I had just, barely, graduated college and was thrust upon this big, scary world to make my own living. 1 I had a real paying job, via my college internship with a music manager, and was making good money, but I was unhappy there. Although I had enjoyed that job while it was an internship, my favorite co-workers had left and the new co-workers became not-so-favorite. Not to mention, I actually had to be there all day! Ugh! Life is a learning process, and here I learned that I didn’t like jobs where I had to be there all day.
I told my boss, Staci, that I needed to “find myself” in the world and I was quitting. When she asked me what I was going to do, I told her I would sign up with a temp agency. (That was my plan. I had heard that you only got called in sometimes….and not working all the time sounded like my favorite job.) Staci tried to talk me out of it, but I was already gone.
So, I signed up with the temp agency and, just as I had hoped, they hardly called me into work…in fact, they never called me with any jobs. 2 But I am such a worrier, that I would get up early, get ready for the day, and then panic every time the phone rang. I didn’t want them to call me in, but I also needed money. Staci was right, this temp thing was a bad idea.
Subconsciously, Staci must have felt my daily panic because she called me one day out of nowhere about a job she had heard about on the “music circuit.” A British music manager, Simon Fuller 3, who was temporarily living here in Los Angeles to work on an album, needed a “lunch time cook.” The girl who had been cooking for him had to quit.
I called the number Staci gave me, and talked to a nice young girl who turned out to be Mr. Fuller’s assistant. She asked me to come up to the temporary house he was staying in to discuss the position. So the next day (I didn’t bother to shower early in preparation for a temp gig), I headed up to Mulholland Drive. I arrived at an iron gate with a call box. I pressed the button, and was buzzed in. I really only started panicking when I couldn’t figure out where to park. I have always been a good driver, but since I have lived in Los Angeles, I have had several accidents…and I know people always say that their accidents were not their fault (similarly to prisoners who say they’re innocent), but mine really weren’t my fault. But I’ll save that series of rationales for another time.
I decided to just park and worry about getting out of it later.
I went up to the front door, and was greeted by “the assistant.” As I entered, I could see the house was huge and gorgeous…just as you’d imagine a “Hollywood Hills For The Stars” home to be. She showed me into the kitchen which was beyond words….but I’ll try: The refrigerator was like it’s own room, the granite island had a special sink just for vegetables and the stove had 10 burners! What the hell do people do with 10 burners? That’s right, they hire cooks…like “me.”
The assistant brought me into the living room, where I was told the job required going to the grocery store to get the lunch supplies and cooking them. It paid $100 a day….for about 4 hours of work altogether.
“YES! I’ll take it.” How hard could it be? It’s friggin’ lunch, for goodness sake.
Emily’s cooking resume:
Microwaved Chef Boyardee’s Ravioli on high for 3.5 minutes, 1985-1992
Boiled water for Ramen, 1992-Present
Cleaned dishes used while cooking, April, 1994
But I’m always up for a good challenge 4, so I started to plan my menu.
Oh, I forgot. I was also told that Mr. Fuller wanted to have a choice of three salads a day. Apparently, he was on a special, only-high-maintenance-star-types-go-on-this-diet diet, and he didn’t know which salad would be best for him until “that moment”…so I had to prepare three salads for every lunch. Then the other two were thrown away. And I was told to NEVER try and pass the other two salads as the new salads the next day! In fact, I couldn’t even serve the same type of salad twice in one week. 5
Back to menu planning, I started with the cookbooks that Rod and I had in our sparse collection. Betty Crocker had the suggestion of ambrosia. Oh, I love ambrosia! (As long as it doesn’t have coconut shavings in it. 6) I thought that would be a wonderful salad choice. You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? Well, when did ambrosia become plebian and, dare I say, “white trash”?!? I didn’t know! I’ve always liked it at church potlucks and the like. In fact, I have recently started a coalition to win back the popularity of ambrosia!! Send money to the cause at www.iheartambrosia.org. ¡VIVA LA AMBROSIA!
Okay, but I’ve moved way ahead of myself. My first day, I went to the grocery store. And not just any grocery store. I went to Gelson’s. This is a very posh grocery store in Marina del Rey. I knew they would have all the most fancy of ingredients and brand names…and since I was being reimbursed for the groceries, what did I care. I needed to look like I knew what I was doing. You know, style. 7
So for the first day, I served the ambrosia and two other salads. Needless to say, he didn’t eat the ambrosia, and actually had his “assistant” tell me never to make ambrosia again. 8
I also cooked a nice chicken thing for lunch, although I am a vegetarian and didn’t try it to see if it was good or anything. He seemed to be okay with it. The “assistant” didn’t comment on that part of the meal, so I assumed it was good.
Day 1, was over. I cleaned up and went home. I tried to prepare a new menu for the next day. It was very stressful. I couldn’t sleep. I had nightmares about cooking, in which the sink would be piled with old, dirty dishes and the mold was talking to me, saying things like, “Your fish is burning” and “We need more coconut shavings!”
I decided to get up early and go to my neighborhood grocery store check out stand. I knew that at the end of the cashier’s kiosk, just above the candy and tabloids, I would find one of those little pocket-sized cookbooks on salads. I found a recipe for some warm spinach salad. I bought the ingredients and headed up to the Hills. This was going to be the salad he would pick today, I just knew it. But as I cooked the spinach, it started to shrink! Oh, crap! It’s shrinking down to nothing! There’s not going to be enough to serve! I served it anyway. I just added some raspberry drizzle to the rim of the bowl. It looked French.
No one yelled at me, so Day 2 went well. Must get ready for Day 3.
Oh no. This was not looking good. Mr. Fuller was going to have a meeting during lunch! I had to cook and serve three people now…by the pool! And this time he wants a cheese tray!
Ha! I felt smarter this time. I didn’t get Cheese-whiz and crackers, like I would have at my own party. This time I got fancy cheeses! Brie, Goat, and some other stuff that the deli guy said was supposed to have mold on it. Ha-ha! Who’s NOT white trash now, Mister Fuller?!?
I prepared the meal and was feeling pretty confident. I had previously set the table featuring napkin folding, which is my strong point. (I am all over the display side of meals.) I could hear Mr. Fuller and his two guests in the living room listening to some advance copy of an Annie Lennox song. (Mr. Fuller managed her, as well as a band called SClub7.) They were working, I was working. All was right with the world. Now the food was ready; the three men were ready. I brought the cheese tray out to the pool.
Okay. How was I supposed to know that the cheese tray is not served until the end!!??!! Who the hell does that?! Oh, Europeans?! Oh, I’m sorry!! I’m American, see!!! And proud of it!!! And I eat my cheese FIRST!!! 9
Drum roll please….Mr. Simon Fuller will now speak to Emily directly…for the first time…in front of his business guests: “The cheese tray comes at the close of the meal. Take this away.”
I lowered my head and took the cheese tray back into the kitchen with my tail between my legs. Then I sprinkled Ajax on the cheese and re-served it. Just kidding. But I did leave it out on the counter until I re-served it, so it got a little hot.
I continued with the meal, cleaned up and went home.
As I struggled to come up with new salads for Day 4, the phone rang. It was the “assistant” saying that Mr. Fuller was flying back to New York and would no longer be needing the services of my fine cuisine. Did he really go to NY? Who knows. I was relieved, yet saddened that I wouldn’t be getting $100 everyday. Either way, I learned a great lesson…mayonnaise, canned fruit cocktail and marshmallows were not created for the wealthy.
- That is “to support myself in the lifestyle to which I was accustom while doing something that I loved,” however I now know how ridiculous that is. ↩
- I may still be on their list of people to call to this day. ↩
- Simon Fuller ended up going on, two years later, to create and produce American Idol. Once that show became really popular, I mistakenly thought Simon Fuller was Simon Cowell. I then thought that the “to-the-point” Simon from the show was the man I worked for, but that was the other Simon. I’m actually still confused today. I don’t even know if this story is true. ↩
- Only challenges that pay well for little work. ↩
- I also had to prepare “fresh ginger tea” for him. I had NO clue what to do here and couldn’t seem to find that in any cookbook. Luckily, the “assistant” took pity on me and told me I had to shave fresh ginger from a root and boil it in the hot water. And, although this footnote is not funny, it is informative…just in case you are ever required to prepare and serve “fresh ginger tea.” Don’t say I don’t care about you. ↩
- I had a traumatic experience with coconut shavings once. In ninth grade, I still had braces, and my best friend’s dad took us to an ice cream parlor where they mix toppings into the ice cream. I ordered a “Pina Colada” and as I ate, then talked, coconut shavings flew out of my mouth like machine gun shells. My friend’s dad still makes fun of me to this day about that. ↩
- Shut up. I know you’re saying I know nothing of “style” because of my ambrosia thing, but I DO know that if Pamela Anderson shops at Gelson’s, it must mean “style.” Okay, maybe Pamela Anderson is not the best example…but she’s a celebrity and they all like the same expensive garbage. ↩
- That reminds me that Mr. Fuller never actually talked to me directly. And, apparently, I was never supposed to talk to him directly. I take that back. He did talk to me once…keep reading. ↩
- When I told my dad this story, he was so embarrassed. He thought he had raised me with more culture to know that Europeans always prefer their cheese after the meal. Sorry, dad. ↩
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