More Wisdom From Stephen Tanner on Customer Relations and How to Eat a Cheeseburger

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Tanner, in repose. Photo: John Fell

Yes, we seem to be writing a lot about Stephen Tanner these days, but really, how can you blame us when every fascinating word out of his mouth is enough to make even a world-class cusser like Kenny Shopsin blush? We were so spellbound by the answers to the questions he gave us in a recent interview, we inadvertently omitted a couple of nuggets. Here they are:

On getting a start in the restaurant business as a Georgia teenager: "Ever since I was like 12 or 13, I was always on punishment. I’d get in trouble or shit. My dad, like on Friday nights, he’d go pick up Chinese food from House of China, and he came back one Friday night and was like, 'Hey! I got you a job at House of China; you’re not going to sit around here anymore!' It was great because, you know, it was Chinese food, and they didn’t care. I got to drink beers and stuff and just bus tables. I worked at another place when I was 13 or 14 that was considered to be like a fancy place — bunch of white people, and the kitchen was all black and they were treated very poorly. But I remember there was a cook, he had like two teeth and he was like, 'Hey, white boy, you know what a sole burger is?' And I was like, 'No, what’s that?' and he took a hamburger and he fucking threw it on the nasty-ass mats and stomped on it and then cooked it and I was like, 'Alright.'"

On cooking at the Commodore: "The older I get, the more I don’t give a shit. It’s like ... people and having to feed them; they’re such pussies and such babies. They’re like, 'My sandwich is too spicy and my bread is melting ... I cut my cheeseburger in half and it fell apart.' I mean, you pick up a hamburger and you literally don’t put it down. You’re an idiot if you do that. It should take you about 45 seconds to eat it, and then you’re done."

On Diner, where Tanner first cooked in New York: "I don’t even want to go down the road at fucking Diner, that’s Pussy Central. It’s like: 'Oooh, well, what’s your fat-to-lean ratio? What farm is this from?' C’mon!"

Related: Stephen Tanner on Being a Germophobe, Killer Boston Pizza, and Why He Hates ‘Munchies’