So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Monthly Archives: May 2009

New link posted – Steakhouse Blues

http://www.steakhouseblues.blogspot.com/

I highly recommend this blog from “old school steakhouse general manager–80 hours a week putting out fires [sometimes literally], correcting grammar, opening wine, directing traffic, trying not to kill everyone, and happily receiving the financial tributes of our adoring guests one benjamin at a time

It’s not often that a post on a blog almost brings me to tears. But this is one of them. I demand that everyone go to this blog and read the entire post. It’s too long to reproduce here, and even the extract that I’m posting is longer than I prefer, because usually you can get the gist of a post in the first paragraph or two. However, to get to the essense of the post, I had to include the following:

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

I claim to be an average man of less than average ability. I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith“–Mahatma Gandhi

“Where’s Mr. O’Leary been?”

The question from one of our longest-tenured servers catches me unawares. Mr. O’Leary is one of our most prized guests and one of the richest men in our generally very prosperous city. He is a legend throughout the local dining community–out to dinner six or seven nights a week, choosing from a small group of favored restaurants and literally showering them with his largess.

Every time I see Mr. O’Leary I think of the scene in “My Blue Heaven”, an otherwise exceedingly ordinary comedy about a gangster stuck in middle America as part of the Witness Protection Program. Steve Martin plays the mobster, who attempts to tip his FBI caseworker [Rick Moranis] upon first meeting him–When Rick Moranis‘ character questions the action, the gangster responds matter-of-factly by saying, “Ay…I tip evvverrrrybodddy!”

Mr. O’Leary tips everybody as well. To use another gangster movie allusion, this one from “Goodfellas“, when Mr. O’Leary is in the house, the bartender gets $20 just for keeping the ice cubes cold.

Once the server mentioned Mr. O’Leary’s absence, it occurred to me that indeed we probably hadn’t seen him for nearly six weeks–immediately I was both concerned and embarrassed. Concerned because while in good health, he is an older guy, and I was afraid something might have happened. Embarrassed because over the last few months my attention has been diverted by other things and my observational powers have suffered as a result–I hadn’t noticed his absence at all.

<snip>
You simply must read this entry. In fact, this blog is a definite keeper. The posts are detailed, well-written and full of humanity; the first being a common trait of GMs, the second a sometimes quality that you find because GMs do a lot of their interaction on the phone and in person plus, they generally don’t have time to do a blog in the first place, and the latter, a quite rare quality in a GM . Therefore, it’s being enthusiastically added to my blogroll.
Let’s all welcome Steadkhouse Blues with a rousing Hurrah!

Cookbook of the day – Cooking With Fire and Smoke

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Cooking With Fire and Smoke

by Philip Stephen Schulz

Simon & Schuster (May 15, 1991)

  • ISBN-10: 0671733095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671733094
  • Well, it’s the Sunday after memorial day and many people are dusting off the grill and icing down the beer, inviting their friends and family over for the communal event that we call “barbeque”.

    This is a book that would be useful to novices and experienced grillers and smokers alike.

    The subtitle of this book is almost longer than the first chapter:

    “Recipes for great grilled, barbecued, and smoked dishes – a user’s guide to equipment, fuel and accessories – from hibachis to gas grills”.

    This describes the book to a tee. The first 11 chapters is all about the mechanics, logistics and safety issues of cooking food over flame and smoke.  With lots of advice on equipment selection, matching flavors to food, and how to keep your eyebrows, this book is a godsend to those whose grandpappies haven’t passed along their esoteric and private hints about feeding the clan outdoors during the spring and summer. The advice is spot on and full on practicality.

    The last 2/3rds of the book  is recipes scattered with charts on cooking times and cooking styles and advice on seasonings. The recipes are well-chosen. They don’t go far afield with obscure and sometimes off-putting ways to shoehorn a cuisine into a grilling box.

    There’s a reason why this book has hung around as long as it has. It doesn’t pander to the whims and fancies of a dining public, but it doesn’t just stick to basic recipes and concepts.

    And that’s a reason why it should be on the bookshelf of any self-respecting charcoal and wood user.

    That, and the fact that it’s an inexpensive paperback.

    Sometimes it’s the little things…

    Grabbing a handful of forks or plates and having exactly the number you need to set a bunch of tables, especially when you make a conscious effort to estimate the number that you’re going to need.

    A child’s delight at being in the proximity of a live lobster.

    A table saying, “We know you want to get out of here. Why don’t you drop the check now”?

    The feeling of a pen with the perfect kind of ink.

    The smell of cooking bacon from the prep area.

    An unexpected $6.34 check from a bonus from a contest that you had forgotten all about.

    The sight of a cherished regular’s name on the reservation list, even if it isn’t in your section.

    The guest who listens to you when you say that you wouldn’t recommend leaving a certain ingredient out of a dish.

    The glass that doesn’t break when it bounces twice on the floor.

    Your first table ordering a $100 bottle of wine.

    Your last table not wanting dessert or coffee.

    A primer for would-be “Top chef” contestants

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    It’s hard to go wrong with bacon.  Even with ice cream.

    Never, ever tell a judge what you couldn’t put in a dish because of a screw-up unless you have to (it’s a listed ingredient). They might not miss it.

    Always taste your dish right before service, especially for the presence (or lack thereof) of salt or acid.

    Learn how to cook rice. Rice has been the downfall of many a cheftestant.

    Never use frozen seafood or freeze seafood to get a certain effect.

    Have a foolproof dessert in your pocket – one that you can make under any sort of circumstances. Try to avoid baked desserts because there are too many variables and too much precision required in measurements (unless you are drop-dead sure that you can execute it). 

    Learn how to make a few Thai-influenced dishes, especially those that feature coconut milk as a primary ingredient.

    Don’t proclaim that you are an expert in any particular type of cuisine, even if you think you are. It will be used against you as plot points, plus you will be teased unmercifully in forums and blogs everywhere.

    It’s OK to fly under the radar for the first third of the competition. It is not OK to underperform though.

    In restaurant wars, it’s better to be a team player than to be a team leader.

    When planning a meal that has to be prepare at one site and transferred to another, don’t have any fried components of a dish.

    Hone your knife skills (pun intended). Work on speed as well as precision.

    Don’t overthink your dishes. And don’t second-guess a gut instinct.

    Coming in second in quickfires in the first half of the season shouldn’t cause you distress. Just try to stay out of the bottom as much as possible and don’t worry about being “in the middle”.

    Don’t “play the game” or try to game your fellow competitors to the exclusion of playing your own game.

    A well-executed soup will get you far.

    If you have to choose between simple and complex, choose simple. But always remember, that the simpler the dish, the more on-point you have to be with seasonings and ingredients.

    When given a fellow competitor or celebrity sous-chef, remember – you are the chef, not them.

    When fed a meal by the judges, pay attention to everything that’s said about the dish. Observe every facet of the dish that’s presented to you so that you can reproduce it later.

    When given a challenge, listen to the challenge and pay particular attention to the rules. If in doubt as to whether you are breaking a rule, back away quickly. In the next tip, the cheftestant who did the sushi dish also screwed up the rules of the contest, plus he violated the “don’t proclaim that you’re an expert” rule. If in doubt, ask for clarification. Don’t lose the rules sheet that the production team gives you.

    Pay particular attention to the people who will be served your food in a challenge and tailor your offering to them. Don’t do as one cheftestent did and serve an unconventional sushi dish to a bunch of firefighters, for example.

    Learn to use a food mill instead of a blender.

    Never tell a judge more than they need to know.

    Every cheftestant will have a miss-fire occasionally. As long as it didn’t make you “pack your knives and go home”, move on. Ask yourself, “What’s next”?

    Scallops are overused, but judges seem amazed when they are cooked correctly., so using scallops isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when they are cooked correctly, which ain’t hard unless you forget about them while you’re cooking.

    Foams are soooo Season Two. What season are you in again?

    On-air time is a double-edged sword, especially in the beginning of the competition. Don’t make it your goal to be the big personality of the season. As the field thins, air-time will come of its own accord.

    If your ingredients total more than 7, that’s a red flag.

    As the season progresses, try to maintain your own vision and try to keep your dishes distinct from everyone else. Collichio has complained that, all too often, at the midway point in the competition, “they all start feeding off each other and all the food starts to look the same. It’s kind of annoying”. He’s the last person that you want to annoy.

    Ask yourself this – is the $100,000 prize worth compromising your integrity as a chef and a person?

    And remember, while it might be “Top Chef” and not “Top Cook”, you need your “inner cook” in order to succeed.

    If you win because of this post, I expect a good meal out of it.

    Cookbook of the day – Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

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    Frank Stitt’s Southern Table – Recipes and Gracious Traditions From Highland Bar and Grill

    by Frank Stitt, foreword by Pat Conroy

    Artisan, NY

  • ISBN-10: 1579652468
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579652463
  • Frank Stitt is a celebrity chef. But not the kind that America and the world knows about because he judges Top Chef, or competes on Iron Chef, or has a restaurant in Vegas. He’s John Besh before Besh made the move to grasp for the brass ring – a chef beloved in his hometown, celebrated in his part of the country as a shining representative of his cuisine, and a successful restaurateur/chef.

    His restaurants, Highland Bar and Grill, Chef Fonfon and Bottega in Birmingham have been lauded by guests and critics as sterling examples of what a chef can do with fresh, seasonal ingredients. He has consulted with restaurants throughout the South and has trained an army of chefs, sous-chefs and line cooks that have made their own impact in the cooking tradition of the respect for seasonality and region. They carry his message to kitchens across the South, and elsewhere. Not surprisingly, he’s also a supporter of the Slow Food movement creeping its way across the nation.

    Stitt’s no johnny-come-lately. His real start was in the 70s, working for free in Alice Water’s Chez Panisse where he gained the confidence to approach the famous food writer Richard Olney, the editor of the famous Time-Life Good Cook series, who agreed to meet him in London after Waters gave Olney a letter of introduction. He talked his way into being Olney’s personal assistant for part of the year at his home in France, where he gained an appreciation for the French love of seasonality, locale and…well, a life well lived. He also spent some time that year in France with Steven Spurrier, the famous wine expert, who helped him hone a sense of the harmony of wine and food. And he makes appropriate wine and food pairings throughout the book

    In 1982, he opened Highland Bar and Grill and hasn’t stopped since.

    This book is his personal narrative and a celebration of freshness, family tradition and a sense of place. It puts the spotlight on the people who help him create great dining experiences and is loaded with the principles that he finds important when creating and presenting a dish or a meal. The recipes are logically andpassionately presented, both in text and photo. There are discussions of the purveyors that make it possible for Stitt to procure the freshest ingredients and it’s not often that a cookbook addresses the very relationship between a chef and his or her vendors.

    A substantial volume, if this book doesn’t set your culinary passions alight, then nothing well.

    And pray that he never shows up on Iron Chef.

    From www.southernaccents.com, this Frank Stitt summertime dish – Shrimp Salad Portofino, a dish not in the cookbook:

    shrimp-salad-l

    Photo credit: Monica Buck

    Selling the sizzle…

    This is an old school advertising term that applies in spades to waiters and waiter-wannabes.

    Originally, the term probably came from the mouth of a mid-60s chain-smoking, chiseled jaw, (m)ad man describing how he could make a client’s product or service pop by making it as mouthwatering as a sizzling steak on the Weber.

    The actual phrase is “Sell the sizzle, not the steak” but you usually don’t hear the last half of the quote. However, the whole quote illustrates the concept better because, let’s face it, if you were confronted with a sizzling steak on the barbie or a shrink wrapped, perfectly marbled porterhouse, which do you think would push your buttons more?

    Since the concept is a food metaphor in the first place, it’s particularly apt for waiters.

    <editorial insert here> For any new readers of the blog, realize that I use the word waiter to describe both female and male servers>

    If you are simply a passive order-taker, I suppose it doesn’t matter, but then, that just makes you a mediocre waiter. You really don’t want to be one of those, do you?

    It’s a commonly-held psychological fact that people respond on an emotional level to “s words” (it’s one of the reasons that vowel-filled French  is a “romance” language and consonant-ridden German isn’t). The sound of “s” and vowels are soothing (even the word soothing embodies this concept). It’s especially true when s is followed by vowels. For instance, the words “shit” and “sharp” aren’t particularly soothing. But the word “soothing” is…well…soothing. There are certain consonants that mimic vowels to a certain extent. For instance, “w” is a softer consonant when following an “s” and, therefore, you could consider “sweet” as one of those “sizzle” words.

    But a word doesn’t have to be an “s” word to be a sizzle word, especially in the culinary world. Crisp is a sizzle word (yes, it has an “esss” sound that finishes it). Toasty is a sizzle word.

    Basically, a sizzle word is a word that triggers an emotional response in the brain similar to a sense-driven trigger like the sense of smell. One of the big axioms in the biz is that we eat with our eyes. That’s true. But we also eat with our ears. that’s why fajitas are so popular – the sizzling mound of meat is soooo enticing. A good example of this sensory conditioning is the smell of popcorn. You smell it – you want to buy and consume food. Basically, you want your words to be the aural equivalent of hot buttered popcorn. Which sounds better, “We have a nice 24 oz porterhouse as our special tonight” or “I love the olive oil brushed, broiled, perfectly marbled porterhouse that we’re offering tonight. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it”?

    The application of an appropriate sizzle word or phrase conditions the guest to be pre-disposed to wanting that item. “Crispy, deep-fried tender calimari” sounds so much better than “fried calimari”. Basically, you want the guest’s mind to start manufacturing in their minds the very qualities that you are describing.

    Is it manipulation? Sure it is. All successful selling is.

    Start coming up with your own list of sizzle words – words that make your own mouth water. Words like buttery, succulent, soft, luscious, unctuous, tasty, round, feminine (the last four usually used to describe wine). Phrases like perfectly broiled, seared rare, subtly spicy, outrageously decadent. Triggers like tequila-laced, caramelized crispy skin, steaming hot cappuccino.

    Start pairing those words and phrases with appropriate menu items and you’re on your way. Once you’ve done that, learn how to stretch the words out slightly or emphasize them just enough. Learn to build a vocal rhythm to your spiel, much as a skilled playwright creates music from dialogue.  Don’t get sing-songy, but try to elevate your spiel from a flat, uninvolved line reading.

    Once you get practiced at it, you’ll find that you can guide your guest into an above-average dining experience by suggestively selling the strong items from your kitchen.

    And you’ll move this:

    OXFORD-DELMONICO-STEAK

    To this:

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    Wine topic of the day – Super Tuscans

    tignanello_super_tuscan_wineThis is a very misunderstood concept (as is Italian wine in general). I recently overheard it said that they were cabernets and cabernet blends, at which point another said, “No they are Italian varietals of very high quality” and the conversation touched on the “fact” that they were anything but sangiovese and that’s what made them “Super Tuscan”. All of this was both right and wrong.

    Super Tuscan is a marketing term attributed to Robert Parker back in the 70s after several Tuscan vintners brokered the concept of rule-breaking in the late 60s. Their original idea was to bring a Bordeaux sensibility to Tuscany, using some of the famed Bordeaux blending grapes to add additional body and structure to  sangiovese and other grapes used in famed Tuscan products and to try to expand the rather staid idea of what great Italian wine should be. At the time, the DOC (the Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and DOCG (the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) laid out the structure of classification of Italy’s better wines, much like the French system of AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée).

    The grandaddy of all Super Tuscans is Tignanello, first bottled by Antinori in 1977. It introduced Cabernet Sauvignon as a blending grape, which excluded it from both of the previously stated categories (it couldn’t be called Chianti or Chianti Classico, for example). Because it didn’t fall into the specified parameters of the upscale classifications, it was relegated to the vino da taviola (table wine) category. Although it had been preceded by his relatives’ famous wine Sassicaia by a full 8 years, the Incisa della Rocchetta family usually doesn’t get the credit for creating the Super Tuscan category with Sassicaia. That seems to fall to Pieto Antinori, whose Tignanello’s addition of approximately 20% Cabernet Sauvignon to Sangiovese seemed to set the Italian world alight. Perhaps Sassicaia, with the 80% Cabernet was just too exotic and pricey to be revolutionary. Tignanello came in at a much lower price point and was closer to what most people thought of as “Tuscan” because it had a much lower percentage of outside grapes.

    In any case, this was all fortunate in several ways. First of all, these vino da taviolas that weren’t just “inferior” versions of better wines or “wines that the peasants drank” became a source of interest because they were actually more expensive than the standard “classified” wines and were more full-bodied and exotic. So, Super Tuscan came to be a nickname that separated these from what most people knew as table wines. It also caused a new classification to be created, so that it could be included in a category elevated it past mere “table wine” category (does one really call a $200 bottle of wine “table wine”)? This new category was called IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) and is found as a subset of vino da taviola. It basically allows a previously non-standard wine to be promoted as having the same strict standards found in the other two categories.

    You generally don’t find the words Super Tuscan as a branding feature on the label. Sometimes you might find the importer using that term in the English back label. This is a category that you simply have to know about. It’s a fair bet that if the wine is listed as Tuscan or from Tuscany and it isn’t a “Chianti” of some sort or a Brunello or Barolo (the latter of which is actually from Piemonte but is sometimes confused with Tuscan), even if it’s 100% Sangiovese,  it’s a Super Tuscan. This is something that you almost need to know by brand name, or be told by your wine rep or your Keeper of the Wine List person.

    Here are some known trade names:

    Tignanello, Sassicaia, San Martino, Fontalloro, Il Bosco, Vigorello (sometimes called the very first super Tuscan), Centine and Cortaccio.

    This is only a smattering of the great names in Super Tuscans. It’s time to do your due diligence and hit the research road. I do hope that I’ve given you enough to give a concise answer to a guest who either asks, “Do you have any Super Tuscans” or “What does “Super Tuscan” mean”?

    Tennessee governor vetos “handguns in bars and restaurants” bill

    Gov. Phil Bredesen has used his 6th veto against HB 962, a bill intended to allow registered right-to-carry gun owners to take their guns into establishments that sell alcohol, a right not currently granted to them.

    My opinion? Guns and alcohol don’t mix. Ask Plaxico Burress if you don’t believe me. I prefer my shooters in a shotglass, not on a barstool. I’m kind of silly that way.

    Will the state legistature overturn the veto? Stay tuned for further updates. Right now, the House needs 50 of the 99 members to vote to override the veto, which would then go to the Senate where 50% plus one vote of the 33 members will sustain the override. Support has been strong for this bill on both sides of the aisle, so the veto has an uphill battle. 

    MolotovCocktailM-main_Full

    Cookbook of the day – A Taste Of Persia

     

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    A Taste Of Persia

    by Najmieh K. Batmanglij

    Publisher: Mage Publishers; 2nd edition (December 20, 2006)

    ISBN10: 1933823135

    ISBN-13: 978-1933823133

    As you are probably becoming aware, I’m a sucker for a good history lesson with my cookbooks. This one has a crackerjack one that opens the book.

    Westerners normally have a very minor acquaintance with the history of the region.  They kept a little from the Old Testament and then, the next 2000+ years is basically non-existent. And boy, how that’s worked out for us recently, eh? Little do we realize that the word Shiraz is actually a town in Iran where the grape gets its name. We don’t associate such an arid region as the source for diverse things as oranges (a word actually derived from Persian origins, which is likely the reason that there’s no word in English that thymes with it), walnuts, almonds, sugar cane, basil, coriander, saffron, and other luxuries like spinach and alfalfa. Some of these items were indigenous to the region and some brought in and out in trade with India and China.

    This book even has a photograph of a 4000 mortar and pestle! Yes, they were grinding pomegranate seeds millinnia before thirsty housewives discovered the Pomegranate Martini (I was going to say Cosmopolitans but many Cosmos have never seen a pomegranate due to the increasing use of artificial ingredients in grenadine.

    Persia has at times included Iraq and a couple of the Russian “-stans”. It has conquered states and been pillaged by the likes of Ghengis Khan of the Mongols. There is an account in this book of the plunderer Ashurnasirpal II throwing down for 10 days with a feast for “47,074 persons, men and women, who were bid to come from across my entire country”. The book goes on to say, “plus thousands more foreign and local guests. The menu included thousands of cattle, calves,sheeps, lambs, duck geese, doves, stags and gazelles”. This was 9th century BC, btw. A feast of truly biblical proportions that never made the final King James cut.

    But back to this cookbook. The cuisine of Persia (Iran) is one of fruit  and/or vegetable-laced meats stews (khoreshes), kabobs of spicy succulence, fluffy jeweled pilafs, cooling Indian-esque cucumber and yoghurt salads,  eggplants in various forms, roasted meats like lamb and casseroles.

    But if you get this book for one reason only, it’s the recipe and procedure for Chelow, which is a crusty dome of basmatic rice served family style. A yoghurt/water/rice and saffron mix is used to coat the bottom of the original rice pot after the bulk of the rice has been removed and drained. After starting with this layer, the remaining rice is carefully spooned into the pot in a pyramid shape. It’s cooked under cover for 10 minutes and then cold water and oil or ghee is poured on top, a little more saffron water is added and the pot is then cooked under a cover layered with a dishtowel for 50 minutes over low heat. The pot is then carefully inverted over a plate and this is the result (courtesy of www.chubbypanda.com):

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    This is one of of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. The tah dig (the crusty top) is marvelous with a crunch that elevates ordinary rice to something texturally interesting. The inside is golden and scented from the saffron (the normal perfumed quality of basmati doesn’t hurt either) of and the use of ghee makes it wonderfully buttery and just chock-full of umami, the Japanese concept for “mouthfeel” that has become the buzzword of the culinary world. It’s an impressive dish to serve – impressive in appearance and its simplicity. You can actually stuff it with various meats and fruits as well. There’s a procedure that you have to follow to get a great result and this book outlines it to a tee and it’s not only easy to follow, but it’s easy to execute and remember without having to use the book once you’ve done it a time or two.

    The book is a slender volume – not at all like the huge tomes that I usually recommend. It has a nice coated stock for paper, full-page color shots of most of the recipes, and is well laid-out and attractive. For such a “small book” there’s an astounding overview of a history and culture of a region.

    Now go forth and make chelow.

     

     

    Some terms that a new waiter needs to know pt.2

    Walk-in – That big cold room where they keep the perishable food. It’s only called a walk-in if you can walk into it. Otherwise, it’s a reach-in or a refrigerator. Alternately, it’s a table that hasn’t made a reservation and has, wait for it…walked in and wanted a table. Get it?

    Tray Jack – a folding/collapasable thingy that can act as a stand for a large food tray. Looks slightly like a TV tray table, except that it usually has a pair of straps that holds it together when unfolded.

    Stiff – something that a server dreads above almost anything, even working Sunday lunch. Strictly speaking, it’s a zero tip. However, in common parlance, it’s any really bad tip (like 5%). Some servers even use it for a substandard tip like 13%, but I maintain that this is diluting the supreme power and terror of the word.

    Spiel/Scripting – the recitation of the specials. Sometimes you’ll hear “scripting the specials”.

    Sections – the grouping of tables into discrete blocks and assigned to a specific server or servers. This is the server’s “real estate”.

    Closing section – usually the section that checks out the other servers and usually has little sidework other than doing the walk-through with the closing manager. Usually reserved for the stronger servers. Usually leaves last, but can actually leave before someone else who might have a camper.

    Camper – a table that sits…and sits…and sits…and sits…and…well, you get the idea.

    Walk-through – the final inspection of the restaurant at the closing of the shift. Usually done with the closing manager and the closing server.

    Run/ride/follow/– the transfer of a table’s food from the kitchen to the table. A ride or a follow is the helping of another server, servers or food runners in the running of the food.

    POS – the computer system that handles all of the business of the dining room and kitchen. Stands for “point-of-sale”. Alternately, stands for “piece of shit”. This meaning can also apply to the POS system, but can also refer to anything from the Assistant Manager to a greedy server to the salt shaker whose rubber stopper just won’t stay put.

    Pantry – the part of the line where you get salads, desserts, appetizers, etc. It does not refer to the room where the dry goods are stored. That is called:

    Dry storage/lager – Yep, that’s where you get the food that doesn’t have to be stored under refrigeration.

    Dishland – affectionate term for the dishwasher area.

    Dishwasher – the most important person in the restaurant.

    Order fire – in systems where you pre-order your food, this is where you’re ordering the food and firing it at the same time because they don’t have an intermediate course. Chefs don’t particularly like this because it makes it look like you’re trying to jump the queue. So, whenever possible, if you can wait until close to the time that you know that any lengthy items that have to be started early are finished, try to hold off on order firing.

    Mise en Place – a line cook’s prep setup for service. This includes anything that has to be cut, chopped, pureed, blended, seared, soaked, or spooned into a hot pan or dish. Everything is arranged so that it falls to hand and the line cook doesn’t have to think about where everything is. This is sacrosanct territory and should never…let me repeat this…never ever be messed with. The server has no reason to ever touch, remove, play with, or even covet in his or her mind anything in the mise (pronounced meez). If you need something that the line cook has, always ask politely if you can have some and let them give it to you.

     French service – the serving of family style side dishes by the waiter onto the plates of the guests rather than letting them do it themselves. Usually done with a serving spoon and a fork or two serving spoons, chopsticks-style. Actually involves a lot more detail, but this is what is usually meant.

    Ranch dressing the object of scorn by waiters around the Northern Hemisphere. A white, viscous substance used to mask the fresh flavors of a salad, or used as a dipping sauce for things as diverse as raw cauliflower to various fried substances. Also used as a yang counterpoint to buffalo wings’ yin.

    Pre-shift – the pre-service meeting where information is disseminated to the service staff. Sometimes used to “inspect the troops”.

    Family meal – the free (usually) meal prepared by the kitchen for the staff. Sometimes it’s a creative use of leftovers or excess inventory. Sometimes it’s a  failed science experiment utilizing ingredients approaching toxic waste category. And sometimes it’s just a thing of simple beauty.

    Bacon – a miracle material that makes just about everything taste better. Alternately, the money that you bring home.

    Grease – an additional tip on top of an auto-grat or mandatory service charge.

    Double-bump – a usually unintentional full gratuity added on top of an auto-grat or mandatory service charge.

    In the rough – the state of being that occurs right before getting “in the weeds”.  The point where the server is at the tipping point. It’s the point where the ship can either been righted or can sink like a stone.  First publicly coined by the blogster bitterwaitress. the term comes from golf, where a golfer has missed the fairway and landed in the tall grass that abuts the short cut grass of the fairway.