Home > Don't Go Away Mad (Burgers and Brew Crue #2)

Don't Go Away Mad (Burgers and Brew Crue #2)
Author: Lacey Black


Chapter One


“I’m out of caramelized onions! Where the hell are the onions?” I bellow into my busy kitchen, ready to jump up my assistant’s ass for the second time today. She knows today’s special is the meatloaf burger, or “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” as the menu depicts, and one of the main ingredients is freshly caramelized onions over a grilled meatloaf patty.

She knows this, and yet I have no fucking caramelized onions.

“They’re right here,” Petra says, flustered, tossing a fresh batch of the vegetable into the metal bowl.

“Keep ‘em coming, Pet. We’ve got five more orders behind these,” I state, making two of the gourmet burgers my restaurant is known for.

Burgers and Brew, that’s what we’re called. The bar and restaurant my three friends and I opened just five years ago. What started as a pipe dream shared over a lot of cheap beer, transformed into what you see today featured in foodie magazines and websites all over the United States. We’ve turned hamburgers into an art, thanks to unique and delicious topping combinations and clever names.

Case in point: “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.”

It’s my take on a classic meatloaf sandwich. Fresh ground beef, a secret blend of spices, a bit of breadcrumbs, with a ketchup and homemade barbecue sauce glaze. Top it with those caramelized onions that are so hard to keep stocked, and a lightly toasted Kaiser bun, and you have a delicious take on a Sunday evening family favorite entrée.

I catch movement out of the corner of my eye and find Isaac heading to my office, a stack of papers in his hand. Isaac is the brains on this particular operation. We call him Numbers or Newton, after Isaac Newton, and he keeps our budding business in the black. It was Newton’s solid business plan that helped us secure the loans needed to start Burgers and Brew. He’s probably the one who works just as many hours as I do, making sure our bills are paid and everything runs smoothly.

Well, as smoothly as it can, considering we staff over two dozen employees and are opening our own brewery.

My friend, Jameson, took on that project. He serves as head of security on the bar side of the business but is overseeing the transformation of the empty warehouse next door to the future Crüe Brewery, an ode to our favorite band from college. We’re still a ways out from being able to produce our own beer, but we’re all pretty excited about it. Jameson has been working on recipes at home, when he’s not here.

He also plays a mean guitar. In fact, he’s our house musician on Friday and Saturday nights, packing the place with crowds from Stewart Grove and many surrounding communities. I’m not sure when Jameson learned to play, but I know he’s always had a guitar in his hand since I met him in college.

The man behind the bar is Walker. He makes sure the alcohol flows at a steady pace and the patrons are enjoying themselves. He even has this crazy tradition that every Saturday night, he plays a Mötley Crüe song on the old jukebox and dances on the bar. The first time he did it was during a successful opening weekend and a few too many celebratory shots, and ever since that night, everyone screams for more. Even his girlfriend, Mallory, seems to egg him on.

I’ll tell you, seeing my friend around Mallory has been something to witness. We all saw his feelings for her way before he acknowledged them, and it was fun as hell to tease him about it. The icing on the domestic bliss cake is Mal’s three-year-old daughter, Lizzie—or Lizard, as we like to call her. Cutest little thing I’ve ever seen, and she definitely livens up this place when she’s here.

Finally, there’s me. I run the kitchen with an iron fist, but if you want to be the best, you have to actually be the best. And that’s me. I’ve always wanted to be a chef, though I never saw myself serving hamburgers all day long. When I was in culinary school, I thought I’d be at a three-star Michelin restaurant, preparing cuisines to jet-setters around the world. Yet, when my friends and I had a little too much to drink and we started brainstorming this place, it grew on me.

A lot.

Now, I can’t see myself anywhere but here. Running my own business with my best friends is exactly where I want to be in this life.

“Order up!” I holler, making sure the plates look as appetizing as they’ll taste.

“I’m coming, hold your horses,” Mallory states as she swipes the freshly prepared plates onto her tray.

“I have no horses, Mal. You know this,” I tease. Mal works as a server in the restaurant, which is where Walker met her. She’s one of the newest employees but is one of the best. She’s attentive and quick, and the customers love her.

“I’m well aware of your shortcomings in the patience department, Jasp,” she sasses as she pushes through the swinging kitchen doors.

“Is that a smile I see?” Patrick, my dishwasher, asks.

“Get back to work,” I growl without any heat behind the demand.

He laughs as he stacks clean plates on the shelf in front of my face. The kid is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever encountered. At just twenty, he couldn’t afford college post-high school, so he opted to find a full-time job. He uses the money to help support his disabled mom, who has been in a wheelchair since an automobile accident almost a decade ago. He’s kind, reliable, and does a great job, even pitching in where needed if we’re ever in a pinch. Patrick has shown a little interest in cooking lately, so I make sure to pull him over to the grill every once in a while, usually after the lunch rush has already gone.

Patrick’s also one of the only employees to stick out my mood swings. Working in the kitchen of Burgers and Brew isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes someone who pays close attention to detail, can keep up with the demand of a high-intensity job, and thick skin. They need the latter to put up with me on a day-to-day basis.

I know I’m a son of a bitch. I’ve been called it plenty of times over the years. You don’t think I haven’t heard the grumblings by the kitchen staff or the whispers of the serving staff? Oh, I’ve heard it all. But this is my business, my legacy, and I expect it to be done right or not at all. What goes out those swinging doors has my name on it, even when I’m not behind the grill. Therefore, every step in the process must be executed perfectly or the whole thing could crumble.

I won’t let that happen.

Gigi, our server manager, comes through the door and delivers a tray of dirty dishes. She’s been with us since the beginning, having waitressed for two decades before. Gigi’s very grandmotherly and an important part of the team. Plus, she doesn’t put up with my crap and calls me on it often. She’s one of the only people alive I’ll allow to walk into this kitchen and give me hell. Anyone else would be fired, but not her.

“We’ve got a table of seven seating now,” she hollers, as she sets the dirty dishes on the counter for Patrick.

“You need him to bus?” I ask, without taking my eyes off the task at hand.

“Not yet, but I’ll let you know,” she adds before heading back out.

“All right, team, let’s get ready to kick it into high gear. Patrick, get those plates through the washer. We’ll need to stay on top of them. Mark,” I say, turning to the man working the burger prep station, “grab more cut fries from the walk-in. Petra, prepare the buns to be toasted. We’ve got burgers to make,” I demand just as more orders start to come in.

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