This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
This is the most serio-comical occurence that ever takes place in grand establishments. Some hotels make changes so often that all concerned get used to it, they get the mode of procedure down to a fine point; still the operation is always a critical one, attended with serious dangers, which can only be safely laughed at after the crisis Is past For everything in a hotel, even the very continuance of the business, depends upon the cooks, the lapse of even a single meal would shake up the house and bring consternation upon the people equal to a small earthquake; it is the difficulty of making the connections so close that the one intervening meal will not be dropped that makes the experience exciting. The determination to make a change is not often reached suddenly, but the complaints and dissatisfactions grow and increase through several weeks, perhaps months. There is no particular reason why a chief cook, who does not give satisfaction, should be retained except the fear of undertaking the delicate task of making a change of administration. There are always plenty of fine cooks ready to take employment in the hotels which will pay high enough salaries. So the complaints go on and grow for a while.
There are bickerings and fencings, defiance and sharp words betwixt the chief cook and those in authority over him so constantly that a state of sullen enmity becomes the ordinary rule of their relations. All at once a change of temper takes place. The steward or manager or proprietor, as the case may be, begins to act very pleasantly toward the chef, they treat him to smiles - sarcastic smiles, but perhaps he does not detect the sarcasm. He has his own way undisputed and grows good-natured, too. It is wonderful then what peace and harmony pervades all the culinary departments; it seems impossible for anybody to do wrong, for no more faults are found and there is no more driving. The fact is the steward and proprietor have been telegraphing and writing and have secured their new man, and try to practice such extreme secrecy about their movements, lest the chef should suspect the truth too soon, they nearly overdo it, and it is only the latters egotism that prevents him from seeing that something is going to happen, for all those around him are conscious that things are not what they seem, and while they whisper about among themselves, not really knowing anything, they have nothing openly to say.
Next, there are two or three strangers seen taking back seats in the office or waiting room; they came on the morning train. Strangers of all sorts are arriving comtantly, that is nothing, but, somehow, these do not seem to be of the usual sorts. One of them, at least, is well diessed, but they do not act like commercial travelers nor like men of leisure, the very hall boys observe that, and when it is seen that the steward is more concerned with them than the clerks are, a light begins to break and the whisperings about the house increase. Then the steward takes the strangers, or at least the best dressed one of them, and shows him inside the dining room, then the breakfast room and ladies' ordinary, then to the pantry, if that happens not to be in plain sight of the kitchen, then takes him back to the office, where they have a long talk. By that time the headwaiter knows all about it, although not a word has been said to him, for he knows that if it had been any other stranger viewing the house out of curiosity, it would have been the proprietor or a clerk showing him around instead of the steward. But why so much secrecy? Because the chef above all things hates to have it said that he was discharged, or that he was "rolled," i. e., pushed out of his place by another chef.
He may not care for the loss of the situation, may even be glad of a rest, but he wants the first word and to say that he quit; and if he knows for certain that a new chef has come to the house, he will pull off his jacket instantly and make his second and third cooks do the same, will gather up his knives and all will go to the office and demand to be paid off. The steward wants the first word, too, but he thinks more about the ensuing meals and desires to let the new chef in at night when his opportunities for getting acquainted with his new surroundings will be better than between meals. Therefore he continues the secrecy to the latest moment, waits until all the cooks have left the kitchen in the afternoon, then shows the new chef the interior and takes him to see the ice chest, and as soon as supper or evening dinner is well ready, he informs the present head of the kitchen that his money is ready for him in the office and he will not be required to prepare breakfast. Some men at such a juncture are kinder and better nat-ured than others and yield gracefully, that is, they act like gentlemen and throw no obstacles in the way of their successor. Common men, however, immediately go around and undo whatever they can that has been done in preparation for the next day.
They throw out their soup stock, their salad dressings, their espagnole and other sauces, their aspics, their croquette preparations, their codfish balls, which were ready for breakfast; they stop the vegetable parers from their work, forbid the replenishment of coal and kindling boxes, in short do whatever they can think of in half an hour to make it hard for the fellow that comes after them. The pastry cook under the same circumstances throws away his yeast and neglects to set the sponge for the morning bread, hides away the baking powder, puts soda in the cream of tartar package, hoping to cause mistakes, puts salt into his wine jellies and custard mixtures, hoping the new man will use them, breaks the oven damper and stuffs rags into the flue. And yet the breakfast appears on the table the next morning the same as usual, and if any difference is observed by the guests, it is very likely to be in the way of improvement, for the new hands are anxious and doubly attentive.
The obstacles thrown in the way of the new chef do not set him back because the tricks are all so old, he knows them all himself. He takes no notice of what his predecessor has done, or what he has left behind him, but begins everything anew, even if he has to bribe some of the help to work late that night; and, if the former chef has left a can of his favorite sauce or a salad, just to give the new man something to pattern after, the new man puts on a scornful smile and pitches it into the swill-barrel. The new pastry cook knows in advance all about the yeast trick, and has brought some fresh yeast in his pocket ready for the fray; he tastes and tests everything, walks straight to the chimney and pulls out the stuffing of rags, throws out the former pastry ccok's treacherous compounds, which he knows are only snares to entrap him, and then goes to work, and the day succeeding sees everything going on as usual; the crisis is past.