So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Monthly Archives: August 2011


As we face the waning days of summer, it’s time to remember that  cuisine is seasonal, regardless of how homogenized North American chain restaurants try to make it.

As we start the slow transition into cooler weather, you should start to adjust your view of your menu. Even the most ordinary restaurant menu can be adapted to the various seasons through your knowledge of the various dishes. Hopefully, during the summer, you’ve been quick to recommended some of the lighter fare and pair it with lighter wines, if applicable to your restaurant.

Now’s the time to consider dishes with more substance, especially as we approach the end of October and the beginning of November. Heartier sauces, more substantial cuts of meat, bigger, chewier wines.

It’s important for you to recognize this in order to guide your guests but your guests will start instinctively choosing more autumnal food and drink. If you’re ahead of the curve, you’ll flow right along with it.

I always say, “The fewer surprises, the better…”

Quick tip

Always read the name on the credit card and always look at the signature block.


No, you’re not going to bust them if they haven’t signed it or compare their signature on the chit.

The first thing that you are going to do is see if it’s the wife’s name (assuming that it’s not a unisexual name like Leslie, of course). Occasionally, the husband will present the spouse’s card, or you’ll see him take the check presenter but not see him pass it to his wife. You will probably get brownie points if you notice and give the presenter directly to the wife and say Mrs. So-and-So, assuming that it’s clear that they’re married.

Which brings me to the next part. By all means, use the name. You have it right on the card. It adds a personal touch at the very moment that the tip is going to be assigned. If the name is difficult, use your disgression as to whether to say it. Most people will forgive a mispronunciation if you say, “Is it Mr. Unpronouncable”? If you’re wrong, they’ll correct you. If you nail it, they’ll be pleasantly surprised. Remember, people love to hear their own names.

You’d be surprised what else the card can tell you. For instance, the other night, I saw the corporate name under the guest’s
name. I realized that it was the name of our main purveyor. I said, “So you’re responsible for our (fill in the blank). His mouth dropped and he exclaimed, “How did you know”? I chuckled and said, “A little bird told me”. He said, “Really, how did you know”? I said, “It’s on your card”. He and his guests were really impressed that I knew and he said, “I’m going to text the owner of your company tomorrow and tell him” (whether or not he did is irrelevant). He wrote an $50 tip (on a $400 check) and left me a $100 bill on top of it. So you never know. Let’s say that you notice that the card indicates that the guy works for your bank because it’s a Great Bank of the US corporate card and that’s your bank. You might pull out your checkbook or debit card and say, “Nice bank you work at. I’m a loyal customer”. That HAS to increase your chances of a good tip.

Finally, by looking at the signature block, you might see the phrase “Check ID”. If you see that, ask for his/her ID. You can’t imagine how grateful they’ll be for you protecting them or being the 1 in 20 that doesn’t notice.

Remember, it’s the little things, especially at tip time!

New York Chef/Restaurateur David Bouley on Charlie Rose

An interesting conversation with David Bouley.

On his time learning about Japanese cooking – “We made dashi for three days”.

There are some interesting things said about the importance of nutrition and the use of artisan ingredients.

Definitely worth a view.

I presume that this will show up on Rose’s website shortly.

“A sin would be to mistreat the dishwasher” – Ferran Adria…


…from the latest episode of “No Reservations”, Anthony Bourdain’s  TV series. The show focuses on the closing of Adria’s famed 3 Michelin starred restaurant, El Bulli.

This is so true. There is no more integral cog in the wheel of the restaurant, and the least paid, than the dishwasher. I’ve said as much in previous posts and reaffirm that through the auspices of Mr. Bourdain.

Think about it – a restaurant can actually do without an Executive Chef, but it can’t do without a dishwasher.

It’s incumbent on all waiters to give the requisite respect to the lynchpin of the restaurant, the dishwasher.

PS, the dishwasher in the picture is a future restaurant owner, Peter Demos of Demos Restaurant of the Nashville area. Perhaps it would help every waiter to think of each dishwasher as his or her potential employer.

Article on Jacques Pepin


If you are interested in cooking and don’t own copies of “La Technique” and “La Methode” ( both books that I’ve reviewed), you are missing key foundation pieces of a basic culinary education. Seriously.