Kitchen Confidential meets Sex and the City in this delicious, behind-the-scenes memoir from the first female captain at one of New York City's most prestigious restaurants
While Phoebe Damrosch was figuring out what to do with her life, she supported herself by working as a waiter. Before long she was a captain at the New York City four-star restaurant Per Se, the culinary creation of master chef Thomas Keller.
Service Included is the story of her experiences there: her obsession with food, her love affair with a sommelier, and her observations of the highly competitive and frenetic world of fine dining.
She also provides the following dining tips:Please do not ask your waiter what else he or she does. Please do not steal your waiter's pen. Please do not say you're allergic when you don't like something. Please do not send something back after eating most of it. Please do not make faces or gagging noises when hearing the specials—someone else at the table might like to order one of them.
After reading this book, diners will never sit down at a restaurant table the same way again.
Topics: Gastronomy, City Life, Chefs, Artisans, Wry, Dating, New York City, Brooklyn, and Creative Nonfiction
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This rests on the fake construct that if you really enjoyed your meal it was down to the wait staff and you should voluntarily pay for that. Fake because if they do the job they are employed for quietly and efficiently you will enjoy the meal, they don't really add to it, but they sure can ruin it without hardly trying at all.
So what are we expected to pay for then? Outside of their job description what else is it they contribute? Friendliness, and sometimes in an effort to get a bigger tip, an annoying over-helpfulness - filling your water glass when you've just taken a sip, hovering at your elbow so your private conversation is inhibited. But the friendliness is as fake as the concept of the serving staff contributed to you enjoying your meal.
You want to see friendly? Pay a 20% tip (and if your credit card slip comes with service charge added, you will note there is a blank space for you to add an extra contribution as well, fill it in) and next time you go, your name will be remembered and you will be treated as an honoured guest. Leave less than 10% and you risk having your wait staff turn ugly and tell you what they think of you in sarcastic terms. Leave nothing and feel the blast....
This book, exposes the fakery of their affection for customers, their greed, and often bad relations among the other staff based on whose in the money position. Its thoroughly enjoyable.
I was taught, out of my awkward not-very-tip-friendly UK way to serve like an American by a very cheerful girl who enumerated the many ways to milk a customer of a good tip. It was useful information, but when I became the restaurant manager, I found it wasn't particularly correct. A pretty girl, looking sexy, gets better tips than the most competent and friendly male waiters. Boobs, hair and a trout pout wins every time.
Much later, I was a bar owner and decided to try something different. I paid incremently increasing commission on sales and required my bar staff , male and female, to be genuinely friendly to customers (easy on a small island), whether or not someone tipped. Inside and outside the bar. And guess what, both sales and tips soared. I had people on a waiting list for jobs, people-sharing jobs and the best of those bar staff, ten years on, are still my friends, my closest friends.
I'd still be in the bar business, making good money, rather than the bookselling one which doesn't pay, but I lost the bar to drugs. The landlord of the premises was involved in a rather big international operation. But that's another story. Involved a lot more money than tips as well.
2 May 2011more