So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Daily Archives: May 24, 2009

Being a waiter under the age of 18?

Someone found this blog by typing in the above question in a search engine.

Generally, the answer is a qualified no. First of all, it’s a definite no if the restaurant serves alcohol. There are lots of places that don’t serve alcohol.  But there are problems with the various states’ requirements for allowing school age people to work. Usually, the hours are severely limited, and the hours that are allowed are usually in conflict with normal shifts of restaurants, such as the inability to work weekday lunches or shifts that go into the night. Of course, this isn’t an issue during the summer, but most restaurants are looking to hire people who are going to work year-round. Don’t despair though – some restaurants are happy to bring on summer help, especially if they see someone that might be able to be groomed into a long-term candidate.  And second, there are sometimes prohibitions about working with dangerous equipment that come into play. Servers sometimes have to work with sharp knives and other equipment that the state might frown on. So, you’ll have to see if your state allows such work requirements.

So, for those under 18 who are interested in becoming servers, I say, “Good for you”! Start early. In addition to your school homework, start reading blogs like this, add culinary self-study to your regular curricula, study chemistry and biology while you’re in high school, and see if you can get a summer job as a server’s assistant or dishwasher at a local restaurant, and if you’re lucky enough to get such a job, keep your eyes and ears open and learn as much as you can about the business of restaurants now, and see if someone is willing to mentor you.

There are people in this industry who started as a summer dishwasher or “busboy” who are CEOs of chains and restaurant owners. The key is to absorb the restaurant culture and embrace it. One of the goals of this blog is to open horizons of servers and get them thinking beyond the mere mechanics of waiting tables.

Oh yeah, take Spanish in high school. If you have the time and capacity, you might also want to learn French, a language that permeates the culinary world. Where do you think the term “cuisine” came from? Well, to be precise, it has a Latin root, but you know what I mean. It’s basically a French word and it was a Frenchman, Escoffier, who set up the modern kitchen system, the brigade de cuisine, a system that’s still in place in most commercial kitchens today. And it was a Frenchman, Francois Pierre de la Varenne, whose 17th century cookbook, Le Cuisinier Francois, revolutionized the nascent culinary world. And finally, Marie-Antoine Carême (a he, BTW) was the first “celebrity chef”.

New foodie show worth checking out


So, yesterday as I was typing my rambling tribute to my chef’s knife, unbeknownst to me, my DVR was recording a show on PBS whose title I found intriguing while breezing through the program guide – Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie. And this morning I got around to watching it. In an amazing bit of syncronicity, there were two segments on Japanese knives and the theme of the show was about an appreciation for the less-than-modern aspects of the culinary world. There was a segment on alambic pot stills in Napa, a bit on “heirloom” locally grown vegetables in Paris, a pottery maker in Italy who still collects his own clay from the mountainsides. And, lo and behold, an actual segment on the mortar and pestle, a subject of one my earliest posts!

As it turns out, it’s not a new show. It’s in its 3rd season. I guess it’s new to this market. My local PBS station seems to be starting with the first season and the episode that I saw was The Hungry Luddite (episode 5). In looking at some of the shows, it looks like a permanent add to my “record every episode” list on my DVR.

The show is produced by the two people who produce No Reservations and has much of the same aesthetic.

So, better late than never, I suppose. Go see this show if it’s in your market. And if it’s not, you can watch it at Gourmet’s dedicated site for it: