Todd "No Toast" Tayeh
Line cook, Mecca Cafe, 526 Queen Anne Ave N, 285-9728.

Todd has put in five years behind the lines at the Mecca and its sister diner, the Five Point. If you're looking for kick-ass sausage gravy or an exceptional quesadilla, Todd's your man.

What's the key to perfect sausage gravy? "Definitely drain your sausage grease out, and add it to your roux [the fat and flour mixture used as a base for gravies]. You gotta do that--making a separate roux is pointless."

What do you like most about your job? "Being on a line that's busy--that's why I do it. Being on the line and banging out tickets is what it's about. Prep and cleaning is important--there's always something to do during down time--but I like seeing seven tickets up there and just going at it... I love that."

So what do you do when you're completely slammed? How do you keep from losing it when you're overwhelmed? "Music. I gotta have heavy metal on. I'm a butt rocker, I'll admit it. Some guys have jazz on, but the ideal for me is to have some Ozzy or Megadeth on. I crank it and get into my zone. And you can't lose it--if you get angry, you're slowing down."

Is cooking what you want to do with the rest of your life? "That's a tough one. It seems like everybody in this town [who's in] a kitchen is only there because they're eventually gonna be a rock star, or they're a poet or whatever--so it's almost weird to be a guy who cooks for a living. But what's frustrating is that those [other] people don't take it very seriously, because they think they're only going to be there till 'the band makes it.' I used to work at the Crocodile, and that used to piss me off. Ultimately this is probably where I'm going to be at. I enjoy it and I'm making decent money at this point."

What are the most annoying modifications people make to their orders? "I'm sure this is gonna make me really popular, but I hate vegetarians. I've served people with serious health problems who are far easier to deal with. I do give people a break and cook their garden burgers on the bread side of the grill, but when they say they are just going to have fries 'cause 'that's all I can eat,' I'm just like, 'Dude, what do you think I cook in the fryer?' I do fish and chicken in there. The day guys sometimes use it for pork too."

What heavy metal band would you love to cook for? "I've already cooked for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, and--of all people--Neil Diamond. But ideally I'd like to cook for Guns N' Roses. Prior to their self-destruction, of course."

What would you make for Slash and Axl? "Something with a Jack Daniel's-based BBQ for Slash. And something with a sedative effect for Axl, so he'd stop beating people up--maybe turkey. But definitely Jack Daniel's ribs for all of them.""

Interview by Hannah Levin

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