Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Words from an Ex-Citizen of the Restaurant World

I recently had the pleasure of taking a sneak peak into my former life of serving.  I catered a large-scale fancy pants event in DC with a bunch of 19 year olds as my fellow employees.  I was 18 years old when I first started to wait tables.  I was clueless.  I was a terrible server.  I hope I never, ever waited on you.  I'm positive you would not want to return to the Lonestar Steakhouse (who would anyway?).

As I was elbow deep in dish water (some girl DIDN'T know that there was a garbage disposal in the kitchen...but I bet she knows how to download apps on her iPhone), scrubbing 80 plates for a party of 220, I noticed I had the only sense of urgency.  Was I in a different time zone?

Some good days at Ruby Tuesdays. Classy...can you find me?

I continued to cringe all evening as I overheard the service make small talk with the guests, put dirty dishes on the same tray used for clean dishes, pick at all of the food, and have no concept of The Hustle.  After over 10 years in the restaurant business (I had my first job busing tables at 15) I feel I can give some tips on how to not be Me when I was 18:

Things I learned from waiting tables/ things you should expect from your server.

1. Full hands in, full hands out.  If you're leaving the kitchen, you should be running some food out or something to your table, if you are coming in, you are cleaning something from front of the house.  Trust me, this will pay off and get you out of the weeds faster than you know.

2. NEVER ever, ever assumed you've been tipped. When collecting a check say "I'll be back with your change" or nothing at all.  Then let the guest decide to tell you if you should keep the change.

3. Keep your mouth shut. No one wants to hear about your day.  Awkward.  I've recently had a string of servers that talked way too much.  Here's something to are great, but they are not there to see you.

4. Remember, its just food.  It's not the end of the world if table 9 gets an over-cooked steak.  Just say you're sorry and fix it.

5. Hustle.  Seriously, have a sense of urgency- 10 minutes to you is nothing if you're there for 4 hours, but 10 minutes is a chunk you're stealing from someone's lunch break if you're out smoking a cig instead of checking on their food.

6. Keep your clothes as clean as possible.  Keep that uniform/apron/whatever clean as possible before and during your shift.

7. Don't touch the guests.  I once spilled a place of porkchops on a guy's lap.  It was really uncomfortable when I frantically wiped his crotch.

8. If you don't know what to do, clean.  I was severely annoyed when I saw my fellow workers standing around while I was busting my ass trying to get clean wine glasses out.

9. Help others, they will help you.  When you're in the weeds, people remember what you've done for them.

10. Know the menu.  Know what you're selling.  No one is going to buy a sandwich from you if you don't even know what's in it.

and to be fair...

Things you should know as a Customer:

1. Thank you goes a long way...

2. But being nice doesn't replace a tip.  I tip 20% before tax on exceptional service.  15% on meh service, and 10% on negligent service.

3. A bad attitude might not get your food spit on, but at least ten people will be talking trash about you in the kitchen.  Still don't care?  That's fine, we had a great time poking fun at any weakness in your physical appearance or manner.  We've probably already nicknamed you.

4. If somethings taking long, you have the right to ask.  Don't feel bad.

5. Nothing will happen on time on a Saturday night.

6. If you have at least 2 major messups in a dining experience, something should be comped

7. Something everyone should know by now: If you're at a bar...don't snap your fingers, if I told you my name don't shout it constantly, I see you. Have your order READY with method of payment, craft cocktails take longer. Note: this not only help the bartenders, but it allows other patrons to be helped in the most efficient way possible.  a boozetopia if you will.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Best Thing I Ate in Brooklyn

There we were...walking back from a fabulous brunch at Miriam in Park Slope, Brooklyn (and swinging the sensible shoes I had purchased at Beacon's Closet) on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  Amidst the pet shops, bike shops, thrift stores, futuristic baby strollers (that is what Park Slope is made up of), I look up and see an unremarkable green awning.  "Christie's Jamaican Beef Patties" I say aloud.  Both Raskia and James Boice's eyes light up at my observation.

They insist I try one.  They are the best in Brooklyn.  I've made a cosmic connection.  Of all the stores to say aloud, I pick this one.  I had to eat one.  

I apologize for not having a picture.  I hate taking pictures of food I'm going to eat in public places.  Is that weird?  I just think it's tacky.  The truth is I was so preoccupied with this meat pocket, that I couldn't think about taking a picture.  So here's one I found on the internet:


Anyway.  In case you don't know, a Jamaican beef patty is a spicy ground beef turnover with a flaky crust.  James and I couldn't even wait to get to the apartment (or Prospect Park even) to dig in.  We sat on a bench on the side of the sidewalk and devoured half of a pattie (this is after a full brunch mind you).  It was delicious...hints of cumin, scotch bonnet pepper, was all there.  My mouth waters just thinking of it.

Honorable mention:  Steak and eggs at Vinegar Hill House.  The ambiance was perfect...small farmhouse out of an Anthropologie catalog.  Polite, slender, stylish, tattooed, beautiful wait staff.  French-pressed coffee, local ingredients, craft cocktails with special ice  blah blah, every foodie's dream.  Again, no pics of the food, you know how I roll.  But here's the garden patio where we sipped our coffee and waited for our table.

cross-processed for your viewing pleasure