So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Daily Archives: July 2, 2009

New blog link added

She’s only slightly  cranky. Most of the time it’s slightly. Some of the time she’s peaches and sunshine. And sometimes she’s a fire-breather.

Experience the Purple Girl in all of her glory here:

You know she’s a smart gal when you see that she’s added my blog to her blogroll, so of course I’m going to reciprocate. I have a quid pro quo going – you add my link and I’ll add yours. Of course, I might give you a mention without the quid pro quo, so you don’t have to add me for me to add you.

I especially like this post of hers:

That’s a theme that I’ve been planning to cover – so you should read this…


Attention to detail

I’m constantly amazed how lazy some us can be.

I work in a restaurant that is staffed with veteran waiters and yet, when you survey their tables, you see crooked silverware, uneven spacing between plate and flatware, uneven placement from the edge of the table, and a lack of symmetry.

To me, it’s just slipshod preparation.

Many restaurants have a strict standard that everyone has to adhere to. We don’t. And that’s fine, I suppose. It allows for a little individuality, but the main thing is to be consistent on the table itself as well as consistent within the section.

There are a couple of time-honored principles that can hold you in good stead.

The traditional spacing of all items from the edge of a table is a thumbnail’s length. This means that if you have a B&B plate (bread and butter plate) as part of the setting instead of a dinner plate, the closest edge of it should be a thumbnail away from the edge of the table. The knives and forks should line up perfectly with the edge of the B&B. If you set with a dinner plate, it’s acceptable to line up the flatware higher up, like this diagram from the Emily Post Institute:








If you place a rollup on the B&B as part of the setup, make sure that it sits exactly perpendicular to the edge of the table and right in the middle of the B&B. Don’t leave it crooked.

Your forks should be parallel to each other. There is an alternative old-school way to do it though. You can have the fork on the right straight up and down and the one of the left ‘s tine’s end butted up against the end of the right one about halfway on the tine end and the handle end also touching the base fork. Some settings have the left fork actually higher than than the right one. I prefer having the right fork higher – to me, it just looks more natural, especially if you have a spoon set on the right side of the knife. Since it’s shorter, it will appear that the top line formed by the knife and spoon slopes down to the right. If you have the forks set with the right fork higher, you’ll get a mirror image of the slope.

We set our tables with a B&B instead of a dinner plate. I arrange my forks and knife at the exact width of our dinner plate, as if it were there (and add an extra half-inch on each side). I’m surprised how much variation I see in the restaurant. Some are spread so wide you could drive a truck through them. To me, using the width of a dinner plate gives a tight appearance as well as the perfect “landing zone” for the entree.

If you have tables in a row or a long table, make sure that everything is in the same plane. If you look down a long table, all napkins, glasses and silverware should line up exactly. Salt and pepper shakers should be on line and uniform.

table setting







It only takes a second to line everything up properly. Make this part of your fine-tuning of your service. Remember, the place setting is the first thing that the guest is going to see (with the possible exception of the menu). If it looks slipshod, you could possibly send that message about your service.

There are of course different standards in different countries. French table setting especially can be quite elaborate and exotic at the high end.

French table setting








As  always, always defer to your house policies.

Don’t forget to prebus!


New link added –

This is the site of Esquire food editor John Mariani and it has a link to his Virtual Gourmet newsletter. There you can vicariously experience the wrold of dining and food. It’s a foodie’s delight, although you might sometimes feel like you’re outside looking in.

In the current issue of the newsletter, Mariani surveys the Atlanta dining scene.

So, look for the link in my Foodie blogroll.


Quick Tip

In these less-than-stellar financial times, sometimes you just need a little motivation and support.

An easy way to get it is to print up an extra copy of the bill from a great table that you had and keep it in your server book. It might be a deuce that spent a fortune, or it might be someone who gave you a great tip.

Seeing that in your order book (if you keep one) is a great way to reconnect with feelings of success and postiveness.

Cookbook of the day – The Harry’s Bar Cookbook













Harry’s Bar Cookbook

by Arrigo Cipriani

  • Publisher: Bantam (October 1, 1991)
  • ISBN-10: 0553070304
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553070309
  • There aren’t many dishes where you can point to an inventor. Most dishes are either old classics with creators long-forgotten or they just have sprung up without attribution. Probably the most famous dish attributed to a single person is the Caesar salad, a salad invented by Caesar Cardini in Tijuana Mexico in the 20s and there’s even a little dispute about that. 

     What’s beyond dispute is the fact that carpaccio, the famous thinly sliced beef (or other meats for that matter), was invented in 1950 by the owner of Harry’s Bar in Venice, Giuseppe Cipriani. The Contessa Amalia Nani Mocenigo had been forbidden to eat cooked meat by her doctor and, voila! the carpaccio was born. Cipriani named it after one of his favorite painters, Vittore Carpaccio, the Venetian Renaissance painter who used bright reds and whites in his paintings.

    This is the actual Harry’s Bar carpaccio, courtesy of famed food writer John Mariano at :


    Notice that it’s not all gussied up with superfluous greens, scattered with capers or any such excess. That’s the original.

    And you can read all about it in this wonderful cookbook,  The Harry’s Bar Cookbook, written by the son of Giuseppe, Arrigo Cipriani (Arrigo is Italian for Harry).  The history of the restaurant is lovingly told by Arrigo, who relates the story of how Harry’s Bar came to be. It was named for an American, Harry Pickering, who was the beneficiary of kindness from Giuseppe, who at the time was a barman at the Hotel Europa in Venice. I won’t spoil the story, except to say that it’s a tale worthy of F. Scott Fitzgerald. You’ll have to pick up the book to read about it.

    Harry’s Bar has always been a hangout for the wealthy and famous of the world, from Ernest Hemingway to the Onassises, globe trotters and royalty, decadent expatriots and famous movie stars like Richard Burton have found their way to the modest bar for the glories of great Italian ingredients simply and freshly prepared, and they are prepared to pay a premium price for it. The place oozes history, and you’re along for the ride with this cookbook.

    Harry's Bar








    Winner of the Julia child 1st Cookbook Award and The James Beard Award, you’ll find this book a treasure of family pride and tales of the upper crust. And let’s not forget that it’s Harry’s Bar, not Harry’s Restaurant, a point that Cipriani makes as he tells you how to make the perfect Bellini, the peach cocktail that he claims his father invented in the 30s. So Giuseppe is responsible to not one but two well-known culinary items. Amazing.

    Anyway, you’ll find all of the recipes to make you feel like you’re overlooking the canals of Venice and you’ll get the famous carpaccio sauce recipe as well.

    The Harry’s Bar Cookbook – as classic a cookbook as Harry’s Bar itself is. 


    The Dream of St. Ursula – Vittorio Carpaccio (1495)