So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Daily Archives: June 12, 2009

Cookbook of the day – The French Laundry Cookbook


The French Laundry Cookbook

by Thomas Keller

Publisher: Artisan

ISBN-10: 1579651267

ISBN-13: 978-1579651268

So, you say you’ve got a $50 bill burning a hole in your pocket? Want to know how The French Laundry is able to get away with charging people $135 each for a prix fixe menu? Wonder why you have to make a reservation two months to the day from your desired dining day? Wonder what the fuss is all about? 

Well, wonder no more. Currently, you can pick this $50 book for as little as $30 if you look around.

If you pull the trigger, you’ll find a substantial, well-crafted book that’s just as home on a fancy coffee-table as it is on your kitchen bookshelf.  This is a large format book, so it’s not particularly convenient on your counter-top.

When you get this book, you’ll find the very recipes for many of the dishes that Chef Keller and his associates put out on a nightly basis. Even more importantly, you’ll uncover his philosophy of cooking sophistication, attention to detail and the use of the freshest products. Even though he’s a serious technician,  he clearly lays out the techniques that you’ll find essential if you want to reproduce his famous dishes. This is as much a “how-to” as it is a recipe book. These techniques are often elaborate and time-consuming but well within the skills of a home chef. An example is his insistence that all sauces and stocks are strained and skimmed as often as necessary to get a pure product. This is what he says about the subject: “When in doubt, strain. Not a single liquid or purée moves from one place to another in the restaurant except through some sort of strainer. And you must always be skimming – skim, skim, skim”. 

All of the recipes are based on single portions as they would be served from the prix fixe menu in the restaurant. You are advised that you can double them for larger portions.

I can’t say enough about the look and feel of the book. It’s definitely art gallery quality. This is a cookbook that you will be proud to own, even at the listed retail price.

In the tradition of Julie and Julia, Carol Blymire has cooked her way through every recipe in this cookbook. You can follow her culinary adventures at her blog:

Stay tuned for my recommendation of his companion volume, Bouchon.


Don Callender dies at 81 – made his mom’s pies famous.

Don Callender, who turned his mom Marie’s pies into a virtual food empire, died on January 7, 2009. Marie Callender’s is a chain well-known in the American Southwest and has become known throughout the US for its line of frozen foods, although it was sold to a conglomerate for $90 mil. over a decade ago.

Callender turned his small mom’s pie baking business into one of the largest regional chains in the US. You can read about his history at Wikipedia:


Rare “yellow” lobster spared a scalding death

The lobster isn’t really yellow – it’s pretty orange. In fact, it looks like a typical cooked lobster:

Here’s Fiona, in all of her glory:


Here’s a typical lobster:


Fiona likes long walks on the bottom of the ocean, hates rubber bands and has an aversion to hot baths. She is a little hard to know because she has a bit of a hard shell and has clawed herself up from the bottom, but one you get to know her tail, you’ll think that she’s a 1 in 30,000,000

A first for me – removing a link

I’ve just removed one of my links to another blog.

The most recent post on the blog was just way too racist for my liking, plus bitching about having to give a delivery person more than a buck for almost $30 worth of food delived TO HIS RESTAURANT.  Even though a 20% delivery charge was already added, it just didn’t seem to be the right tone for a server, especially when he complains about the delivery person being rude, even though he doesn’t mind being rude to blacks and other customers himself. Plus, now he’s begging for donations through Pay Pal. Should the delivery guy have bitched about only getting a buck. Nope. But he’s not writing a blog either, now is he?

I’m all for freedom of speech and that’s his right to spew some pretty hateful speech. I just don’t have to promote so many references to “ghetto” and made up Afro-American names as a form of derision. It’s the 21st Century. We should have left that sort of stuff behind in the 19th Century. 

I’m not going to rage on and name the blog in question. I’m just going to remove it from my blog roll.

Hot Sauce plug

I’ve probably got about 20 different hot sauces currently around the house. I’ve got several sauces and extracts that make Dave’s Insanity Sauce, the godfather of the high Scoville count crowd, look like baby’s milk. I’ve got Mad Dog .357 Collector’s Edition, which checks in with about 600,000 Scoville units. It’s claimed by some to be the hottest sauce available because if you go any higher you really can’t call it a sauce anymore., it’s more of an extract. This doesn’t offer much more than pure heat but is really good for kicking up large quanties of food like gumbos.


I’ve got Pyromania, a much milder and more flavorful hot sauce, a sauce that has a nice chipotle flavor while still being pretty hot from habañeros. It’s mild enough to be used as a straight sauce but it will still kick your ass.


And I like the various Marie Sharp Caribbean-styled sauces. One of my favorites is her Exotic Sauce, which is fairly mild but has an intriguing flavor profile that’s different from the rest. Her Orange Pulp Habañero is much hotter and still has a nice flavor.


But all of this is a prelude to what I came here to plug. I love this brand:


I orginally got a couple of bottles in a swag basket I won in a contest. Back then, they looked like this:


But they’re rebranded and they’ve packaged their products in larger bottles than the old 5 oz bottles. That’s a good thing because these are milder sauces and you tend to go through bottles pretty quickly. Their motto is “Flavor Before Fire” and they’ve nailed that perfectly. These are some of the best tasting hot sauces on the planet. They are especially good cooked in quesadillas. Talk about yummy – they strike the perfect chili note in a freshly made quesadilla. Just enough heat to be interesting. They’ve even added a 100,000 Scoville unit model that I suspect will still maintain some of the flavor that they’ve become known for.

If you’re interested in them, you can buy them directly from their web site. Since they are “natural”, you’ll also find them at Whole foods and Wild Oats. You might also find them at specialty hot sauce stores. They also sell the sauces in larger “industrial” sizes for restaurant chefs that want to use them in their cooking.

Hot sauce fanatics might not find them hot enough, but I love them, even though I’m a sucker for a super-hot hot sauce. These are true “slather-worthy” sauces.


Right now, they have a special going on. You buy 3 and you get 25% off (don’t know how long this is going on for though). My three favorites are (in order) Jamaican Jerk (not as authentic a jerk as you’ll find but simply great on its own merits), Hot, and Sweet. Many folks love the Roasted Shallots and Garlic, but it’s not my favorite. I haven’t tried the two new “very hot” sauces.

Here’s their website:

You’ll find the special under “About the Sauce”.

Wine topic of the day – German wine regions – The Mosel pt. 3

German wine has a bad rap among some of the wine-drinking public. “Too sweet”, they moan. “I don’t like dessert wines”, others declare.

In a lot of ways, Germany only has itself to blame. Thanks to the popular brands like Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch, German wines were known as  cheap sweet white wines popular with unsophisticated young people and lovers of white zinfandel. Because of the high yield of Riesling and Müller-Thurgau, they were able to put those two brands in every cheap liquor store’s reach-in cooler.

But in the 80s, they started to turn this around. And the Mosel region was typical of this German resurrection. Even though they weren’t guilty of the above two wines, they recognized that the easy large yields of Riesling-based wines, coupled with the use of ller-Thurgau and Elbing, diluted the great character that could be achieved in the region. As the wine-drinking public became more sophisticated and discerning in the 80s, this allowed the Mosel wine community to be able to justify pulling up Müller-Thurgau vines and replant with Riesling,while simultaneously thinning the existing vines to cut down the huge yields, all with the aim of increasing quality. Having several of the most recognizable vineyards in history help Mosel hit its stride with the increasingly sophisticated wine public.

Vintners also started to produce Trocken (dry) styles as well as reducing the sweetness and trying to preserve the natural acidity that Riesling exhibits. They were also given a big shot in the arm by the incredible three years of ’88, 89, and 90.

Today’sMosels have become far more consistent in their quality, although there are still some that pander to the old style of big, sweet and flabby. You don’t have to buy a Trocken style to get something that works well with food. If the acidity is there and the sweetness backed-off a hair, you can enjoy a Mosel with many dishes. It especially works well with shellfish. It also works well with cheese selections, creamy soups, glazed foods like ham or carrots, Asian foods with spiciness like Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, and certain Chinese dishes.

Mexican food works somewhat well if you decide that you want to drink wine instead of beer or tequila, and salads but i find that the food is generally a little too heavy for Riesling to work well.

Obviously most fish dishes work well, although I prefer to pair it with lighter, flakier white fish like grouper, halibut and sea bass, leaving such darker, steakier fish as tuna and salmon to pinot noir and chardonnay. This is just a personal preference though – Riesling works just fine with those fish. Fruit sauces and fruits incorporated in dishes work well, especially when you pair a Riesling with a certain fruit flavor like apple or peach with its corresponding fruit. I tend to avoid using anything less than a Beerenauslese with desserts. Some people like using Auslese with desserts, I’m just not one of those, unless I’m having berries. I just think that there are better choices.

Avoid heavy meat dishes with rich veal stock-based sauces, but feel free to pair with grilled meats.

I actually like to drink Mosels by themselves. If they have sufficient acidity, they can be very refreshing, especially in the spring and fall.

In the next installment, we’ll list some specific wines to look for.

I hope that these short essays give you the push to dig deeper into the world of wine. Obviously, they are only thumbnail sketches. And, don’t forget, if you’re just getting into waiting tables, or you’ve been in the business for years, your income can depend on how well you can describe and sell the wines that are available to you.


Picture from the very good wine blog, Rambin’ Wino’s Wine Guide. You can find a well-worded entry from March 29th about pairing Riesling and Asian food here: