Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mex and the City

You could list 100 things any given Auckland restaurant could do to improve the dining experience, but approximately 87 of those problems could be solved by simply hiring staff that care about the food they're serving. This was highlighted to me last night at Mexicali in Newmarket, where my purchase of a $13.50 takeaway burrito came with a free lesson in vocational passion from the young man behind the counter.

In my stand up act I talk about Subway Fonzie, a character who worked at Subway Manners Street, Wellington, in the early noughties. Fonzie had a passion not for food, but for being cool. Although he didn't quite achieve coolness, he definitely won difficulty points given that all he had to work with was a green polo shirt and four feet of optional sandwich condiments.

Taco Dave on the other hand, really believes in his work. He's been working at Mexicali for three years, and over that time has become an expert in the various tortilla-based mexican dishes and, more importantly, explaining the subtle differences between them to drunken monkeys like me and my girlfriend. 

It's clear that Taco Dave loves working at Mexicali, believes in the food and feels as though he's doing God's work telling people about it. You should have heard him talking about the loyalty scheme - it was though he couldn't believe Head Office had been so generous; he shared it with us like it was some sort of clerical mistake that we should take advantage of before the accountants came in and shut the whole scam down.

My point is, when you're served by someone like that, you're happy even before you eat. The food would have to be pretty terrible to take the smile off your face. Luckily it wasn't terrible - it was delicious. Sort of like a kebab but bigger, fresher, spicier and engendering considerably less self-loathing afterwards. 

Mexicali is on Nuffield Street near Wagamamas, a chain restaurant which everyone thinks is very good but isn't really. Taco Dave was behind the counter at about 9.30pm on Saturday night, although I wouldn't be at all surprised if he's actually rostered on for the lunchtime shift and just sticks around working until closing for the fun of it.

Note: the excellently clever title to this blogpost was conceived by the excellently clever Ben Hurley