So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Daily Archives: May 28, 2009

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.

New link posted – “Don’t Tip The Waiter” blog

Self-described as “The Onion meets the restaurant industry”, and voted “Number 1 restaurant site on the Internet by The Amish Times”, this is a keeper. Here’s just one example of the content:

Natural Disaster Theme Restaurant Opens In Bloomington

BLOOMINGTON, IN—A new restaurant, designed to treat diners to the effect of eating while in the midst of a natural disaster, opened in Bloomington last week to mixed reviews. The biggest knock against the concept, it seems, is the downtime for clean up the restaurant requires between each seating.

General Manager and part-owner, Marley Biggs, estimates the staff spends approximately four hours cleaning up the various dining rooms, in contrast to the roughly 45 minutes it takes for diners to consume their meals.


To read the rest of this hilarious article, go here:

And to access the blog directly, go here:

I give it two opposible thumbs and a donateable kidney up.

Look for the link in my links roster.


Some terms that a new waiter needs to know pt.1

Bank – a stated amount of a server’s own money required  by a restaurant used to make change when a guest pays cash. It’s usually $20 or $25, broken down into tens, fives, ones and a dollar’s worth of pocket change. This money isn’t given to the restaurant – it stays with the server and is simply on top of the tips that the server ends up with.

Deuce – As implied by the name, a table where two people are dining. It can refer to the size of a table, i.e. a table that can only fit two people, or it can refer to the size of the party, i.e. “That deuce is chewing up my six-top”.

X-top – “X” refers to a specific number, top refers to the table or party. Refers to either the size of a table (two-top or deuce, 4-top, 6-top, etc.), or, as in deuce can refer to the number of people in the dining party. Usually refers to the size of the party.

Crumber – As the name implies, a curved piece of metal used to remove crumbs from a cloth-topped tabletop (doesn’t work very well on glass or wood). One of the server’s tools in restaurants with tablecloths. It looks like a small tongue depressor with the sides curled up.

The Pass – this is where you’ll get your food delivered from the kitchen. Also known as “the window”, “the line”, or, in the case where everyone helps run food, “the place to avoid” (obviously I’m kidding here, newbie.)

Expo the person who acts as the go-between between the front of the house and the kitchen. Calls the tickets to the kitchen and assures that the order is put up in the window for pickup. Coordinates any special requests or changes to the food. Calls for a food runner.  Basically is responsible for coordinating the smooth operation of the kitchen. Is sometimes the chef, sous-chef or manager. Short for expediter.

Rollup – in restaurants that employ them, this is the silverware wrapped in either a paper or cloth napkin. One of the bits of sidework that most servers and server assistants hate. If you work in such a restaurant, you’ll learn this term very quickly.

On the fly – often times caused by a server screw up, this means, “Cook this item as quickly as possible because other food is on the table and jump it to the front of the queue”. This is a phrase that a server hopes he or she only hears in the case of a kitchen screwup, but sadly, that’s not usually the case. Also said as on the rail.

Captain’s pad –  No, you haven’t been promoted. This is the usual term for whatever you write your order down on. It’s usually only used in the case where restaurants provide such a pad to the server. This is becoming rarer, so it’s  a term that you might not encounter.

B&B – bread and butter plate. It’s also a liqueur, but you’ll hear it most often referred to a 5 in. or 6 in. plate often times used as a place setting item on a set table or also used as an underliner for a monkey dish (see monkey dish later on). Guests use it oddly enough to put their bread on. Is found to the left of the forks in a place setting.

Monkey dish – the smallest bowl in the restaurant. Usually used to put butter in or side sauces. Can be used for grated cheeses, pepper flakes or any sort of dry ingredient that the guests requires in small amounts. Is always placed on a B&B  plate with a bev nap to keep it from sliding. The only exception is if it’s being used as a butter dish with a bread basket. Most restaurants don’t require it to be on an underliner for that use. Note the use of the word “most”.

Bev Nap – short for beverage napkin. Also sometimes called bar nap. These are the square paper napkins, sometimes with the logo of the establishment printed on them, that are placed under a beverage glass. Normally, you don’t use them on tables that have tablecloths or with stemmed glasses. Stemmed glasses don’t sweat at the base so there’s no need for an absorbent napkin. Some restaurants require them for wine glasses as well, which I think is foolish, but if it’s required by your restaurant, always follow the house policies. These are also used to underline plates that hold bowls.

Underliner –any plate used to hold a bowl. You always use a bev nap to keep the bowl from sliding.

Dupe – The printed ticket hanging in the kitchen that the cooks read to prepare an order. For restaurants in the stone age, can also refer to a carbon copy of a hand-written check. short for duplicate.

Pop-up – a table that has folding leaves that turn it from a square table to a round. Also refers to the act of making said table larger, i.e. make table 14 a pop-up and set for 8, or “Pop-up table 12 and make it an 8-top”.

Pivot Point – this is the first position at any table. It’s where you start numbering your guests. It’s usually determined in advance by concensus (closest seat to the door, the left seat on a banquette, the position to your left as you naturally approach the table, etc.). In some restaurants, it’s up to the server to determine the pivot point and the communicate that point to anyone helping them run food. In classical serving, numbering is done in a counter-clockwise fashion. However, you’ll find that most modern restaurants assume a clockwise fashion. You should always follow the convention because it’s very important that each guest is presented with the proper plate. It’s an imperative if you don’t run your own food,

Cap – the rounded end of a long table. If the long table looks like a long cigar, the cap would be either rounded end, although most servers use the one on the right hand side as you face the table. It’s sometimes the designated pivot point.

Head –the position immediately to the left of the cap. For a long table, either the cap or the head might be used as a pivot point (guest number 1). This is either determined by the server heading the party or by house policy.

Fire –the point where a server is ready for his or her food. Used in kitchen systems where you preorder your courses but the kitchen doesn’t deliver it until you’re ready. Sometimes this is done verbally and sometimes it’s a command sent through the computer. Old-style Italian restaurants call this via. A server should never fire their food unless they’re ready to run it.

Cookbook of the day – Good Food From Morocco – Paula Wolfert


Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco

by Paula Wolfert

William Morrow Cookbooks; 1st Perennial Library Ed edition (paperback)

  • ISBN-10: 0060913967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060913960
  • The out of print book title in my subject header, Good Food From Morocco  from Ms. Wolfert is called Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco in the United States. I have the British edition of the book, published by John Murray (Publishers) Ltd, hence the different title. Not having the Couscous book, I don’t know what changes might have been made, so my comments on the book are based on this edition, published in 1989. I never comment on books that I don’t personally own, or editions that either precede or supercede the book that I’m talking about, although, in using the “Look Inside” feature of, there seems to be little difference. I’ve posted information and a photo of the American edition but sadly don’t have a photo of the cover of the edition that I own. If you are interested in the British edition that I own, keep reading. Well, keep reading regardless… 

    Paula Wolfert has written extensively about “Mediterranean food”. No, this doesn’t mean Italian, which is what people usually mean by that term. She has a book on Southwest France, a book on Mediterranean clay pot cooking, a book on Eastern Mediterranean cooking (I’ll be spotlighting this book in a future post) and has written other books on the subject; in fact, she seems to studiously avoid Italian cuisine and tries to focus on under-served parts of the Mediterranean like Greece, The Balkans, Cyprus, etc.

    She’s a cultural anthropologist, a hungry traveler, a historian and a natural storyteller all rolled up into one. If your only exposure to Northern African food is couscous, you will have a new world of vibrant hot-climate flavors opened up to you. From preserved lemons to Bisteeya (squab pie), she’ll have you incorporating new flavor profiles into your cooking in no time. You can almost feel the heat of the desert and the smell and bustle of the souks as you page through her book. 

    I normally don’t give links to purchase sites. However, in this case, I only found one place that had the British edition that I own. Heck, I couldn’t even find a picture of the cover. So,for those who  like the odd edition of a book that nobody else has, one lucky reader has the chance to purchase this book on the spot by going here:

    If you go there and find that it’s already been purchased, check eBay from time to time. I’m sure that a copy or two will turn up eventually. Alternatively, just buy the American edition. In the meantime, check out some of Paula’s other works. Some of this book is covered in some of her more sweeping compendiums of Mediterranean food.