September 30, 2021
The owner of a restaurant is outraged when he discovers that one of the cleaners is stealing the scraps from the customer's plates for her children.
George Carson was the proud owner of one of New York's most prestigious and famous restaurants, The Kettle of Fish. George had inherited the restaurant from his father, who'd inherited it from his father.
Even though George had a supremely efficient manager, Colt Farlow, he kept a close eye on his restaurant, often dropping in at odd hours when the staff least expected and that was how he discovered that Consuelo Ruiz was stealing.
The kitchen usually closes at 10:30 and that's when the cleaning staff takes over. The chef and his assistants would go home to their well-deserved rest, leaving their workstations spotless.
The dirty glasses, dishes, and cutlery are cleared and placed into the huge industrial dishwashing machines by a team of three. When the staff walks in the next day, they would find everything spotless.
One day, George walked in at 1:00 am and sauntered through the kitchen towards the back to check on his beloved wine collection for which The Kettle of Fish was justly famous.
As he was passing, he noticed that one of the women was scraping the leftover steak from one of the dishes on a tray into a plastic bag tied to her waist under her apron. When she finished, she carefully rinsed the dish and placed it in the dishwasher.
She picked up the next dish and did the same. This time the leftovers were an almost intact serving of Chicken Kyiv. George stood back and watched. The woman looked to be in her mid-forties and had a thin, drawn face.
As she worked, she hummed softly to herself. "Ruiz!" George was startled to hear the sharp tones of his manager Colt Farrow. "Shut your trap and stop your pilfering. I want to close up!"
The woman flushed, ducked her head and closed the door to the dishwasher, poured in the detergent, and set the huge steel machine to humming. Then she dashed into the locker room, while another woman started cleaning the kitchen floor.
George, who'd kept himself carefully out of sight, slipped out and waited in the shadows by the back door. Soon the three cleaners exited, followed by the grumbling Farrow.
The woman Farrow had called Ruiz pulled a thin coat closer around her and hurried away down a dark, narrow alley and George followed. Three blocks away, the woman opened a door and vanished into an industrial building.
George frowned when he read the huge plaque outside: 'CONDEMNED.' That meant that this large former factory was deemed unsafe, so what was the woman doing there?
Remember your own past, and help those trying to build a better future.
George opened the door and walked in. He followed the sound of voices and the glow of lights until he came to what must once have been an administrative office with glass walls.
The walls were intact, and inside George could see the woman Ruiz, and what appeared to be four children of different ages. Ruiz was carefully removing a series of plastic bags from her purse and setting them on a table.
Then she quickly served the scraps of food onto plates and distributed them to the children. So Ruiz was taking the leftovers from the customers' dirty dishes and feeding them to her children!
George was outraged. How could this happen in his beautiful Kettle of Fish? He was going to put an end to this. He slipped away quietly without the woman or the children seeing him.
The next day, when the restaurant staff came in to prepare for the dinner rush, George was there. "Farrow," he called. "Come here please, I need to speak to you."
Farrow followed George into his office. "Mr. Carson," Farrow greeted him with an unctuous smile. "What a lovely surprise!"
"That remains to be seen," George said coldly. "There are a few things going on in the restaurant that I disapprove of, Farrow."
Farrow frowned. "Anything that displeases you... please, let me know and I will remedy it immediately."
"I was in last night at closing time, Farrow, and I saw one of the women scrape the leftovers from the dishes and take them home -- presumably to eat."
Farrow looked suitably shocked. "Really? I wasn't aware..."
"Yes, you were," George snapped. "I heard you talk to the woman."
"Sir," whined Farrow. "I assure you..."
"I gave orders that leftover food and ingredients from our kitchen were to be delivered to the shelter," George said. "And you knew that. And you also knew one of our employees was living off leftovers from dirty dishes?"
"Erh..." Farrow cleared his throat. "Well, yes, but I'll put a stop to it! It's this woman -- Ruiz? We took her on temporarily. She's an immigrant, and you know how they are!"
"Yes," said George coldly. "I do know how they are. Desperate, willing to work for a pittance, sometimes starving. I know how immigrants are. You see, Farrow, my grandfather was an immigrant too."
"Sir," gasped Farrow, "I assure you..."
"I presume you've been hiring Ms. Ruiz at a fraction of the salary I budgeted for her position and pocketing the rest," George accused and Farrow turned a dark beetroot-red.
"You're fired, Farrow. You have been exploiting these poor desperate women, driving them to feed their children on scraps," George roared. "But it's over!"
Then George called Consuelo Ruiz. "Ms. Ruiz?" he asked the frightened-looking woman gently.
"Yes," she whispered.
"I know you've been taking scraps home to your children, and I'm here to tell you that it's over," George told her.
"Please, sir," Consuelo said with quiet dignity, "Don't fire me. I just have no one, and I need the food... The money is not enough."
"I know," George said gently. "Which is why you will be getting a salary increase and a work contract."
Consuelo stared at him and her mouth hung open. "An increase?"
"Also," George added, "my grandfather bought this whole building, and at the back, there is a small apartment that we've been using as dry-goods storage. I've ordered it cleared out and cleaned.
"It's small but better than an abandoned factory, and it has electricity and hot and cold running water. You and your children will be moving in today. And no more scraps, you get proper food!"
Consuelo was crying. "Why are you doing this?" she whispered. "Helping us?"
"Because," George said gently, "many years ago, my grandfather came to this city, this country, with nothing but his dreams, and someone helped him. I'm doing the same for you."
"Maybe one day, you or one of your grandchildren will lend someone else a helping hand. That, Ms. Ruiz," George smiled, "is the true American Dream."
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