So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Daily Archives: July 18, 2009

Foodie guilty pleasures

Yep, foodies also enjoy things that are either bad for them, overly processed, filled with preservatives, bad on the waistline, the heart, the stomach and skin, and they are loathe to share these things so not to be stoned by a judgmental foodie public and set off into the culinary wilderness.

But I am of stout heart and unafraid.

So, without further ado, here are some of my “guilty pleasures”. They aren’t ranked in any particular order.

Papa John’s “Special Garlic Sauce”. I put it in quotations because calling it a sauce is a bit of a stretch. Let’s face it, it’s an herbed”butter”. And I put butter in quotations because, let’s face it, it’s not butter either. The ingredients are, as best as I can see without getting out my microscope because the print is tiny: liquid and partially hydrogenated soybean oil, water, salt, garlic* (* means dehydrated),  vegetable mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, natural garlic flavor, artificial flavor, sodium benzoate (a preservative), lactic acid, calcium disodium EDTA added to protect flavor, citric acid, beta carotene (color), vitamin A palmitate added. Oh yeah, says “contains soybeans”. Well, duh.

Having said all of that, I love this stuff. I might be putting my body through shock therapy by dipping perfectly good pizza and bread into this, but, what the hay? Tasty. I’m sure that I could create a great and slightly healthier alternative by melting down some ghee and adding some garlic powder, but then I wouldn’t have the handy little disposable bowl, right? Oh dear, need to make sure that it hits the recycling bin…

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Honey bun. Especially Little Debbie’s 50¢ little sugar bomb. Here’s the procedure. Buy a “cappuccino” (a guilty pleasure itself since it’s hard to say what’s actually in the instant powder from which it originates) from some place like MAPCO or 7-11 or other quick-stop type market. Make sure that I mix all of the flavors together until the cup is about 2/3rd full and then top off with coffee. Take Little Debbie’s honey bun and place in microwave. Set timer for 20 seconds. Remove warmed, soft and gooey package and eat it as a side to the cappuccino. Plan on an instant extra 3 lbs on the hips and a jittery, slightly speedy buzz. Thank the stars that I’m not diabetic like my mom was (yet). A caveat – avoid the “frosted” versions at all costs.

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SunChips. I like to fool myself that this is very healthy for me. After all, you need to get your fiber, right? One can ignore the salt levels if one concentrates on the fiber aspect. Sadly, this is getting ready to go by the wayside. Why is that, you ask? Well, they had the perfect size ($1.29 bag) for someone who uses it sometimes with the above mentioned cappuccino for a “breakfast” that gets one through the lean and hungry times. Now, they’ve decided to raise the price by paradoxically going to a .99 size and reducing the quantity so that it seems like you’re paying less, but you’re actually paying more. Now that wouldn’t bother me so much, but the $1.29 size was perfect as a “single serving” (I would of course ignore the actual “suggested serving size”, which is “about 4.5”). A “breakfast” of that and a cappuccino would get you through a lunchless day because of the filling nature of the chips, while possibly killing you softly with its crunch. The flavor is really good. I prefer the orange colored “Harvest Cheddar” over the green “French Onion” but I’ll eat either, at least up to now. Unfortunately, the .99 size is not quite enough. So, this might very well be a “former guilty pleasure”.  Sadly, it’s one of the only packaged chips worth consuming. But all good things must come to an end, I suppose.

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Jack In the Box bacon, egg and cheese biscuit. Yum. A decent biscuit with good flavor, texture and size and the requisite BEC. Simple, inexpensive and even a little buttery. And if you haven’t had your share of trans fats for the week, this will bring your quotient up.

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And, speaking of biscuits, how about them Church’s honey brushed biscuits? Oddly not available until lunch, these are some of the tastiest biscuits available. Rough-hewn and slightly crunchy on the top, the honey brushed on the top makes this an almost dessert. You can buy them singly or in boxes of 4.

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Finally, a “buttery” toasted sandwich from Sonic – the Bacon, Egg and Cheese Toaster. It’s the Jack in the Box breakfast sandwich on steroids. Loaded with trans fat, this Texas toast sandwich comes in a foil pack and has what I guess is deep fried bacon. Who cares if the egg is only an egg product? This thing will set your butter gene off, despite the fact that it’s likely to have as much butter as Papa John’s Special Garlic Sauce. Don’t be fooled though – the sandwich won’t look like that. The Texas Toast is quite a bit thinner and it’s sometimes quite saturated with mystery oil.

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Oh yeah, that just made me think of Sonic’s Creme Slush. Damn. Talk about hitting the sweet spot. I order the blue coconut and pineapple mixed together to get a bizarrely colored variation of a virgin piña colada (I’m a sucker for both pineapple and coconut) or the Dreamsicle-esque Orange Cream Slush. Basically, this is a mix of a slush and ice cream and whatever flavors you choose (the strawberry is good as well since it has bits of real strawberry that get hung up in the straw). Creamy goodness in a cup. And they’ve thought of everything. they give you an extra-wide straw so that you don’t end up killing yourself trying to get enough suction to get it into your mouth. They give you a wide-mouth domed top that allows the generous drink maker to give you more than the cup will hold (not all of them do this though). And then there’s the little mint that comes in each bag. It’s their version of the chocolate mint on the pillow at a 5 star hotel.

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Now that I’ve completely destroyed my foodie street cred, I’d advise you that you enjoy these items at your own risk. Please don’t sic your doctor after me when it turns out that you’ve either developed adult-onset diabetes, hypertension, blocked arteries, acne, obesity or strange allergies. Obviously, if you are sensitive to gluten, soy, animal products or preservatives, you’ll want to avoid these like the plague.

These are all products that I would call trailer park umami. For those of you who don’t know what umami is, google it. Where have you been – in a trailer park?

Oh yeah, all tradenames are trademarked and owned by their respective owners.

A few tips if you’re looking for a job as a waiter, but have never waited tables pt.1

These days, it’s getting harder to get a job as a waiter, just like any other type of job. When you’ve been in the industry awhile, you have your ear to the ground. You’ve developed industry contacts, you and/or your restaurant has a rep, you have some standing in the restaurant community. It’s easier for you to find the cracks and crevices, although unless you’re just getting burned out on your current situation, you’re probably not even looking.

But what if you’re someone who has lost their job as a retail associate or even as a car worker and is looking for a job in the restaurant business? Believe it or not, jobs still open up in the biz, they just aren’t as prevalent and ubiquitous as they used to be and they are quickly filled. You can help your search by following a few principles.

When making a short list of possible restaurants, think about what kind of cuisine you’d like to work with. If you have a weekly free paper, they usually have substantial ads of restaurants that can give you an idea of newly opened places (which always have a lot of turnover, for reasons both good and bad) as well as more established places that you might haven’t thought about in a while.

Want ads are virtually useless. Of course, it’s not much of an issue these days, as most “food service” want ad sections are about the size of a postage stamp. But even in better times, they are fairly useless. Restaurants normally don’t advertise for waiters and if they do, they are either in trouble or are what an old manager of mine used to call “shaking the tree” (he just wanted to see the talent out there and wanted to build a resume pile in case of an emergency). Restaurants are the ultimate “hire from the inside” type places, although their “inside” is the local restaurant community, which makes it harder to break in from the outside.

If cuisine doesn’t matter to you in the least, start with restaurants with a short commute closer to your neighborhood. This seems like a no-brainer, but many people take jobs across town when they could find a similar restaurant nearby, plus, by hitting up restaurants nearby, you’ll be able to follow up with them better. It will also allow you to pick up shifts with short notice once you snag the job. Plus, who likes to sit in traffic for 45 minutes?

 Once you narrow your choices, try to do some scouting. Check out the restaurant during the busy period. If you can afford it, have lunch or dinner there and observe the staff. Do they look harried? Does the FoH (Front of the House) staff seem to glide through the dining room effortlessly or are they chaotic and like pinballs careening through a pinball machine? Does the on-the-floor management seem to be poised and certain or do they seem to be putting out fires? Does it look like a fun and profitable place to work? Do you like the atmosphere?

 Once you narrow down the list of potential restaurants, you should gather menus from each one. You can do this by requesting to-go menus from the restaurants, or you can see if they have their menus posted on-line. Most of the restaurants that you have targeted will have them posted. You should then get a good overview of each restaurant before you schedule an interview. You don’t have to memorize the whole thing, but it’s good to have a working knowledge so that you can insert knowing comments about the food at appropriate times during the interview.

For example, I, as a manager, ask you, “Why do you want to work at this restaurant”? You might then reply, “I love the way that you combine flavors here. That chicken quesadilla with the mango salsa sounds really delicious”. This isn’t your cue to go overboard and prove that you have memorized the menu. You simply want to show familiarity and preparation – most hiring managers will recognize it as out-of-the-ordinary first interview behavior. But we’ll get more into the interview in part 2.

Meanwhile, you should be tweaking your resume, making sure that you have eliminated all typos. Resumes should be pretty simple and straightforward. Don’t go wild with fancy colors, wild mixes of typefaces, multiple pages of references from your scoutmaster or 3rd-grade teacher. A nice touch is putting the resume in a plastic binder.

We’ll talk about approaching,  meeting and handling the interview with your potential boss in part 2. But one piece of advice – don’t waste your time shooting for the top – high end restaurants only hire experienced waiters 99% of the time, even as server assistants. Even experienced waiters usually have to do their time as server assistants when they are first hired at a high end joint.