So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Daily Archives: July 22, 2009

Andrea Nguyen’s Sriracha taste-off

I’m fond of the bastardized version of the original Thai chili sauce that’s found in Asian restaurants everywhere (the ubiquitous squirt bottle is actually a Vietnamese interpretation that’s actually made here in the States, as she points out). You know the bottle – it’s the one with the rooster on the bottle. I like using it in tandem with sambal, that rough-textured hotter, oily sauce that you often find on the table. The sambal has a more direct, hotter flavor and “Sriracha” is a bit more laid back. Unlike her, I do like adding it to my pho, although I’m discrete with both chile sauces. I don’t like overwhelming the delicious broth, but I like tailoring it to my own tastes.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing what chile sauces I can find at my local market and I hope I can find the “Shark” brand that she discusses.

Another great, informative post from Ms. Nguyen. She really does have one of the best foodie sites on the web and I’m looking forward to her dumplings book.


Photo courtesy of Andrea Nguyen,

Once you’ve got the job, what should you expect? Pt. 1

The transition to any new job can be unnerving and confusing. If you have never worked in a restaurant and have just been hired, here’s what you might expect:

They’ll usually ask you to come back for orientation. When you do, make sure you bring the items that they say you need, things like driver’s licenses, green cards, alcohol serving certifications when necessary, etc. It doesn’t make a good second impression for you to come unprepared.  And bring your own pen. As a manager, I was always dismayed when a server-to-be didn’t bring their own pen. Maybe that was my own pet peeve, but why take a chance? As a server, you will need to be prepared and you should show your new employer that you are prepared.

You should already have part of the menu memorized because you should have asked/insisted on at least a copy of the food menu, and preferably also the wine list. The more initiative you show, the better off you’re going to be. Plus, this gives you a few days extra study time, because you are surely going to be tested on your menu and bar knowledge before you are allowed to go on the floor. Everyone’s got a different way to memorize boring lists of ingredients, but I certainly recommend the flash card method. Another good way is to visualize the total dish because a picture is worth a thousand words, so pay particular attention when you’re given the opportunity to see the food. It will make it easier. Some restaurants want you to know every single ingredient in every dish and others are more concerned with the main ingredients and type of preparation, paying particular attention to possible allergy-inducing components. After all, you don’t want to clean the walls after someone’s head explodes after eating shellfish.

Your first day will generally be an administrative day. You’ll go through an orientation process that will require filling out a few requisite forms. You’ll probably be given an orientation packet which will outline the restaurant’s personnel and operational policies. There might be a training checklist which will give you an overview of the day by day training that you can expect. You might sit through the dreaded orientation video. You’ll probably be briefed on any benefits such as health insurance and 401(k) plans (if any). You’ll be briefed on the uniform if you haven’t already. You might get your employee number assigned to you and be shown how to clock in and out. Pretty basic stuff really. However, now is the time to ask any questions that you might have regarding policies and procedures, things like parking, family meals, employee discounts, uniform policies, tipout policies, etc. You should also use this day to evaluate the type of corporate environment that you’ve gotten yourself into. You might find that everything is tightly structured and run like clockwork. Alternately, you might find orientation to be more informal.

In part two, we’ll discuss the employee manual and other niceties.

Hopefully, I can help you from looking like this:


Note to my German couple from last night

You live in Innsbruck Austria and have a place across the border in Italy as well? You’re travelling on business and pleasure here in the States, spending 2 weeks going to Mississippi, Louisiana (where you lived for 7 years presumably doing business), Texas and Tennessee? You enjoyed the fact that I spoke with you fairly fluently in German throughout the meal and you said that it was refreshing to have someone converse with you in your own language while in the US? You both ate lobster, first had a couple of martinis and a nice appetizer and drank a bottle of Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc?

So why did you leave me $25 on $260? It surely wasn’t ignorance of the customs here in the US since you lived here for 7 years and you always dine in one of my restaurants whenever you find one in a city that you find yourself in. Yes, I’ll remember you when you come back in a year or two. And you won’t get any more German and you’ll get your food correctly, quickly and with little fuss. I won’t give you two and a half hours of dining unless you want to sit for 45 minutes at the end of the meal (which won’t bother me in the least since I’ll do my sidework or serve other guests) or ask you whether you want espresso at the end of the meal. You’ll get your courses bang, bang, bang, with no time to breathe in-between courses. I won’t take into consideration that you are European and enjoy stretching out your meal. If you want to enjoy your conversation, you’re going to have to sit at the end, because I’m not going to pace your meal with an eye to your European background and tendency to treat dining as more than just eating. I’ll not serve your wine so that it lasts during the whole meal. Basically, I’ll pour you a full 6 oz portion each and when you’re finished with those glasses, I’ll pour you the last two glasses, instead of pouring initially 3 oz and keeping your glasses at the perfect temperature by continually and very quietly keeping them at 3 to 4 oz. and I certainly won’t shake your hand at the end of the meal.

If you had at least left me 15% on the pretax total, I might have excused you. But you didn’t even have the courtesy to do that.

I only wish I hadn’t given you my business card.