to germs than she is. Vickie will cough and sneeze all over every food item that comes within five feet of her, especially if she isn't the one who's going to be eating it. Taking Vickie's order is an exercise in standing five feet back from the counter, which doesn't work because she's hard of hearing and can't speak above a whisper due to a sore throat. When Vickie pays for her food, you wish you could charge her instead in paid sick time hours, since she's determined not to use hers.

Social-club Sue
You thought it was a cafeteria, but Sue has a better idea: make it into the set of "Cheers"! Sue is the first in and last out of the cafeteria, holding court at the noisiest table in the dining area as her and the 8 other members of her gang regale each other with all the latest gossip. You can't hear yourself think for the hysterical cackling coming from Sue's table, as the little club forces a squall of laughter so everyone around them knows what warm friends they all are. Sue is nearly a permanent fixture, impervious to janitors mopping under her chair after everyone else has left. After all, it's not like she has a life outside of work or anything.

Grindstone Gayle
Gayle knows the true value of a cafeteria: the only place where she can work undisturbed! Gayle has her regular table staked out by the phone bank, barely able to manage her tray as she slings her laptop and paperwork along with her. Eating is incidental, and she frequently gets the same thing every day, mechanically chewing her bagel and cream cheese as she pores over spread sheets and fills in reports. When an undue amount of noise happens in her vicinity, such as the ordinary sounds of working in a cafeteria, she shoots you a cross look over her glasses; can't you see she's working here?

Fad-diet Frieda
Frieda is the bane of every chef's life. Frieda is build like a broomstick, but nevertheless is convinced that she's one muffin away from blowing up to 500 pounds. Without even glancing at the menu, she presents herself in front of you every day with the challenge of giving her something acceptable to eat. This is always a guessing game, as she's never on the same diet twice on any consecutive day. Don't you have anything low-carb? Don't you drain the grease off of that bacon? Do you know how to make Sacred Heart Diet soup? One day she demands butter because of something she read on the Internet about margarine having hidden fat. The next day she's back to margarine because she's worried about the high calories in butter. Eggs are good one day, bad the next, and good the next day, but only when they're poached in distilled water. If you play your cards right, you can frustrate her to the point where she'll start bringing her own non-food to work every day, and then she'll be her own problem instead of yours.

Cat-burglar Carl
Like an atomic particle, you can only verify the existence of Carl by observing the aftermath of his presence. Did you come in this morning and discover half the fridge's contents missing, for instance? Carl is clearly somebody with the keys to everything, possibly a security guard if that's ironic enough for you. But you can forget the menu you had planned for today, now that Carl has reduced you to serving peanut butter sandwiches. Every time you see a laxative commercial, you think about preparing a very special dish to leave out just for Carl.

Muscle-head Mike
Mike is also obsessed with nutrition, but with the objective of wanting to gain weight - as long as it's pure muscle. Mike is seldom seen in the cafeteria, deriving most of his sustenance from the five-gallon can of nutritional supplement he lugs in every day to make protein shakes from. However, when he does want something from you, his requests are always a little scary. Six egg whites beaten into a glass of skim milk. Three grams of raw meat. A banana which he applies a dash of salt to before consuming. You've learned from experience not to ask for the reasons why, as he will launch into a discourse about complex protein molecule chains. Just give him what he wants; he might come in handy someday should you need somebody to pick up the fridge.
About the Author
Freelance writer for over eleven years.

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