Eating at a little hole-in-the-wall burger joint the other day, I started wondering about who was behind the spatula flipping the burgers on the grill. I went back and found out it was Carlos Espinal, age 24, an easy-going fry cook with a sanguine outlook on life.

“I’ve been around the restaurant business since I was six years old. My family, they owned a restaurant back home, in the Dominican Republic. It was called El Prestige. And since I was a little kid, I'd be in the back there, looking at them and watching the workers doing their thing, and it just stuck with me.

“I started doing burgers at the Blarney Stone, which is owned by my family here, on 31st and 8th Avenue. As soon as I started there, I was running the place, but I was also in charge of the kitchen. So I was doing preps and all that, and making sure everybody was doing their job right. And flipping burgers, when I had to!

“The trick to making burgers is in the seasonings, and the trick to flipping burgers is all in the hand. And we make sure our grill is pretty clean and we make sure that our burgers are updated: that they're fresh. We just like to serve the best to people.

“The biggest order of burgers I've ever cooked up was 53. It was take out, and it was also a matter of timing: they had to have them in their hand at a certain time.

“At home, I like cooking Spanish food the best. When I'm in a relationship, I do the cooking...I don't feel very comfortable with other people cooking. I don't know if they know how to do it or not, and I know I know how to do it!

“I don't really want to have my own restaurant; it's such a headache, to be an owner. I like the way it is now: when I leave, I go home and rest my mind, and that's it.

“I’ve only been here for like three months; a friend of mine brought me here to get a job. I didn't want to work, I was having pretty much fun, just playing sports and hanging out and relaxing, but he pushed me into it.

“But to be honest, I've never had a problem with anything about the job. You make the place, you make your surroundings, so as long as you keep your head up and do what you have to do, nobody should dislike you.

“I work with Enrique, and he's a better cook than me, speed-wise. But I don't compete with him, he's such a good friend of mine.”

©Zina Saunders 2006-2014

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