The Meat Carver
Short Story Day 112 of 365
The application for ‘Chief Meat Carver’ at the Great Family Buffet came with a practical test: slice meat from a turkey, ham, and a side of beef. Management would judge the applicants on customer interaction, skill in slicing the meat, and an undisclosed quality.
Six applicants were down-selected and came in for the test. The company staggered the interviews at 30-minute intervals. Prior to the practical exam, each applicant had the opportunity to ask questions about the position, the company, and the working environment.
The fifth applicant, Ray Siemens, asked the typical employer-employee questions, plus a question about the tools he would be using, namely the knives to carve the meat, not only during the exam but at work.
“How often do you sharpen the knives?” Ray asked.
“Fair question,” Mr. Thomas, the VP of Restaurant Operations, said. “Let me put the same question to you but in a different way. How often should we sharpen the knives?”
“I’m not a knife sharpening expert by any means, but I would say right before each shift starts and then strapped regularly during the shift. The sharpening doesn’t need to be an elaborate setup, but we should have something. I should be able to cut through this meat like a, well, a knife through hot butter. The customers shouldn’t see me struggling to cut anything.”
“That’s actually the answer I wanted to hear.”
“So, when was the last time the knives I’ll be using for the exam was sharpened?”
“Well, Ray, you’re the fifth candidate, and none of the other applicants have sharpened the knives before you. To be honest, I can’t tell you the last time someone sharpened it.”
“Just so happens I brought my two-sided whetstone with me, you know, just in case.”
“Of course,” Mr. Thomas said. “So, you’re ready for the exam now, that is, after you sharpen the knives?”
Ray took out his whetstone and a small vial of distilled water and dabbled it over both sides of the stone.
Mr. Thomas left the room and returned with the knives, washed them in a nearby sink, and handed them to Ray.
Ray began to work on the blades, while Mr. Thomas watched.
Forty minutes later, Ray smiled and said, “Ready.”
Ray followed Mr. Thomas to the meat table set up in another room. Ray pretended Mr. Thomas was the customer and asked him about his selection of meats.
Of course, Mr. Thomas selected all three meats and Ray proceeded to cut from each while engaging in small talk with his customer. After laying the cuts of meat on Mr. Thomas’ plate, the vice president held up each slice of meat to the light.
His cut was so thin, light shone through it.
“When can you start?” Mr. Thomas asked.
“Can I bring this sharpening stone?”
“You’ll be fired if you don’t!”
“I can start tomorrow,” Ray said.
“See you at seven…sharp.”