Ah, the age-old dilemma of how to get good employees to which we all wish there was an easy answer or some secret formula but there isn’t. Just because you’re out in the sticks doesn’t necessarily mean you have it any worse than the rest of us……you just have less riff-raff to sort through! My last restaurant on the East Coast was 25 miles north of Boston in a very posh, white collar bedroom community…..great for bringing in swanky clientele, bad for hiring employees. When the pimply-faced 17-year old shows up for a dishwasher job driving Daddy’s Lexus, you know you’re in trouble and that this just ain’t gonna work.
As for the prima donna Anti-Liver and Onions cook, I say give her the boot. I know that this will make more work for you, but in the long run, less aggrivation until you can find someone to replace her. I understand that in Atlantic, Iowa there are no culinary schools in the viscinity but do you have a Vo-Tech school in the county that you could possibly draw from? They allow you to post job notices for free.
One last thought (again which could not possibly apply in Atlantic, Iowa) is this: for the "mundane" jobs, i.e. dishwashers, prep people, bussers, cleaners, etc. hire foreigners. In Boston I finally wised up and realized that the Lexus clan wouldn’t cut the mustard so I started hiring Brazilians and Vietnamese. At Yankee Lobster I had Hondurans and Vietnamese who picked crabmeat and lobstermeat 8 hours a day. Here I use Mexicans and Asians. I currently have an elderly couple from Argentina, she is the Queen of Clean and he is the King of Prep. All of the above will NEVER call in sick, NEVER show up late and NEVER give you a headache. They have left their countries where there are no jobs for ONE reason: To work and earn money.