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Café Helder, Nijmegen

A kitchen job in Holland

Winter 2003 - 2004 —


An huge stink that would occasionally waft up from the basement....

I was walking past Café Helder* in Nijmegen and stopped to look at the menu that was posted on the door. It looked like a good place, that's all.

I wasn't looking for a job at the moment.

I had decided, that evening or the day before, to speak with somebody once a day — and only once a day — about work. I'd already been to one restaurant that day. I'd stopped at Helder just to look. Maybe I'd come back....

The door opened, and a woman brought out the sidwalk reader-board. It was five o'clock, and time to start opening for dinner [people don't really go out to eat that early, generally.] I asked her, since she was right there, if they needed anybody in the kitchen.

I worked at Cafe Helder for a few months, as an assistant to the chef, who didn't really know what she was doing.

The job ended as many do; hours cut, then cut more, then eliminated. Never fired, I found eventually that I just didn't have a job there anymore. Normal practice in restaurants.

I even got stiffed a little bit of wage at the end, in compliance with a natural and unspoken international code amongst food-service proprietors& #151; twelve euro. I got the money, though, before I left.

The boss was angry that I'd asked for it — which was gratifying. She slapped it onto the countertop.

* The word "helder" means "clear." Ironic, maybe — but that's not atypical in the realm of business naming.

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