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Crappy Jobs I’ve Had: Donut Cook (Part II)

Crappy Jobs I’ve Had: Donut Cook (Part II)

As previously discussed, I couldn’t really cut it in either of the high profile grocery store jobs of working the registers or stocking the shelves.  After several hours of intense review by Human Resources and the Food 4 Less Career Development Office, with appropriate consideration given to my skills, past experience and career goals, I was awarded the less-than-prestigious post of donut cook.  Like a cornerback in the NFL, the donut cook at F4L was on an island, rarely seeing another employee – unless you bumped into another unfortunate soul in the -32 ° F freezer where the cake donuts were kept.  That was actually a key selling point to the job, especially given that I had a couple of other jobs simultaneously where I had to extensively deal with the public.  Being the donut cook was essentially like running your own business (except you got none of the profits and had no interest in future prospects, quality control, etc.)

Most of you probably can’t even imagine what a donut cook does.  The techology likely has improved some, but back in the late 1980s it involved the following:

  1. Get some dough
  2. Place in super hot vat of grease
  3. Use tongs to flip over a time or two to cook evenly
  4. Remove from vat of grease
  5. Place in glaze area
  6. Put approximately 1800 ounces of glaze into the glazing device (basically a trough that you could scoop a bunch of glaze into, with handles that opened to dump the glaze on the unsuspecting donuts below)
  7. Dump glaze over the donuts
  8. Put now-glazed donuts in the donut case

I know that sounds pretty complicated, but once you got into a routine, it made sense.  Sometimes you would have the urge to glaze the donuts first – but then you would quickly realize that without cooking them first, there wouldn’t be anything to glaze.  The tongs (drumsticks?  whatever you want to call them) were extremely tough at first – a less than delicate touch would mutilate that glob of frying circular dough into an abstract disaster unsuitable for the discriminating consumer of fried dough.  You also had to occasionally get cake donuts out of a freezer – these were baked, not fried, so the procedure was much less complex than the above. 


Donute Delite lf_KingPlaza2
This tray technology is new - we used frickin tongs for everything. Tongs.




#5.  Donut Cook


Attire:  Smock.  I really do not like smocks.  Pretty emasculating. (Waiter’s smocks are the exception – those are badass)  The upside was you could wear jeans and tee shirt under the smock, so that was okay.

Score: 9 (Smocks suck, and to enter the super cold freezer you had to don a smelly old parka that was had been previously worn by probably 1200 people (each with wildly varying personal hiegene policies))


Prevailing Smell/Aroma:  Grease 

Score:  10 (Honestly, the grease was overwhelming here, much worse than The Bell.  I didn’t eat another donut for like ten years after working here.  I didn’t eat at T-Bell for like ten minutes after I quit working there, er, stopped working there – was told not to come back.)


Humiliation Factor:  Very low, who was up that early in the morning?  I worked from 5:00 AM to 10:00 AM on weekdays.  Only blue hairs were anywhere near F4L at that time of day. 

Score: 3 (I didn’t actually sell donuts to people, I cooked them and put them in a case – people served themselves.  I would duck into the kitchen area if I saw someone I knew’s mom.)


Co-workers/Culture:  None.  That was the upside to the donut gig – I was the only one there!  Sure, there were other people in the store, but everybody basically ignored the donut cook.   

Score: 2 (I did have to talk with the noon donut cook for a few minutes when he came in to take over.  That kind of sucked, talking shop about donuts – “that glazing tray is acting up a bit today, have to be a little aggressive with it”)




The most interesting conversationalists at Food 4 Less
The most interesting conversationalists at Food 4 Less




Authority Figures:  Even the store manager didn’t give a shit about the donut cook, as long as the donuts got cooked.

Score: 0 (Nothing to complain about here.)


Typical Hours Worked:  25.      

Score: 10 (The aggregate hours were fine, but 4:30 AM wakeup?!?!!  Combine this with a couple days closing T-Bell and another part time gig I had in the afternoons where I would chase down people who owed for their newspaper subscriptions (don’t ask) and I was sleeping something like 45 minutes per day.  On the floor of someone’s apartment in a sleeping bag.  I eventually started getting constant nosebleeds and then shed basically all those jobs.)


Education Required:  None.  Experience with tongs a plus.

Score: 6 (Solid summer job preparation if you plan on becoming a professional xylophone player or similar)


Screaming Obscenities at Top of Lungs Acceptable?  No.  The clientele at those hours really didn’t appreciate that kind of thing.

Score: 10 (I recall offending some early riser when I yelled after burning the cake donuts once.  That was likely the seed event that led me to so many cursing-appropriate occupations in the future)


Stress Level:  Initially, when I fucked up like 85% of the donuts, it was stressful.  But then I became somewhat of a maestro with the tongs (it’s all in the rhythm).  Once you got the hang of it, the job was easy.  The stress was in dealing with the clock every day – 4:30 AM always looming like the antagonist in an 80’s slasher flick.  

Score: 5 (I guess it’s kind of nice to finish (one of) your work day(s) by noon, but didn’t mesh well with my desire to get up whenever I wanted)


Ridiculous Travel Required?  Nope.

Score: 2 (The five mile drive was somewhat a pain in the ass given that it was 4:45 AM – the bulk of teleportation research is probably being sponsored by donut cooks)


What Kind of Dough was Involved?  $5/hour, not bad coin for 1988.

Score: 8 (Ha-ha!  Dough.  Actual donut dough was involved, too!  Back door pun)



Not interacting much with customers was good, but the early hours were ultimately a deal killer.  I think I only managed to keep this up for two weeks.  All the grease was also rough on the complexion – it looked like I was using a pepperoni-based facial cleanser.  It seriously took me a long time to get over the nauseating smell of donut grease.

Verdict?  It sucked, but wasn’t as bad as some of the other stuff (you probably gleaned that from it not being ranked as low)



Apologies for the posting delay, I didn’t have nearly the amount of free time during my trip that I initially thought I’d have (largely due to the propensity for rollin 5s and 9s at Tunica).  I am back to posting on a regular basis.  Also glad to return to NYC on the hottest day of the year – nothing like the smell of warm trash.


Crappy Jobs I’ve Had: An Ongoing Series

Crappy Jobs I’ve Had: An Ongoing Series

Editor’s Note:  Wednesday I apparently blacked out or something and fell back into the ways of an investment banking Vice President.  However, instead of subjecting some disgruntled associates and analysts to a false deadline, I for some reason imposed one upon myself.  Next week, I will get back to my Fantana-ish “60-80% of the time, there’s a new post every day (during the week).”  It’s probably good to establish some keep-em-on-the-edge-of-their-seats-wondering-what-it-was-like-to-be-a-donut-cook-in-the-late-80s dramatic tension anyway.

The first leg of the Tunica trip was an unmitigated success, with SO and I both posting solid wins in our craps session.  Up about $1600 total, not including the $100 I gave a kid for rolling like 7 5s in a row, or the 15 or so Vodka Crans imbibed.  Late night menu at the ‘Shoe was a little lacking though – no chicken fingers??  Are we in like Siberia?

Also of interest was that our rental car, a sweet Chrysler 300 the size of 60s Caddy, was brand new.  2 miles on the odometer.  Good omen.  

Back to Tunica, Sunday night.  In Little Rock for the wedding now.  Enjoy your weekend, C17.   




If you are trying to piece together the narrative of my life through this haphazard collection of experiences, hopefully at least one clear theme emerges: I’ve had a lot of fucking jobs.  I am talking major breadth here: from cleaning up some kid’s vomit at T-Bell to supervising nuclear reactor startups; from helping orchestrate corporate mergers to carving up deceased turkeys – that’s kind of the gamut.  And I was initially excited by the opportunity afforded me in each of these gigs, although the final verdict was invariably disappointment.  Today (and tomorrow) I will relive my trials and tribulations during my brief tenure at Food 4 Less.

This was the time period in my life following failing out of college and at least a year before joining the military – Guns N’ Roses, Dirty Dancing, The Cosby Show were the isht.  I had some cash flow problems – for the first time ever, I wasn’t getting along well with management at The Bell and my work hours were fluctuating wildly.  I was living on the floor of some friends’ apartment.  (Although that probably sounds horrible to you, I remember this time very fondly.  Probably a total of seven people lived, for the most part, in a one bedroom apartment – someone bringing a slab of ham home was like a gift from God.  It was essentially like a three month party – sans alcohol, so it was more like a sixth grade party. (Those were simpler times indeed.))  

I needed to find some supplemental employment post-haste.  The local grocery store, Food 4 Less, was hiring, but the competition was fierce.  As with the poultry plant, Food 4 Less had upped the ante: $5/hr.  Now, granted, I had spent one (highly unsuccessful) semester in college at this point, so I wasn’t as blinded by the dollar signs.  Even at this youthful age I started to realize that these highly paid jobs came did not come without supreme personal sacrifice.  I hit it off well with the hiring manager, a giant of a man (who was probably among the first users of anabolic steroids for improving appearance, not athletic performance) that could smell my (soon to be wasted) potential a mile away.  I was hired – as a checkout person.

Having worked this many jobs, I can with all appropriate modesty claim that I usually rise to a level of average competence at the task at hand (rarely, of course, above average).  That being said, scanner technology in 1988 was in its embryonic stage.  Finding that fucking UPC code back then was the proverbial needle/haystack situation.  After finally finding the inconveniently-located little bastard, it took at least 25-30 attempts to get it to scan.  I won’t even start with my inability to bag the groceries in anything resembling an efficient manner (in my defense, this was before Tetris).  And the disgruntled housewives were viciously disapproving of my leaden performance.  I lasted one night on the checkout.

Given that there were many different work roles required to make a Food 4 Less operate at the highest levels, there was no need to discard a strapping young lad just because he was a shitty checkout person.  I mean, really, isn’t that a girl’s job anyway?  Isn’t housewife-to-be DNA wired to know where the bar code is on a Shake ‘N Bake box?  For those of you from NYC, you wouldn’t recognize a store like F4L – it was approximately as big as the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  This wasn’t a 900 square foot rat-infested Gristedes, it was a gigantic Hot Pocket emporium.  I was given a second shot as a late night stocker.

At first glance, being a nocturnal stock boy seemed optimal – I was closing T-Bell a couple of nights a week anyway (having lost the coveted 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM weekend slots when I foolishly went to college), so this would mesh well with my late night schedule.  We did stocking on Friday and Saturday nights, so it meant you could theoretically still enjoy a portion of your weekend nights and then head to work.  Between the 20 hours at F4L and a similar amount at TB, I would be able to right my cash flow situation and figure out where my life was headed.

Except for stocking groceries was backbreaking, time-sensitive work.  A background in bailing hay or being a left tackle was better stocking experience than frying taco salad shells or playing tennis.  And you could get some mad splinters from the pallets!  I found myself unable to get all that shit off all those pallets and onto all those shelves in anywhere near the alloted time.  I lasted two days as a stocker.

There was one alternative left, one that really worked against my desire to never have to awaken before 1:00 PM.  They asked me to be the fucking donut cook.  The ignominy!  But I didn’t have a whole lot of choice – the sweet aftermarket turbo in the 280ZX was now producing sufficient smoke to suggest my ride was equipped with a wood-burning fireplace.  (Also, if you doubt my love for the 280Z, check this recent New York Times article).  The upside was that there were more hours to be had, this was a Monday through Friday gig.  The downside was that I was closing T-Bell a few nights still, so getting home at 2:00 AM and getting up at 4:30 AM seemed like a bad combination.

What was it like?  I’ll tell you tomorrow.