Chicago: Day 6

This weather can kiss my fucking ass.

My (our) reward for setting up the show and being the grunts for the duration is leaving in the morning on the last day. We get home to EC while the final day of the show is just ending. It feels so goddamn great. I’d have left days ago if I could, so any second spent here is one I’d rather be spent on my couch or in my office. That asshole bitch piece of shit mother-nature had other plans.

We’re stuck here another day and night. That means another day of grunt work, and instead of leaving the take-down to a couple local sales people, they’re heading home and we get the honors. Honestly, though, it’s preferable to driving home to what we thought we were going to. It looks like it’ll be hellish. If I wasn’t going to be able to drive home tonight, an extra day is a small price to pay for not having to worry about losing your life in a fucking blizzard.

***

I don’t like to give off the impression that I like people. My close friends and coworkers know otherwise, but if people think that their presence is bothering you, they don’t start in with stupid conversation to fill time when they’re around you, and I love that. But every once in a while I’ll meet people and it’s pretty great. Today was kind of cool:

• the guy on the barstool next to me while I waited for my dinner takeout. He was in town for the same reason I was, was also from Wisconsin, knew my boss and others I worked with, and holy shit: his cousin was my 7th grade social studies teacher and 8th grade football coach hella many years ago.

• the pretty gal I got to know when we hung out and drank wine on the couches in my hotel lobby while waiting for other people. She, again, was here for the show, was from South Wales, and accents are officially the best.

• and my dumb weekend crush.

This show is conducive to people watching. The overwhelming majority of the time you’re standing around, looking at your phone or laptop or finding some way to keep busy. The men check out the women walking around the floor, the women check out the men AND the women (“She should NOT be wearing that skirt at her age.”) For me that means a couple hours a day I’m cooking and serving. But the rest of the time I’m in a chair in the back on my phone, or out front demoing our products for the public. It’s here where I’m inevitably gonna find myself looking next door at the girl demoing the blender and serving greek yogurt and smoothies.

***

“…a type more Greek than Italian.”

I don’t know why that quote from The Godfather went through my head every time I found myself looking at the beauty next door, but it did. She was setting up when we were and ever since has seemingly had my role: not a salesperson but the one who’s making the food and bringing people into to the booth with demos. I may or may have may not made a comment to my friend Jamie about how she was about the prettiest girl I’d seen this weekend and she more or less shamed me into going over and talking to her. So I did.

She’s from NYC and she’s the video director for her company. She hates her tiny apartment but loves her job. She basically has brown eyes you get lost in because while she’s talking that’s pretty much what happened to me and I can’t remember a whole lot else.

So sticking around another day won’t be so bad.

Dinner:

Where: Mother Hubbard Sports Bar
Kind: Hole in the wall (OR SO I THOUGHT) sports bar
Crowd: Out of town business dudes
Atmosphere: Awesome. May as well be your neighborhood pub
Food: Sausage and pepperoni pizza
Drink: Bulleit Rye old fashioned neat, sweet no fruit; Makers Mark double, neat
Verdict: Pizza was fine but not a place I’d go to again, even if it was EC. HOLY FUCK, THE DRINKS. This is a text-book case of never judge a bar by its cover. Most specialty drinks I’ve come across this week are in the $9-$11 range. My two ran me $30. Holy ish.

I’m blaming the boss; he recommended the place.

Chicago: Days 4 & 5

I was too fucking tired to write last night.

The International Housewares Show started and by the time the day ended, I was the only person from my company who didn’t go out with others for dinner and drinks. I got back to the room, put on sweats, ordered room service and proceeded to watch Battleship, The Fast and Furious and fell asleep to Inception. There was a brief moment where I contemplated walking a couple blocks to watch the Bucks, but the sweats won out.

I’m not here to sell. For all intents and purposes, I’m a grunt. I’m the person who handles all web design, development, and marketing for a top 20 Forbes company, but I get invited to these because I’m the youngest person in the company, I can lift things and work hard, and I’m good at making food for people. I get a break from web-work to travel with the rest of Advertising and Sales so long as I do all the things no one else can or won’t do, and I love it. The first half of the week I and a couple others set everything up, and the remaining days I cook for dozens of people, make runs when needed and it’s like I’m operating my own kitchen. It’s fun when there’s people to feed.

But it’s also hella exhausting and after three days of set-up here’s all you get for Day 3:

Dinner

Where: My hotel room
Kind: Pretty dope
Crowd: Party of one, y’all
Atmosphere: Missing a candle or two, but relaxing
Food: Pulled chicken nachos from Hub 51, room service
Drink: Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon
Verdict: FUCKING PERFECT.

I just needed a night off my feet to refresh the batteries. Mission-fucking-accomplished. Having dumbass movies like Battleship and Fast and Furious on helped. Number of regrets I have for staying in my room in downtown Chicago on a Saturday night for the third straight year? ZERO.

Day 4

Day 4 is when it picks up at the show. I probably cooked for 80 people today and it made the day go by quick.

A couple posts ago I mentioned how I’d probably meet a number of celebrity chefs; I’ll be honest, this year I barely give a shit. Yesterday I could have met Ming Sai (again), Rick Bayless and Fabio Vivani (again). Today it would have been Paula Deen (again), Todd English, Masaharu Morimoto (again) Gail Simmons and Duff Goldman. All cool people, but I’m celebrity-chef’d out.

I am, however, making an exception tomorrow for a guy who I’ve made it a habit to stalk: chef Chris Cosentino. Two years ago I had his steak tartar and talked to him after a show. Last year I recognized him walking the floor (NO ONE ELSE DID WTF HE’S CHRIS COSENTINO) and followed him for a couple minutes until I thought I could approach him for a picture, which he obliged because he’s awesome. He’s doing a demo tomorrow and I imagine he’ll be like, “OH HEY I REMEMBER YOU HOW YA BEEN, BUD.”*

Dinner
Where: Shaw’s
Kind: Hella famous seafood
Crowd: Not young.
Atmosphere: Like an old time steak and seafood joint. For my Eau Claire pals, think a wide open Houligans.
Food: Oysters, Lobster Bisque, Perch
Drink: Sapphire Martini extra dirty w/ two blue cheese olives, Rye Old Fashioned, sweet, no fruit x 2
Verdict: My favorite night of the week.

I got lucky. Like, really, really lucky.

Some back-story…

Two years ago I was a shit-ass who didn’t know anyone at my first of these shows. I had an office and the same title that I do now, but I was still new as hell. We had our 1st meal out and at some point it got out that I was also a scotch drinker, same as the VP. Well end of the night everyone is taking elevators up to their rooms and I’m in one with this VP and his 2nd and they ask if I want to join them for a glass of MacCallan 15 in his room. I’m a young dipshit but I say sure and I end up sitting in this room with these two guys, getting boozy while listening to them tell stories. Just me a couple months into the job and two guys who have been around the company for 40+ years each. It was great.

I bring this up tonight because tonight was awesome on a similar level.

Like I said, I got lucky. I sat at the end of an eight person table. At my left was that same VP from earlier in the story, across from me is his successor, a salesman that has more experience than anyone, and to my right is my boss.

Over the next two hours I listened to them tell stories about dinners with John Besh and Julia Child, driving Orville Redenbacher to and from these shows, staying at the Drake, surviving teamster strikes and -22 degree temps. They traded barbs about restaurants and where the best food was served. I just sat in the middle, enjoyed my drinks and listened.

At one point I interrupted the three so I could ask how long each had worked at the company. The answer for these four:

164 years.

The food was good. I could have killed two dozen of the oysters, the lobster bisque was great, my younger brother Ben makes better perch and there wouldn’t be bones. The drinks were idiot-proof.

*doubt he says that, but man that would be dope.

Chicago: Day 3

I’m more exhausted than I remember being in recent trips. I was thrilled that dinner tonight was at 6:00 because I figured I’d be back in my room by 7:30. But I had to excuse myself from a group of 20 at the three hour mark because the thought of sweats and my bed out-weighed however socially unacceptable it might have been.

Ugh, fuck this.

We hit our mark. We again got up early as hell and kicked it in the ass. We ran into one setback and I had to replace and clean 25 shelves for product, but we were still out by 10:00 am. I spent the rest of the day shopping on Michigan Ave, which is pretty legit.

Lunch
Where: Hub 51
Kind: Young and trendy, known for their sushi
Crowd: Business crowd
Atmosphere: Whatever.
Food: 1/2 crunchy tuna roll, deconstructed tuna salad
Drink: Cucumber cuatro. It was fucking awesome.
Verdict: Solid lunch spot. I tried other sushi and it was great. I’ve had it before and I’ll probably have it again on Monday night.

Over lunch we had an overly friendly young waiter “straight out of GQ” according to my female co-worker. Really nice guy, very helpful. He was especially pleased with my drink of choice and when he came back a couple minutes after serving us he said it was because he noticed I was looking at the menu closely and guessing how I could make it at home. He was also a bartender and he was happy to tell me:

1 1/2 oz Effen Cucumber Vodka
1/2 oz Saint Germain
1 1/2 oz lemonade
1 1/2 oz ginger ale

Over the next twenty minutes he’d come by and spark conversations. He’s from Wisconsin too. He likes the Milwaukee area. He has a cousin from Eau Claire who plays soccer for the UW.

End of the deal I see my lady co-worker whispering to her husband and I ask what’s up. She tells me a story of how when she was with her daughter in the mall and a boy working kept coming by, looking to get her attention. Mom would engage and try and get her daughter to say something because of this poor adorable boy. When they left her daughter asks what the hell that was about, mom says that boy liked you and you should have said something.

“Oh Matt, he had a crush” she says. Speaking of the waiter, now.

“There were…glances.” her husband says.

“Ohhhh, those were more than glances. But hey, take it as a compliment! There’s been some women who’ve done the same to me.”

So yup, that was my lunch. Feeling secure in my manhood I went to Michigan Ave and bought new spring clothes at Express.

Dinner:

Where: Rosebud
Kind: American-Italian
Crowd: No idea, we were in a private room.
Atmosphere: See above.
Food: Caprese, Lobster ravioli
Drink: Sapphire martini extra dirty, Makers neat x 3
Verdict: Baseball was my sport, and I was a really good pitcher. I knew I could get guys out, but my one legit worry was the umpire. It was an element I couldn’t control. I knew everyone in the conference or league and I knew which ones were going to make the game about them, not the players. It made for a miserable game when they were behind the plate. Often it didn’t matter if a pitch was perfect, they’d show you up and call a ball and make a big deal out of it. The crowd would yell and they’d just yuck it up even more.

I bring it up because our waiter tonight was the equivalent of that kind of umpire. Nobody ordered, you were just brought food that he thought we would like. And it kept. fucking. coming. I didn’t have a lot of interest in salads or fried everything or meatballs the size of baseballs or plates of pasta. I just kept drinking, waiting for the chance to order my grilled salmon. Eventually the fucker won and my good sense was gone. LOBSTER IN RAVIOLI. WITH SHRIMP. RIDICULOUS SAUCE ON EVERYTHING. FUCK THE CALORIES JUST ORDER THAT SHIT. So I did.

It was good and I was the first to leave. Three hour dinners are not okay.