So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Daily Archives: May 26, 2009

Just to prove that waiters aren’t the only ones…

…to deal with “interesting” customers, clients and other members of the public.

Exhibit A: From the oft-hilarious”(The customer is) not always right” website:

“(Note: I worked in a resort over the summer as a concierge.)

Tourist: “Can we see any wildlife in the area, you know, by the side of the road?”

Me: “Sure, we routinely see elk, deer, mountain goats and bighorn sheep. I’ve seen a couple wolves too, and we get a lot of bears.”

Tourist: “Oh! Can we feed the bears?”

Me: “No, sir, the bears are wild bears. They are extremely dangerous and you should never approach any wild animal. Just stay in your car, with the windows up, and you’ll be fine.”

Tourist: “Oh… can we send our kids to play with the bears?”

Me: “That would be ‘feeding the bears,’ sir…””

:insert editorial comment from yours truly:

Feeding the bears indeed…he he


My most beautiful cooking tool

41NHgZTQ7RLThis is a stock photo of my Kitchenaid Professional 600 stand mixer in nickel pearl. A marvelous chunk of modern/retro design. Looks like it could have been chiseled out of a single block of nickel.

I truly love this mixer. I do a lot of baking and the 6 qt. capacity and heavy duty motor gives me all of the dough mixing capability that I’ll ever “kneed” (sorry, couldn’t resist). When I’m asked to recommend a stand mixer, I always go with Kitchenaid, and if the questioner mentions baking bread, I always recommend the “6” series (the 6 indicates 6 quarts, the model line you need to safely make heavy bread doughs). There are many Kitchenaid mixers that have been handed down from grandmother to mother to daughter and still work perfectly well. Of course, this was in the days when it was made by the Hobart Co. and there are serious doubts as to the longevity of the current manufacture of the mixers, but mine has operated flawlessly and I continue to recommend the entire line. Before this one, I had a modest white 5 qt. model that I got around ’91 at  discount at J.C. Penny (I think I paid $89 brand new). I used it for almost15 years before consigning it to an ex’s kitchen and getting this one 3 years ago.

The only thing that might make it mre beautiful is if I had the $300 to add *this* to my rig:


I’m sorry, but until I win the lottery, I’ll be hand-whipping my egg whites in my handheld copper bowl ($20) with a whisk (copper has a chemical reaction with egg whites that dramatically increases the volume of whipped egg whites). I can whip up a nice meringue in less than 10 minutes by hand. However, for those who have the budget, these various copper bowls are definitely worthy and, by all accounts are extremely well-crafted:

Cookbook of the day – Larousse Gastronomique and The Food Lover’s Companion


Larousse Gastronomique

by Prosper Montaigne (ed.)

Clarkson Potter; Rev Sub edition (October 2, 2001)

  • ISBN-10: 0609609718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609609712
  • 51DED8KZ6PL__SS500_

    Food Lover’s Companion, The (Barron’s Cooking Guide) 3rd Edition (Paperback)

    by Sharon Tyler Herbst

    Barron’s Educational Series

  • ISBN-10: 0764112589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764112584
  • I combined these two reference works because every server should have at least the Food Lover’s Companion. A compact and comprehensive list of ingredients, techniques, tools and history, this volume is small enough to keep in your backpack or locker as a go-to reference when you are confronted with a term or foodstuff that you aren’t familiar with. You can also settle arguments with this thing as well.

    But I included the venerable granddaddy of culinary reference works (along with Escoffier’s Cookbook), Larousse Gastronomique. Yes, a current edition is over $50 new. Yes, it can be used as a stepladder – that’s that thick. But it’s a reference work that presents the classical culinary world better than any. Yes, it’s a narrow in its scope in that it doesn’t address a lot of exotic cuisines and cultures. Yes, it isn’t quick to give the lowdown on trendy dining fads. And, it’s a bit ponderous (like this blog can be sometimes). But any really serious culinary fan should have an edition around the house, even if they do as I do and buy a cheaper older version used. I have the 1961 edition that Rebecca Dazell wrote about on Gourmet’s website:

    “Like The Joy of Cooking, the Larousse had later editions that brought it into the modern era, made it more palatable. But the edits also took away the original’s unabashed exultation of food; the writing in that first edition drew me back for pleasure reading, if not real instruction. Were it not for the 1961 Larousse,I doubt I would have ever discovered the 17th-century poet St. Amant and his ode to Brie:

    Now then, let us shout with all our might:
    Blessed be the land of Brie…
    For one has only to press it with one’s fingers
    For it to run over with fat.
    Why then, is it not endless,
    As indeed its circular form is endless?”

    I bought my copy for around $18 plus shipping (not cheap to ship, this 6 lb book) on eBay. There are several intermediary editions since the original ’61 English edition and they can be had used for various prices. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they weren’t revising this at the moment and that soon, you’ll be able to get this edition for half price at a used bookstore. It took them 25 years to update the first English edition but only 13 years for the second, so perhaps we’ll see a new edition around the turn of this decade. The latest edition is still a bit creaky considering the explosion of cooking channels, mega culinary stores and an everwidening interest in the culinary arts. 

    I would have thrown in Escoffier’s Cookbook for the überfan, but that deserves its own post down the road. Escoffier did write the introduction to the original 1938 French edition, which came out after he died. The original editon of Larousse was published by Crown, the NY publisher that also published my ’63 slightly abridged edition of Escoffier’s Cookbook. But more on that at a later date.

    10 quick tips on upselling

    1. Never upsell just to build the check. Always do it to enhance the dining experience.

    2. Mention specifics. Don’t ask, “Would you like an appetizer”? Instead, ask, “Would you like the crispy hot Mozzarella sticks with the homemade marinara dipping sauce”?

    3. If your restaurant allows it, ask if you can put together an appetizer platter and serve it family style. If your restaurant doesn’t do it, suggest that they do. You’ll sell a lot more appetizers that way.

    4. If the guest has been drinking alcohol and they order coffee, always ask, “Would you like Bailey’s or Frangelico with that”?  You’d be surprised how often you can almost see the guest think, “I wish I had thought of that”. Also, when soliciting coffee, try this – “Would you like coffee, espresso, cappuccino, port or an after-dinner drink”?

    5. If two or more people are drinking the same wine by the glass or wine by the bottle, and one or more of them is getting a little low on wine by the middle of the entree, offer to split a glass of wine for them “in order to finish your meal”. You’ll probably sell that last glass 25 – 50% of the time whereas, if you ask them if they want a glass of wine, chances are they’ll say no.

    6.This works for some people but I don’t do it myself because I’m not comfortable doing it (it’s not that I’m not comfortable with the concept, I’m not not comfortable saying it myself) – “Let me get you some of our great nachos for your appetizer”. If you’re comfortable with this, I’d say, go for it, because it’s all about the confidence that you instill in the guest that they are letting you tell them what to order. It’s all about pulling it off. I know servers who can do this flawlessly – perhaps you’re one of them.

    6. When a guest orders a mixed drink, always suggest a couple of call brands. “I’d like a Cosmo, please”. “Would you like Absolut, Stoli or do you have a favorite”?

    7. Along those lines, a good approach is to limit the choice.  Instead of adding “do you have a favorite” simply say, “Absolut or Stoli”? Make them choose. This is a common sales techique that works pretty well. People sometimes take the path of least resistance.

    8. If someone orders a brand name that offers upscale versions, know them and ask the guest if they’d like that. For instance, Tanqueray has their regular brand and several other more expensive brands (Tanqueray 10 and TanquerayRangpur come to mind). Jack Daniels has their Single Barrel and Gentleman Jack brands. So, my standard reply when someone orders Jack and Coke is, “Jack, Gentleman Jack or Single Barrel”? when someone orders Tanqueray and Tonic, I always ask them Tanq or Tanq 10″? If you employ this tactic, you’d better know what the differences are though and be able to articulate them.

    9. Don’t let a selling opportunity pass you by. If it’s an anniversary, ask if they’d like champagne. If they order pie, ask them if they’d like it ala mode. If they don’t order a salad and go straight to the entree, ask them if they’d like to split a salad or soup “just to give you something to nibble on while we cook your entree”.

    10. Going full circle from tip number 1, be an advocate to your guest. They don’t always know your restaurant’s strong points. Play to those strengths. And don’t be afraid to recommend something more expensive. Just don’t do it because it’s more expensive. Always look out for the guest while you’re upselling.