36 Chambers of The Great American Jianghu aka Food and Beverage Lessons for Pirates, Vikings, Ninjas, Outlaws, and Other Denizens of the Lakes and Forests of Wine and Meat.

The Common Places of Siliconía
11 min readApr 25, 2024

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by MAIJAX

Preface — I have overwritten this. No intellectual quarter has been given. If you don’t understand a reference, that’s ok. It’s on purpose. You’re supposed to go and look it up. Don’t be a lazy fuck. Be a debrouillard. Debrouillards are badasses. Be a badass.

BUILDING THE FIRST
The Jianghu (Food Culture At Large)

  1. Calling it “The Service Industry” makes no sense in the post 1973-Yom-Kippur world where nobody makes anything except for the Communists, where everything is a fucking service, and we just build calluses on our knees, lips and palms as we service the 1% Finance + Consultant asshats. Ergo, we don’t work in the Service Industry, we work in Hospitality, Food, and Beverage. But fuck them hotel people. We’re Food and Beverage — FnB.
  2. In Shakespeare, what’s the difference between Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer’s Night Dream? Between Othello and the Taming of The Shrew? One set are Tragedies. The others are Comedies. What’s the difference? At the end of a Tragedy, there are dead bodies on the stage. At the end of a Comedy, there are no dead bodies. The fucking play might not even be funny, but if there are no dead bodies, it’s a Comedy.

    FnB is a Comedy. It’s what would happen if somebody took the military and turned it from a tragic killing machine that generates mangled corpses into a giggling, boozy fuck contraption that churns out your hot girlfriend buzzed and eager to bang you in the parking lot of that fantastic sushi restaurant after the greatest omakase of her life.

    How do we know that FnB is a Comedy? Sometimes it sure as fuck doesn’t seem like it. We know because L’Escoffier joined the French military during the Franco-Prussian War. If he’d have joined the Prussians, this shit would run like clockwork and this list wouldn’t even be necessary.
  3. In the time it takes you to complain or criticize, you could probably quietly fix the problem.
  4. Never match angry with angry, match angry with formality. Trained security, trained street fighters and bar brawlers never approach an aggressive situation with balled up fists. They approach it with hands resembling those clasped in prayer. Do the same verbally. Use all them big SAT, polysyllabic words. Or you could just use Chinese: 大人不計小人過。
  5. At the end of the day, it’s just fucking food. Anybody who uses a restaurant or bar to demean another person (a la Gordon Ramsey or the chefs at Nick and Sam’s) is a loser asshole. They should be taunted as such, not respected. When the fancification of American Food Culture began to pick up steam, at some point in the mid 1990s, it was all kind of a joke. Gen X gave no fucks other than making money and getting laid. Nothing was true, everything was permitted. But as the fancification came to a full boil and turned into blatant gentrification, FnB got all the fun sucked out of it and turned into a competitive enterprise where bartenders began to compete in petty games for stupid prizes, like pouring the best Guinness or the nomnomiest cocktail with yuppie saliva and whale dorks as the main ingredients. It’s foolish and soul destroying, like sand Mandalas with no Buddhism. It’s just fucking food, y’all.
  6. Food writing without science and specificity is the adult equivalent of bringing a cardboard box to show and tell. Felipe Fernandez-Armesto will blow your dick clean off your goddamned body.
  7. Molecular Gastronomy is both really awesome and superfucking stupid. Hyper-regional artisan everything is the same antimony. Tweezer food is awesome, hilarious, and also fucking terrible. “The Menu” aptly demonstrates this. I still hate that fucking cheeseburger plot point tho.
  8. Six Sigma is designed to create machined parts which fail once in a billion times. Human beings are more complex. Fully 2% of your tables will be completely fucked. How you handle that is up to your experience, grace, and House culture. This is Two Percent Theory — not to be confused with Five Percenter Theory.
  9. Leave the woman at the river. Don’t get pissed at situations which have passed. You will enter an auto-catalytic loop of increasing anger and forget about the rest of your tables and end up drinking Crown and Rumple with a coke back until you pass out in bilious rage at 3:00 AM. It’s also hard as fuck to decompress tho. I get it. In the past ten years, people have turned into a walloping set of 30k Millionaires. Especially the Upper Middle Class Cuntocracy of places like Dallas, TX. I blame Trump. Cuz why not?
  10. It’s not a profession. It’s not a vocation. It’s a job. So do it perfectly. That way you can leave it at the door and live your life on your days off. Let MGMT take on that interrupted life bullshit. They exchanged uncertainty for stability, chaos money for stable money. Also for cocaine. And for banging the hostesses. And for a parking spot. MGMT is generally a bunch of goddamned useless salad forks of human beings. Be a dinner fork. Or better yet, be Jason Mamoa, aka Pineapple James Bond, the most serving-fork-assed man of all time. This is a compliment. Somehow. At all costs, do something and avoid being somebody
  11. The hydrocarbon based Neoliberal economy we live in will probably destroy globalized human society and most mammalian megafauna by 2100. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The sheer waste that American Restaurants create is part of the problem. The whole paradigm is fucked. No way around it. We are slowly turning into a bunch of fat fuck T2 diabetics too wheezy to operate The Empire. America is a Viking Colony — this era of Good Food, Poor Fighting Folks cannot and will not last. Enjoy it while you can. The Python is coming.
  12. “Foodie” is boogie as fuck. “I’m a foodie” means a person has conflated healthy eating with the literal fetishization of literal commodities. Literally. Not metaphorically the way dipshits breathlessly say “I was literally devastated.” But rather the literal fetishization of a literal commodity. The foodie then goes and identifies their self with things they purchase. The foodie has achieved some sort of perfect Frankfort School Adorno-like Enlightenment. But it is the Light of Hell.

BUILDING THE SECOND

The Restaurant

  1. The Platonic Ideal of The Good Restaurant is in Spirited Away. It is the House. We the FOH, the BOH, the MGMT we live there. We spend 30 to 100 hours a week there. We have slept there, eaten there, cried in the office there, fucked in the booths late at night there, gotten piss-ass drunk in dish and snippingly cross-faded on the patio. We have bled there, cursed there, laughed there, smiled there, spent our birthdays there, our Christmases, our New Years, Easter and Mother’s Day — our lives there. Babies, rage, love, menstruation, fear, joy, heart attacks, panic attacks, hiccups, terrorist attacks — all of it, all within the bounds of our House. This the H in FOH and BOH. The House.
  2. Because it is our House, you are a Guest there. We are the Hosts. You are not a customer. You are a guest in our House. Your feet will never touch the fucking ground. But the trade off is that you must be a good Guest, not some rude karenic attention whore, expecting to bend the world to your whims. (This goes for you too, guys. Man Karens are the worst.) The customer is always right, but the Guest can cross lines and get consequences rained down upon their heads. A Guest who acts a fool will get their asses thrown the fuck out. Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that Guest. Be money.
  3. “Beware of whores who say they don’t want money. The hell they don’t. They want more money. Much more money.” William S. Burroughs.
    Beware of Houses who say it isn’t about the money. I once had a bunch of Austin hippies tell me it wasn’t about the money. Then a few months after I returned to the dun brush of Avarga, they fired the bar manager for fucking with their money. It’s all about the goddamned money.
  4. I plunged dick deep into the Jianghu in The New Orleans, back before The Storm. My first house was in The Barrio Francés, the Quarters. (Once a Quarter rat, you never get that mentality out of your limbic system.) I was hired as a backwait, but got stuck as a food runnner. It was the greatest job of my life. I was pure Hermes. Go everywhere. Talk to everyone. Be loved. Get paid.

    We started pre-shift at 17:15 on the second floor. The second floor was a mezzanine, open to the ground floor around the elevator. The doors opened for Regular Business at 17:30. The hostesses began their organizational doings immediately, shunting the guests over to the bar. We could see them. They could see us. We could hear them. They could hear us. Service didn’t start until 18:00. The guests milled around, drank, admired the open kitchen, and told anecdotes about mediocrity in Ohio. We ran through pre-shift on the second floor. Specials. Wine. Push this, 86 that. Cocktails. General fine dining education. Exhortations for excellence. And then at 17:43, we all came together and every single member of that restaurant, a New Orleans Food TV power station of a restaurant, a motherfucking House, all of us, in unison, fortississimo, sang out our battle cry — GET THEIR MONEY!

    And that is what FnB is. It is not the hippie Austin bullshit of pretending we are all Japanese and bending over backwards to accommodate customers. It is not sucking Karen’s festering asshole. FnB is an arrangement by like minded pirates, Vikings, and ninjas to GET THEIR MONEY. And you will be happy to give it to us. Irish Diplomacy, y’all — How to tell a motherfucker to go to hell and have him look forward to the trip.
  5. The Moonlight life can kill you. But the Sunshine life can kill you too. So fuck it. Nos la rifamos.
  6. Say, do. You have dram law liability if your guest kills a family of four. You are basically a ship captain. Joseph Hazelwood of The Exxon Valdez didn’t do shit wrong. He still got blamed for those cute oil soaked sea birds. Why? He was the captain. He was responsible. You must take absolute responsibility for everything at a table. Or bartop. Don’t blame dish. Even when it is dish’s fault. That is called a mitigating factor. Mitigating factors are a bitch. Make jokes out of them.
  7. Learn what a debrouillard is. Learn where that word comes from. Read that book. You don’t know shit about food culture until you do. Also, you’ll do good to read the book that book is based on. Get into the labyrinth, my fellow babies. No one here gets out alive.
  8. Be a debrouillard.
  9. BOH used to be felons who weren’t allowed to touch money. Food TV changed that. But there’s still a hierarchy. Shhhhh…. ;) Don’t tell them that. BOH now thinks they are gods. They talk shit to FOH. This has never made any damn sense to me. It’s like the CPU talking shit to the GPU. You need them both to play good video games. But of course, BOH used to be felons who weren’t allowed to touch money. Cheffin’ is a mental illness. FOH’in is an addiction. These are not the same.
  10. Restaurants (Or bars) are a wonderful place to learn how to think holistically — in terms of systems. But there is always that one guy who burns everything down over a stapler.
  11. Restaurant service is the last universal common experience in an America where only 1% of the populace has served in the military. And 2% of the population are farmers. Some form of unifying experience must be compulsory in American life or the country will dis-integrate
  12. TGIF started as a place the owner could go to pick up chicks. Sushi is about as old as my grandmother. Salmon is not supposed to be eaten raw. Argentines put salt and tooth pick shakers on their tables. Irish cuisine is surprisingly good. Nothing is authentic, least of all authentic street tacos. VIVA TACO BUENO, CABRONES!!!!

BUILDING THE THIRD

The Section —

  1. Which is better — tight mise or tight pussy? Tight mise. Mise earns you money. Money earns you stability. Stability attracts pussy.
  2. Decide if you want to pour ice before liquor or liquor before ice. Do either one consistently. You’re either a Little-Endian or a Big-Endian. Only fools will argue there’s a damn bit of difference. I used to think that FnB was an Odyssey. In reality, it’s Gulliver’s Misadventures. But, fuck those liquor before ice bitchasses. Corporate shills ho-ing by the drop. Fuck those guys. ICE BEFORE LIQUOR RIDE AND DIE!
  3. Guest or mise? Guest, but mise creates automaticity. Automaticity creates unthought. Unthought creates joy. Joy creates money.
  4. No one can multitask, only multithread.
  5. Return your mise to zero with every completed order. If you share a work space with someone who doesn’t, suffer. Because they are probably too stupid to understand the concepts of automaticity and will resent you pointing it out to them.
  6. You must not be afraid of being busy. Busy is joy. Busy is life. Busy is cash. Busy is freedom. You must be afraid of the weeds.
  7. The weeds is when your OODA Loop can no longer accurately assess the number of things on your to do list. The weeds is the opposite of automaticity. What the fuck is an OODA Loop? Go look it up. It’ll change your life.
  8. The Weeds are not caused by busy. The weeds are caused by some other son of a bitch not doing his own running side work. Or by some dipshit owner who thought that gold rimmed soup mugs would be a great look — not considering the whole assed supply chain. Sometimes, you gotta heat up the soup in the microwave because the drunk assed sous didn’t put the turtle soup on the heat until 17:00. Gold sparks in the microwave. And now your soup mug looks like it just went through Vietnam. But we’re fine dining…
  9. Spirit — Mixer. Spirit. Fucking. Mixer. Call it this way. Make it this way. Fuck that California school of bartending that says you put the mixer first. Those people are hippies. Fuck hippies. Also, as a guest, don’t be that “cranberry — vodka” fuckhead. It confuses the bartender. The bartender is trying to keep eleventy-nine drink orders straight in their head. Molly Smutrust, Weekend Drinker, orders drinks like this. Molly Smutrust fucks up the flow. Do not be Molly Smutrust.
  10. Take allergies seriously. I once watched a chick go into anaphylactic shock because she absent-mindedly sipped on a boyfriend’s gin gimlet. She had a citrus allergy.
  11. Sweat the small stuff. It’s called 勢. It will fuck you up. For years — if you aren’t careful.
  12. My father was one of the smartest men I’ve ever known. He told me a story of his Graduate School days. He was studying English Lit, in a Shakespeare class. They were reading Lear and acting it out. My father was Lear. He read his part — screaming and frothing. The professor stopped him — “Richard, if Lear is screaming in the first act, what is he going to do in the third?”

    Always start small. Be Charming. Be Diplomatic. Be absolutely 100% prepared to fuck everything that moves. Seduce every mammal bigger than a sugar glider. You never know who is going to be useful in a fight.

    But also, be completely prepared to kill every last motherfucker in that room. They are not your friends. Yet. These people will only become friends after you’ve trauma bonded at 1:45 AM over the endless rounds of Crown and Rumple with coke backs. Or coke bumps. Depends on your demons.

And that my friends, is the 36 Chambers of the Great American Jianghu.

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