Justin Gordon came back from his last delivery late. By the time he let himself into the restaurant, everyone else was long gone. The kitchen was clean and empty and the lights were off. Justin sighed. He knew the manager, Mr. Kelso, was going to complain yet again that he was late and he should have been quicker on his deliveries. This was Justin’s first job and he was doing his best. He went to the lockers and was changing his clothes when the restaurant’s landline rang.
Justin hesitated. He wasn’t supposed to answer the phone, but it could be his boss, Mr. Kelso. So he picked up the phone and said: “Gourmet Goulash, may I help you?” “Hello,” said a woman’s voice on the other side. “I’m so glad you’re still open! I wanted to order some dinner.”
“Oh!” said Justin. “I’m so sorry Ma’am, but the kitchen is closed…” “Couldn’t you make an exception?” the woman asked. “I’ve just arrived from a long trip and I have no food in the house. I was really looking forward to some of your Chicken Paprikash with the yogurt and coriander salad!”
Justin hesitated for a moment then he said, “Ma’am we’d be happy to oblige an old customer!” He wrote down the woman’s name and address and headed for the kitchen. Fortunately, Justin was an excellent cook. In fact, his dream was to become a chef, but since his father had died, he and his mother had been struggling to make ends meet and he couldn’t afford to enter the expensive culinary academy.
Justin quickly had the pots simmering and bubbling away while he started chopping up the coriander, mint, and cucumber for the yogurt salad. As soon as the food was ready, he dished it out into the appropriate containers. He wouldn’t have time to clean up the kitchen if he was to deliver the food quickly, but he decided to come into work extra early the next morning. He hopped onto his motorbike and headed for the customer’s address.
When he rang the doorbell, he was surprised to see a woman in a wheelchair answering the door. “Good evening,” Justin said. “Special delivery from Gourmet Goulash!” The woman was delighted. “Thank you!” she cried. “Hold on a moment and I’ll get my purse.”
Early the next morning, Justin was at the restaurant and the first thing he did was to pay the cost of the woman’s meal into the till, then he started cleaning up the kitchen. He was nearly finished when Mr. Kelso walked in. “What do you think you’re doing?” he screamed. “You’re not allowed in the kitchen unless it’s to pick up deliveries!”
Justin blushed and explained, “A customer called last night and asked for Chicken Paprikash and so I made some…” Justin was close to tears. He needed this job badly, but he knew that he HAD broken the rules. There was nothing he could say. He went to his locker and got his personal things. He was going to have to tell his mom he lost his job…
The next morning he came to the restaurant for his pay. He went to Mr. Kelso’s office and knocked on the door before he walked in. He stood by the desk while Mr. Kelso wrote out his check and ranted at him. “I can just imagine the health code violations!” he said angrily. “And the food was probably terrible! We’ve lost the customer for sure…”
“But sir, I just wanted to help the lady…” Justin tried to explain. “She said she was a regular customer…I thought it was important…” “I don’t care if she was the President!” Kelso screamed. “I pay the rent and the electricity, I’m the one who decides what’s important!”
That was when Justin noticed the portrait of a woman on Mr. Kelso’s desk. It was the lady he’d delivered the dinner to! Why would that nice woman’s photo be on the nasty Mr. Kelso’s desk? What could the connection possibly be! He was about to say something when Mr. Kelso threw the check at him. “Get out,” he said. “And never come back!”
“Some woman phoned in an order after hours, and instead of telling her the kitchen was closed he thought he’d be Sir Galahad on a scooter!” he scoffed. “Can you believe it?” “Yes,” his mother said and wheeled herself away from the table. “And he was very sweet and charming too.” “I phoned him, Alan,” Mrs. Kelso said. “I came home from my trip and there was no food in the house even though I’d asked you to do some shopping for me.”
“Well, I was hungry,” Mrs. Kelso said. “So I placed an order even though I knew the kitchen was closed. I wanted to know if you still held to the same customer service tradition that your father and I founded that restaurant on. “The young man you fired not only showed the kind of spirit I admire, but the food he delivered was also delicious — a lot better than what your current chef cooks.”
“And you know what?” asked Mrs. Kelso. “He wouldn’t let me pay for dinner. He said it was on the house. I think you should take that boy back quickly unless you want ME to fire YOU, Alan!” Justin was stunned to see his former boss on his doorstep the next day. “Justin,” Alan said. “I’m here to invite you and your mother to lunch at Gourmet Goulash today — and to give you your job back.”
“My father was a chef,” Justin explained. “Before he died, I was going to study to become one too, but now…” Mrs. Kelso smiled. “Well, I loved the food you cooked for me, and Gourmet Goulash is taking you back as a part-time assistant chef on the weekends.”
“Oh, it has to be part-time, you’ll be too busy,” exclaimed Mrs. Kelso. “Because I’ll be paying for your tuition at the Culinary Academy starting next semester!” Do your job the best you can. Justin went beyond the call of duty and he did it well. He ended up opening the door to the future he’d dreamed of.