03/08/10 — Cooking it ... Fremont style

View Archive

Cooking it ... Fremont style

By Laura Collins
Published in News on March 8, 2010 1:46 PM

Full Size


Megan Denton, left, and Laura Collins fill "to-go" plates with food at Fremont's Capitol Cafe on Friday.

The Job: Hamburger flipper

The Company: Capitol Cafe

The Location: Fremont

There seems to be some sort of language barrier between me and the town of Fremont.

"I'll have one burger all the way and one without," one guy said to me as I was taking orders at Capitol Cafe.

"'All the way' like well-done? And without what?" I asked.

"No. I'll have one all the way and one without," he said.

"OK, you just repeated yourself, I'm not really seeing how that's any clearer."

Luckily owner W.T. Smith stepped in and repeated the order to one of the cooks who apparently knew exactly what he was saying. I later learned that a burger "all the way" means with mustard, chili and onions and a burger "without" means without onions but still with mustard and chili.

I started the day behind the cash register at Capitol Cafe in Fremont. In one of my previous jobs I had some experience ringing people up, so I thought this would be a good place to start. Wrong. As it turns out, I'm still just as bad at it as I was before.

"Laura, why did you enter $407?" Smith said.

"It's supposed to be $4.07. I messed up."

"Ok, well you're going to have to make up the difference," he said.

I was trying to figure how many tables I'd have to wait on to make that up in tips, then Smith told me they didn't wait tables in the afternoon, only for dinner. So there went that plan.

From the register, I went to the grill and was in charge of flipping the burgers. It was probably best that waitressing wasn't in the cards considering I had a heckler the majority of the afternoon.

"What're you doing? It takes you 30 minutes to flip a hamburger," said one man.

"I bet it takes you an hour and a half to watch '60 Minutes,'" he added.

"You didn't even get a hamburger, you ordered fish," was all I could think of in my defense.

As we were getting ready for the lunch rush, co-workers Angie Carter and Megan Denton said Friday is also seafood day, so they were expecting a crowd.

"You might want to sit down before the rush comes in," they warned me. I should have listened better.

Somebody opened the floodgates in Fremont and there was a steady line of customers for a solid two hours. The three of us made countless numbers of hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries in addition to the million other deep-fried sides the restaurant serves.

Ms. Carter and Ms. Denton are pros at multitasking. They seem to know the exact amount of time each item should stay in the fryer and what they have time to do in between. I, however, was not as skilled. Apparently apple sticks, which are basically breaded, deep-fried apples, don't stay in the oil as long as french fries.

"Um, the apple is oozing out of these apple sticks," I said when I pulled them up and they looked like an apple explosion took place.

"It's OK, baby," Ms. Carter said.

This was pretty much her response for all of my mess ups. She and Ms. Denton worked at such an incredible speed that I noticed how my mess-ups didn't really set them back too much. At their job, they have to be able to think fast and juggle a lot at one time.

"Everybody thinks it's an easy job," Ms. Denton said. "I guess just by looking at it, it looks that way."

The job is the furthest thing from easy. Taking more than 200 daily orders, cooking the food and making sure it gets to the right person all at break-neck speed is impressive. There's a reason the town of Fremont has kept this place in business for 25 years.

And why it is likely that I will be welcomed back -- as a customer.