I was thinking back about all the jobs I’ve held since I started working at the age of 14. Of course, my first job was at a burger fast food joint, and NO not McDonald’s.
It was a new burger place called Monster Burger. What I liked about that job was that I wasn’t just a cashier. I got trained as a line cook. I got to toss the burger patties on the grill, prep the tomatoes, hand slice the homemade fries and slice the lettuce. I learned a lot about cooking, planning, prepping, using various kitchen devices and food hygiene.
Unfortunately, Monster Burger was run by bad management, which meant I was out of a job within nine months after they opened.
When Monster Burger closed, I found a job at a place called Taco Viva. Back in the day Taco Viva was THE PLACE for Mexican food in the neighborhood I lived in. I can still recall their old TV commercials from the mid-1970s with their catchphrase, “When you say Taco say VIVA.”
Here is one of their typical TV ads, for your viewing pleasure from 1975: https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IWftVqD0yo These early jobs were part of my middle school curriculum. Instead of opting for Home Economics, we had the option to find a part-time job, report to work with a special permit. That permit allowed the school to keep track of my work hours and schedule and work assignments and get class credits.
I was a cashier, but also cooked and served the food at times on different shifts. I wasn’t old enough to serve drinks so when someone ordered beer or wine, I had to call the manager to the front so he could serve their beverage.
The kitchen at Taco Viva was huge! I mean the walk-in freezer was bigger than my bedroom was. I loved every minute I got to work on the line, learning to make fresh burritos, tacos, house made guacamole and so much more.
I guess these jobs, my Mom’s cooking and my huge appetite is what inspired me to become a foodie!
A few years later, while still in my teens, I got a job at a popular seafood market in the highly exclusive neighborhood of Coral Gables (Miami’s version of Beverly Hills).
Compared to the various jobs I’ve held in the food industry, working at Fowler’s Seafood was the best experience I recall. I had never worked at a seafood market, but they taught me everything I needed to know.
I learned about the various types of shrimps, snappers, groupers, lobsters, scallops, and clams. I learned how to filet, de-bone, and de-skin all types of fish. I became quite skilled with the filet knives and could cut de-bone and remove the skin off a 60-pound Mahi-Mahi in minutes. We made and froze house made New England Clam Chowder, Manhattan Clam Chowder and various other soups and meals. I learned how to shuck oysters and steam clams, make homemade cocktail and tartar sauce. I recall we used to cut out the cheeks from the large black groupers and use them to make sandwiches for the work team. I got to interact with some amazing customers. I even met a few celebrities.
Whenever we got backed up on deliveries, I would jump into the second van and make the rounds.
There was usually four or five stops on Star Island. This was when folks like Vanilla Ice, Gloria Estefan and Shaquille O’ Neal all had homes there. I got to see Gloria Estefan more than once!
I made a delivery right at the front doorstep of Julio Iglesias’ home, more than once. This was way back in the day when he lived off Old Cutler Road. That mansion was the most beautiful water-front mansion, that I had seen up close and personal. That was until I delivered to Castle Wackenhut a few days later. George Wackenhut was the founder of Wackenhut Security.
Sadly, the Wackenhut Castle (also known as Tyecliffe Castle) was demolished in 2008. But trust me it was stunning and older photos can still be found online.
The jobs I had during my teenage and early 20 years are memories I still treasure today.
Speaking of treasure. There will be a bright moment in what has been a political and pandemic mess of a year.
On Dec. 21, the winter solstice, we will be able to view something not seen in nearly 800 years. On that night Jupiter and Saturn will line up to create what is known as the Star of Bethlehem or Christmas Star.
They say it should be visible toward the Southwest skies right after sundown.
Hopefully, it will serve as a reminder of the true reason for the season and spread some joy and hope as we look toward a new Year in 2021.
Patty Leon-Senior Editor