2007 Punk for hire.

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I am frequently asked how I got my start. Did you always want to cook pizza? Did you want to be a chef? Did you go to school for cooking?

The answer is no.

I, like most, didn’t have a clue what I was going to contribute to the world. I was just thrown into a kitchen out of desperation. I was nineteen and all I wanted to do was listen to punk and hardcore music, skateboard and ride my bike.

But that wouldn’t cover my rent and portion of my bills.

I applied for various retail jobs and didn’t hear anything back. It was during America’s great recession and nobody wanted to mess with a high school dropout. So I applied for a temp agency and got a job immediately... It was a graveyard shift at a vitamin factory, and my roll was to pick out misshapen vitamins off a conveyor belt. I thought that was an insane job and I didn’t want to do it. They informed me that I wouldn’t start for another three days. So that’s it I had three days to find something better than sorting vitamins.

Three days go by and I didn’t do anything. whoops. I looked online and saw a job fair for a new restaurant that is about to open. It was about five blocks from my apartment. It’s around noon, and I am set to start my sorting job in twelve hours. So I throw on a pearl snap collared shirt over a Black Flag shirt and my pair of jeans with the least amount of holes and walk over to the job fair. The doors open to the restaurant,I walk in and look up, no joke every single person applying/interviewing was in a fucking suit. So I turn around and start to walk out as a chef is walking in. She stopped me and said “there is no way you applied that quick”  I said “I didn’t apply” she ask “why not” I said “well I’m not in a suit and from what it looks like i am not qualified to work here.”

She laughed in my face and said come talk to me. We took a seat at a booth and I told her I was fairly new to Downtown Sacramento and I moved from Grass Valley. She got very pumped because she was also from there as well. We bonded over the ice cold blue yuba river and hot dogs from Julie’s hot dog heaven...and that’s it. She said she should have a job for me at another one of the company’s restaurants it was the one she ran and said “come talk to me in a week” and the talk ended there.

I start the five block trek back home. block one I thought fuck… a week! Block two I say to myself That means I’d have to sort vitamins tonight. Block three my phone rings and I answer. “Hey is this B-Ben?” A raspy voice on the other end stutters. I ask who this was. “Hey I got your number from blah blah blah (the chef from the other restaurant) and I was wondering if you had a moment to talk to me in person?” I told him I was on foot and that I had two more blocks to walk then I’ll drive over. He responded “rad” click and the phone call ended. (queue Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown) I sprinted  blocks four and five. Get home and jump in my 1995 Toyota Tacoma and jam over to him as fast as I could weaving through 15th St’s three lanes. Rip off my pearl snap shirt due to being too hot from running, plus I had to run the heater full blast to help prevent my truck from overheating. I walk through the doors and ask for the chef and he enters out two swinging doors “ You Ben!?...” before I could answer “...fuck, you like punk rock…” I froze and thought to myself, you idiot, you forgot to put your nice-ish shirt on. “...When can you start?” Still haven’t answered if I was Ben or not. I just blurted out “right now!” to him. he said “Great I just fired a line cook for coming into work drunk and he peed his pants” I asked “What are you going to have me do? prep? dishes?” he replied “No you are on a station, you are on pizza. you cool with that? I said” Beats sorting vitamins.” He looked at me confused and said “Great!”.. I said “and I’m Ben by the way.” He laughed and said “Man if you weren’t...that ben would have been super bummed.”

I felt off the hook! I did it!

That’s how I got my start making pizza.

I never called the vitamin factory.

So if you open your vitamins and happen to find a misshapen one just know that’s probably because I never went in for my shift.


You’re welcome.





Ben Roberts