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Daily Archives: August 19, 2009

British waiters under the gun


Cafe waiters fear the axe over cash tips

Observer probe reveals undercover diners are monitoring credit card payments for gratuities

Sunday, 28 June 2009


Fresh evidence that one of the country’s biggest restaurant chains is using scare tactics to deter waiters from asking for tips in cash has been uncovered by the Observer

Employees of Tragus – which owns Café Rouge, Bella Italia and Strada – have come under pressure to ensure service charges are paid by card, and at least one waitress has told the Observer that they are being threatened with dismissal if they do not generate enough card tips. Some have been told that undercover staff posing as diners will check that gratuities are not being pocketed.

Read the rest of the article here:

Basically, the issue boils down to the fact that British waiters receive around $10 – 12 an hour, paid through credit card service charges automatically imposed on the amount of the bill (usually around 12.5%). Servers get to keep any cash tips or service charges paid in cash by the guest.

The problem arises when the waiter solicits/strongarms a cash tip in lieu of the guest paying the service charge on the credit card.

Some opponents of the tipping system in the US point to the European way of paying most of the waiter’s wage, touting it as preferable to optional tipping and lower hourly wages paid by the restaurant. This points out that the European system of mandatory service charges and only incidental tipping has its drawbacks as well.

british waiter

The classic kitchen brigade – pt. 1

The vast majority of waiters will never work with a “classic kitchen brigade”. But it’s useful to know what it is and how it has affected commercial kitchens.

This was an invention of Georges Auguste Escoffier, the famous French culinary giant of the late 1900s and early 2oth Century. Before Escoffier, most “commercial kitchens” were the kitchens of the aristocratic class. Restaurants for the public were almost unheard of. These “palace kitchens” were full of redundancy. It was almost the case of “too many chefs spoil the broth”, although the broth was rarely “spoiled”, it just had multiple chefs working on it, or individual chefs being responsible for producing a single dish from start to finish. This obviously wasn’t much of an issue to the wealthy, who were used to paying for extra household staff.

However, in order to produce food in a public restaurant (the grand hôtel of the 19th Century being the primary setting for such public dining facilities), something had to give. Escoffier was basically the Henry Ford of the dining world, producing an “assembly line” approach, with people specializing in narrow facets of food production. In fact, we still use the terms “hot line” and “cold line” to this day.

His was simultaneously a simple and a complex system. Simple in that the various tasks and responsibilities required to produce a menu item were given to individual cooks – for instance, sauces were the provenance of the saucier, baked items the patissier. Complex in that there were many specialists that had to be coordinated and basic ingredients such as sauces and stocks had to find their way to the various stations where they would be used to assemble the dishes.

No longer were there multiple “chefs”, but a chef and his immediate assistants managing a ‘brigade” of various cooks. The chef was the commander of the kitchen brigade and he had a “headquarters” section consisting of his sous-chefs, and soldiers who did the “fighting”. The chef was responsible for the tactics (the recipes and the implementation of those recipes) and was the figurehead upon which the success of the brigade was dependent.  The sous-chefs were his (chefs in those days being all male) “company commanders” or headquarters people; the soldiers who kept the paperwork flowing and the staffing requirements met and to act in the chef’s stead when the chef was off;  the people who implemented the strategies set forth by the commander.

Escoffier deliberately used the military metaphor because he basically used the military organization as a basis for his system.

Without such specialization and a militaryesque chain-of-command, it would be very difficult for a restaurant to do the sort of volume that it has to do in these modern times, when so many people are dining out as much, if not more, than they dine at home.

Obviously, in our modern kitchens, we don’t have the need for such extreme specialization, and many positions have either been combined or eliminated entirely. We’ll discuss this later.

In part 2, we’ll run down the traditional Escoffier-created positions, giving you the original French name and the English version of the job title.








Escoffier is the gent with the big white Imperial moustasche.

Frank Bruni writes a book

Food critic pens book about relationship with food

By ADAM GOLDMAN, Associated Press Writer Adam Goldman, Associated Press Writer 57 mins ago

NEW YORK – When Frank Bruni stepped on the scene as the chief restaurant critic for The New York Times more than five years ago, many industry insiders and observers thought the choice was odd.

Bruni had no previous experience reviewing restaurants. He hadn’t sweated long hours behind a hot range in a well-regarded kitchen learning his craft. He knew how to shape sentences but what did he know about simmering sauces?

But even odder was Bruni’s love-hate relationship with food — something he now acknowledges in his new memoir, “Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater.”

The revelation isn’t exactly shocking but it is unusual. Bruni, the man who had volunteered to eat out six nights a week, had obsessed about his weight for most of his life. He had battled bulimia briefly, toyed with laxatives and torpedoed many a diet — all the trimmings for his third book.

“I remember thinking if I look up after a couple of years and I am right, and I have figured out a better way to manage my relationship with food, it’s probably a pretty interesting narrative how I got to this point,” Bruni says about the moment he decided to take the job.

Read the rest of the article here:

Books Frank Bruni



















By the way, this “Wanted Poster” wasn’t constructed by Jeffery Chodorow, who likely doesn’t have that much imagination. It is the invention of the blog, Jaunted.