So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Tag Archives: gifts for waiters

Just in time for Christmas – a new Marketplace Blogroll

Look for it shortly. I’ll be adding new links as quickly as I can.

I have no affiliation with any of them, although, regular readers of this blog will remember that I got a sample Waiter’s Caddy from The Waiter’s Depot a few weeks ago. Should I get any sort of swag or kickback from any of these links, I will duly report it. At no time should it be assumed that sending free stuff will get a link posted in the blogroll, although any vendor is free to leave a comment in this blog to alert me to their website. I alone will be the judge as to whether a link is posted. Unless there is a legitimate concern with a site, any website that offers items interesting to waiters will be added, as long as it’s a “legitimate” site. I alone will be the sole determinate of such “legitimacy”.

Also, selected “culinary” sites will be considered for inclusion, although it has to offer unusual, hard-to-get or interesting items. I won’t be putting up links for “gift basket”, Wisconsin cheese and sausage sites or other generic sites.

The listing of any link does not imply a specific endorsement of the site, nor an endorsement on the business practices of the site. All readers should use the services of these vendors at their own risk and I assume no responsibility for any business dealings that readers might or might not participate in.

Please remember the waiters in your life this holiday season.

Review of The Deluxe Waiter Caddy

First of all, a disclaimer – I got this free. However:

First of all, it wasn’t solicited. The powers-that-be at the Waiter’s Depot, of which I have no connection, nor any prior communication with, liked my mention of their site and of the Waiter Caddy a few months back, so they offered to send me a Deluxe Waiter Caddy as a thank you. I graciously accepted and it arrived just a couple of days later. I’ll bet the timing wasn’t accidental, as we are going into prime gift-giving season, but that’s OK. That’s just good business strategy.

They didn’t ask me for a review and I wrote them back that once I got it, I’d possibly review it and they sent it anyway. There was no quid pro quo whatsoever.

When I looked at it upon taking it from the box, I was hit by a bit of an optical illusion. Being used to using check presenters, it looked wider than a standard check presenter because of its dimensions. You see, it’s almost exactly the same shape as a bistro apron or jacket pocket. In other words, it’s shorter. So, it looked wider on first glance because of its squat appearance.  But it’s not. It’s the size of a cut-down check presenter. It fits exactly in a bistro  apron pocket, except that it sticks out a millimeter or two. This is actually an advantage since it doesn’t get lost in the pocket. You’ve got something to grip as you remove it from the pocket. Nice.

This is also nice because it doesn’t dig into your waist when you bend over.

However, for me, there’s a downside with the height. I use POS tape to write my orders on and I’ve gotten used to a long, “check presenter tall” piece of register tape. I can get three to 6 tables on such a piece before I have to turn it over. Rarely do I have to go to a second piece during the night, and there are plenty of shifts where I only use one side. So, that was an initial stumbling (mental) block for me. I simply said to myself, “Self, you’re just going to normally have to cut 3 pieces of tape, ‘k”? Since the shift I was going to try it out on was slow, I only cut one piece (I only ended up with a couple of tables).

One other adaptation that I had to make was due to two factors – the first is that I prefer to write with the tape in my open book and I keep a piece of cardboard in the book to make for a nice writing surface.  And, being left-handed, I keep both the backing and the tape in the right side of the pocket and rest my writing hand sort of on the left side of the check presenter. I can’t do this with the Waiter’s Caddy for two reasons – first, as you know, most check presenters have triangle pockets on both sides, so it’s easy to choose either side to use as a writing surface and you have a lot of tape to write on before you actually have to take it out of the pocket. The Waiter Caddy is exclusively a right-handed device for this purpose because it only has a triangle pocket on the left side. And second, you’ll end up hiding two of the pockets if you put a cardboard insert under your tape. I don’t see writing without an insert because, if I put the tape on the right side and try to write on it, I’ll be writing over the back pocket and that will be uncomfortable, even though the pockets are quite thin.

UPDATE: I talked to my friend after he had a couple of more shifts under his belt and he said that it was just fine to write directly on top of the backing. He said that all he does is slide the tape up and down as needed and write on the portion that is still “in the book”. There’s enough room to write enough information for a 6 top. He said that any larger table would require moving the tape up during the order-writing process. He also said that long closed checks need to be folded over to avoid sticking out of the top of the Caddy. He also said that if you have a lot of closed checks, it gets a little difficult to add more closed checks to the bundle due to the tight-fitting nature of the pockets. He thinks that continued use will loosen them up a little, but since they aren’t gusseted or accordioned, there isn’t a lot of give. He says that the best way to deal with it is to pull the whole bundle out, add the new closed check and then reinsert the entire bundle rather than trying to squeeze another closed check in by itself. When I get the book back, I’ll check this for myself. He also said that he’s ordered one for himself, so I should be getting the book back sometime next week.

What does this mean? Not a big deal, really. I’ll adapt. I’ll be pulling the tape out and writing on the outside of the Caddy. The slight problem for me is that I won’t really have anything to rest my wrist/hand on. Depending on how annoying I find it day in and day out, this could be a deal-breaker for me.

Now that I’ve got the slightly negative stuff out of the way (well, there’s the $24.99 price tag for the Deluxe model, but a little more about that later), how about the positive?

First of all, the workmanship is top-notch. The cover will almost fool you into thinking that it’s leather. It’s embossed with The Waiter Depot logo, a tuxedo-clad penguin. The cover is stitched and the corners reinforced with brass-toned metal corners.

When you open it up, you are confronted with a red and black color scheme. The pockets are black and clear and the backing is a non-slip sort of red plastic. Here’s a picture, courtesy of Tip20!.com (the pics on the Waiter Depot site are transparent GIFs so I can’t use them:

http://www.tip20.com/

Here’s is the “standard” model ($12.99) for comparison purposes:

http://www.tip20.com/

As far as I can tell, there are three main differences, there is a pen pocket in the deluxe model (more about this in a minute), a bright red non-slip surface, and  a molded, heat-sealed outside instead of a stitched one (the cover material might be of a lesser quality, but I don’t know this for a fact).

The difference between the two is like the difference between a Cadillac and a Chevrolet. Get it? Caddy vs. Chevy?

The pocket configuration for both is the same. The left side features three pockets, the top pocket is a transparent triangle (corner) pocket. The middle pocket is also transparent and is square and the back pocket is black, curved and about three-quarters of the height of the Caddy. On the right side, it’s the same, only you don’t have the triangle front pocket. However, there is a third pocket that the left side doesn’t have – it’s a pocket at the very top of the caddy that extends the length and width of the Caddy. This is designed to hold an order pad or memo pad if you use one. Since I don’t use one, I can use it as an additional money pocket if I want.

An “additional money pocket” you ask?

Keep your shirt on, pal, I haven’t gotten to the money pocket yet. Yes, there’s a money pocket that runs on the left side of the spine. You can see it clearly in the photo of the Deluxe model.

User notes:

You get a disclaimer with the instructions. First of all, the pen pocket itself is designed for slender pens like Bics. Thick pens need not apply. Also, you aren’t intended to jam the pen all the way into the pocket. Remember what I said about the backing material being non-slip? Well, the pocket is deliberately designed to be a little small. You insert the pen only an inch or two into the pocket and it will grip the pen. This means that the first few times you use it, it’s a little bit difficult. But once you’ve taken the pen in and out a few times, it will open wide enough to be easy. What if you use fatter pens? Well, no biggie. You just put it in the spine, which is wide enough to accommodate just about any pen. It will stay put unless you open the book upside down. In fact, you might just forgo using the pen pocket, even for slender pens. Many “fat” pens have a non-slip grip themselves, so you can actually turn the book almost 75° before such a pen will slide out (I tried it with such a pen). The non-slip grip “sticks” to the non-slip red backing.

The wide spine also accommodates thick order pads and spiral memo pads.

The pockets are made from the type of plastic which appears to stay flexible, even over time. You know how some plastic gets hard and brittle? This doesn’t appear to be that sort of plastic. It’s almost “supple”. The heat-sealing on the pockets is precise and is very “high-tech” looking. The main pocket has a very elegant “embossed” edge. In fact, everything about the Deluxe Waiter Caddy screams elegance and well-crafted from a manufacturer’s standpoint. There are no corners cut or cheap materials or short cuts employed in the Deluxe Caddy, hence the price.

There are many ways that a clever waiter can configure this device. You can put multiple cheat sheets in the various pockets. If you have a clock-in card, there’s a place for it. If you have a picture of your dog, there’s a place for it. Keep copies of great tip checks? Go for it. Keep a list of your call parties or great tippers? Why not? This book will hold an inch thick worth of paperwork if you want it to, although I wouldn’t recommend jamming the pockets that thick. After all, they are plastic and they will stretch over time and become less ‘grippy” if you take out some of the paperwork. They will certainly hold dozens of slips, pics, business cards, notes, etc. If you don’t use an order pad, you’ve even got an additional full pocket, as I alluded to earlier.

About that money pocket. Put your money almost exactly as you see it in the display picture. You want to have access to it and it’s even easier if you fan it out slightly. You see, the red surface is so grippy that it makes it hard for you to get to your money if you fall for the natural tendency to put the money out of sight. It’s really hard to get to the bills and even harder to get them out once they’re in. So leave some of each of the bills showing so that you have access to them. Since I don’t use an order pad, I’ll be using the big pocket on the right to put any excess shift paper money (100 dollar bills or cash in excess of around $75) in it and just keep enough in the “money pocket” to be a bank.

At the moment, I’m not using any cheat sheets or sales aids, but I’ll probably fix that in the future.

I loaned the book to an acquaintance of mine who works at an expensive place. I wanted to get his thoughts on it.

He reported back to me that he was impressed with the look and feel. He actually thought that it was a leather cover at first! He had some of the same problems that I had in getting used to it in that, it turns out that he’s left-handed as well and also uses a POS tape. He showed it to a couple of his co-workers, both of which thought that it was pretty cool (I haven’t shown it to any co-workers myself). I asked him about how he used the book and he said that he wasn’t using any sort of cheat sheets at the moment, but that he thought that the various pockets would be useful for those, as they occasionally get printed wine lists and seasonal menu ingredient lists that are designed to go into a check presenter. I asked him if he was going to buy one and he said that he probably was.

Would I buy one? Well, I’m a cheap sumbitch so I would probably keep using check presenters. If the Deluxe model were the price of the standard model, I absolutely would, but $24.99 is a bit dear to replace something that I have about 6 of floating around the house, no matter how cool the engineering and the thought process is.

However:

I would definitely consider buying one now because The Waiter’s Depot is selling some gift combinations of the Caddies:

http://www.thewaiterdepot.com/Home.html

For the normal price of the Deluxe model ($24.99), you now get a nice Pulltap corkscrew and an aluminum crumber included. since Pulltap corkscrews usually run between $7 – 10 and crumbers are hard for some people to find, I’d definitely jump on this bargain. They have a special for the standard Caddy, but it’s not nearly as good of a deal since they add $5 to the price of the standard Caddy, which makes it only $4 cheaper. The Pulltap corkscrew is the narrow-bodied, double-hinged type that lucky waiters get for free embossed with the name of a famous winery (I have one myself), but that’s only if you happen to be friends with a wine rep, win a sales contest, or find one that another waiter has lost. And who can’t use another nice winetool?  I would definitely jump on this “Deluxe” deal while it lasts.

If you have a waiter in your life, this bundle would make a great gift. If your waiter is a significant other, make this your stocking stuffer (get him or her something really nice as your primary gift, you bonehead). Otherwise, this makes a great primary gift or Secret Santa gift for waiter friends of all stripes.

If you are the manager of a restaurant, you might want to look into buying these in bulk and either selling them to the staff or giving them to the staff as a holiday present or as a sales contest prize if your promotional budget allows. I don’t know this for a fact, but you might even be able to get your company logo embossed on the front. I’d check with The Waiter’s Depot on that. Plus, I’m sure that bulk orders get a discount. If you don’t have such a generous management, you might find out if there’s a small enough bulk order for you and your fellow waiters to get together and buy for a discount. If there’s a discount for 10 or more, maybe it’s worth getting together and buying 10 of them. I don’t know – that’s something you might check on.

There is a web site for the Caddy itself. They have a page on how to use it, which I’m sure they’ll be adding to in the future as you send in your own configuration ideas. Find the page here:

http://waitercaddy.com/Home.html

There’s even a blog and they promise bi-weekly contests and prizes.There’s also a newsletter, which I haven’t signed up for yet.

If you decide to buy one of these, please let them know that you read about it here. I have no connection with them, nor am I getting any sort of commission, but it would be nice to know that I helped someone decide to buy one.

I’m letting my friend use this book until he decides whether he’s going to order one. I’m giving him a week because I’m really interested in putting it through its paces.

Meanwhile, it’s back to the old check presenter for me. Suddenly, I don’t feel so “professional”. I want my Caddy back. 

Gifts for Waiters, Pt. 3

These fall under the “nice to have” category.

These days, few waiters are called upon to light cigarettes and cigars. In the old days, a lighter was an indispensible tool that every waiter carried. Even today, it’s considered a mandatory tool if only to light a candle on a birthday or anniversary dessert. Most waiters simply buy a Bic or other disposable lighter, but a nice refillable lighter is still considered a stylish gift. I’ve always like the Colibri brand and they have a wide variety of nice lighters. We’ll start with a pricey lighter, the appropriately named “Tonino Lamborghini”. Here’s one that will remind you of a Miura from the ’60s, with its striking green color (and it’s $150 retail price):

 

 

 

 

Obviously, this is for those with deep pockets and champagne tastes.

Here’s the art deco/prairie style Aspire (for a more modest retail of $59):

For the sporty, outdoorsy type, here’s a rubberized yellow slicker colored “Jet 2”:

And, if you want to emphasize the “culinary” theme, here’s a flask-inspired model that’s priced right, the well-named “Flask (at $34.95):

Obviously, you can find cheaper lighters just about anywhere. Feel free to shop around. But I really like the Colibri brand. They are well-made and stylish. You can get single, double or even triple flamed models (the later great for the cigar smoker, but not necessary for the waiter). And you can find them at selected retail establishments at a discount.

Along the same line is the increasingly obsolete cigar accessory. They are obviously not obsolete for cigar smokers per se, but most waiters now work in smoke-free environments. If you know a waiter who works in an establishment like a private club or country club where smoking lounges are still found, you might consider something like this:

This is a well-made model, far better than the cheap plastic ones that you can pick up in cigar shops for $5. This one will set you back $24.95 retail.

Finally, we have the humble crumber. Most crumbers are aluminum metal affairs, but some are made of stainless steel (these hold up better). Some are painted, some are distributed with logos, some are bare metal. They vary in thickness. In many restaurants, especially those with tablecloths, they are a required item. They look something like this:

The thing about crumbers is that they are easily bent or lost and the pocket clips tend to fall off. They are pretty hard to find locally so waiters are always in need of extras. They usually cost between $1 and $3, although they are often given as liquor company promos with logos of famous wineries. This isn’t much more than a stocking stuffer type gift, and it should be given in quantity (5 is a good stock for a waiter to have available). Here’s a good source for them:

http://barsupplies.com/table-crumber-stainless-steel-p-2162.html?osCsid=r9tapme50soje2h66d5ub38rq2

But if you want to go a bit further, you might offer them this:

As you can see, it’s a variation on the Bissel manual sweeper that every waiter is familiar with. It’s bulky but it’s priced at a reasonable $6.95. I’ve never used one, so I can’t vouch for how well it works, so gifter beware!

http://crumbsweepers.com/index4.php

Here’s a more upscale and higher-priced version:

This will set you back $19.95 here:

http://www.thehomemarketplace.com/HomeMarketPlace/Shopping/ProductDetail.aspx?CID=Keep+It+Clean&SCID=Keep+It+Clean+Kitchen&ProductID=0000101371&SourceCode=50509000002&mr:referralID=26adacb0-dc49-11de-9b2c-000423bb4e79

And even more upscale at $36.33:

http://www.wasserstrom.com/restaurant-supplies-equipment/Product_442314?srccode=cii_9324560&cpncode=25-19250978-2

So, I hope that this gives you more ideas for a holiday gift for the waiter in your life.

Gifts for waiters – pt. 2

Books.

Yes, I said books.

But not just any books.

You have to calibrate the type of book with your favorite waiter. If your waiter friend works at Applebees, they might not need a huge wine book. If you are only a casual friend who’s giving a small gift, you might not want to spend $30 for a really nice book, but you still want to find them something useful. And if you know that your particular waiter is a foodie, it makes it easier to choose a book that might pique his or her interest.

So I’m going to break this down into different categories. Almost everything you see here has been the subject of a short review right here on SYWTBAW. Just plug the name in and see a picture of the cover, snatch the ISBN and read a bit about the book.

Stocking Stuffer/Secret Santa/Casual acquaintance. These books are fairly inexpensive and useful in the day-to-day world of a waiter, no matter what kind of restaurant they work in:

The Food Lover’s Companion – Sharon Tyler Herbst – compact and comprehensive dictionary of culinary terms and ingredients.

Waiter Rant – The Waiter – now out in paperback, every waiter will appreciate this great collection of “stories from the front”.

Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain – it’s possible that your waiter friend already has this one, or has at least read it. An inside glimpse into the making of a chef and how restaurants really work. Long available in paperback.

Books for waiters with culinary pretensions. Some are pricey in any format:

Larousse Gastronomique – Considered a foundation book for foodies, chefs and anyone with an intense interest in classic cuisine.

The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon  – Thomas Keller – A pair of lavishly illustrated books that achieve the remarkable – equally at home on the coffee table or the prep table.

Jeremiah Tower Cooks – Jeremiah Tower – Another chef-written book, penned by a pioneer in modern American cuisine. Many of the recipes are practical and can be used in daily cooking. Has a beautiful coffee table cover but isn’t really a coffee table type book.

Splendid Soups and Sauces – James Peterson – Not one book but two different volumes. Foundation books for any level chef. If you really like your waiter friend, and you have deep pockets, presenting them as a set would be a grand gesture.

La Technique and La Methode – Jacques Pepin – Foundation books for any level chef. First written and published in the 70s, these practical “step-by-step” volumes helped spur on the increasing interest in fine cooking in the US. Can now be found as a combined volume.

If your gift recipient has a particular interest in a specific type of cuisine, it’s easy to use the Internet to find great books in any category. I have reviewed multiple books in Thai and Japanese cuisine. I can highly recommend any of those volumes. I have also reviewed quite a few barbeque and grilling/smoking books as well. 

Wine geeks/fine dining waiters/waiters moving up the employment food chain:

Wine for Dummies – Ed McCarthy, Mary Ewing-Mulligan – This book is perfect for waiters who are working in restaurants with fairly limited winelists or are young waiters who don’t have extensive personal experience with wine. It’s not a bad gift for more experienced waiters either because, as is the case with the “…For Dummies” series, a lot of information is covered in a breezy yet authoritative style. You can also find “…For Dummies” books in wine subcategories like Italian as well.

The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson – This hefty and pricey tome is for the true wine geek. Filled with maps of famous vineyards and wine-growing areas, there are copious amounts of background info on regions, vintners and well-known properties.

An Encyclopedia of the Wines and Domaines of France – Clive Coates – a specialized volume for wine geeks and waiters who have extensive French wines on their restaurant’s wine list. Highly recommended.

Frank Stitt’s Southern Table – Recipes and Gracious Traditions From Highland Bar and Grill – Frank Stitt – This book could belong in the “culinary category” but I include it here because it kills two birds with one stone – it updates Southern cuisine with an emphasis on seasonal and locally procured products but it also pairs specific wine with specific dishes.

The Oxford Companion for Wine – Jancis Robinson – Written by a Master of Wine, this is a typically deep and broad Oxford reference work. Essential for any wine geek that doesn’t already have it.

I hesitate to recommend reference books from Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator. They are certainly handy but they are almost obsolete by the time they are published, especially Parker, who only updates his every few years. His books are designed more for the collector and purveyor, but even I have an older edition simply because it offers a very personal look at the various winemakers, gathered from years of personal barrel tastings and interaction with vintners large and small. As an alternative, you might want to give the wine geek waiter in your life an on-line subscription to The Wine Spectator or Robert Parker. In the case of The Wine Spectator, buying a subscription unlocks the entire wine database, offers mobile access (handy when you’re standing in front of rows and rows of wines), and allows you to keep track of wine collections or wines of note. The Robert Parker online subscription offers much the same thing. I’ve found both of them useful for getting very specific capsule reviews of the very wines on my wine list, which I have copied and pasted to handy guides that I maintain. This is very useful for finding the proper adjectives to describe specific wines to my guests. Robert Parker costs $99 a year and The Wine Spectator costs $49 a year. parker also offers short term subscriptions for $12for a month and $29 for 3 months.

https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/M5/WSO/Giftpage-form3-121807.jsp?cds_page_id=37712&cds_mag_code=WSO&id=1259337389570&lsid=93310955291018930&vid=2&cds_response_key=I9HWSGHP

https://www.erobertparker.com/subscriptions/SubscribeGiftWizard.aspx

Obviously this is just a short list of valuable resources. The more you know about the waiter that you are buying a gift for, the more appropriate a gift you can target. The internet offers a great way to search for very specific items and you can also find reviews from people like myself or at big sites like Amazon.com. I suggest that you provide the receipt in case your waiter already has the book that you have bought or would rather exchange it for a different book. 

Image courtesy of http://www.dreamstime.com/book-with-bow-imagefree4321885

Gifts for waiters – pt 1

After just having talked about commercialization and hoping to wait until midnight tonight to start confronting it, I break my own rule.

I do this because I recognize that today will be a day where fewer people than usual will be accessing this blog, and for good reason. There’s turkey to carve, canned cranberry substance to avoid, pecan pie to gorge on, and American football to watch with friends and family.

But I wanted to get a jump on tomorrow and offer some suggestions for holiday gifts for the waiter in your life.

So sue me.

I’ve discussed some of these things on the blog, but not in the context of gift-giving. We’ll discuss this topic over several upcoming posts.

First of all, we start with the supreme gift that a waiter can carry with them to work, a Laguiole corkscrew.

Let’s talk about this for a moment.

Laguiole is not a manufacturer, it’s a marketing term. It’s pronounced roughly, “la-jzoll”. It originally described a knife product produced in the village of Laguiole, but soon became a regional product and later described a visual style, which has been copied throughout the world, sometimes counterfeited outright and sometimes manufactured as a “Laguiole-styled” product. It’s distinguished by a long narrow body, usually sheathed in a premium hardwood, bone or fossil. While some models are straight, most have a gentle curve that falls naturally to hand. The knife portion is usually constructed of 440 surgical steel, and the components are precision milled and forged and hand-fitted to a tight, long-lasting fit.

The “true” brand has a specific mark – some call it a bee and some call it a fly. You decide:

 

Don’t be fooled. There are real Laguioles, “real” Laguioles, “Laguiole-styled” and counterfeit Laguioles. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes, especially when you shop on-line. Sometimes they are similar to “Swiss-made”, “Swiss movement” and “Swiss engineered” watches. “Swiss made” watches, unless counterfeit, are actually made in Swiss factories. “Swiss movement”, “Swiss” and “Swiss engineered” watches are usually made in Chinese factories from Swiss parts and Swiss designed movements and are overseen by on-site Swiss engineers. The same is true of some “Laguiole” products.

Let’s put it this way – you need to spend at least $75 retail on a real basic Laguiole product. And nicer ones cost much more. I’ve seen the occasional corkscrew sold online NIB at about $50 but, never having bought one, I can’t speak to the craftsmanship. You can find them on eBay for even less, but you rarely can be assured of the provenance. However, if you use some common sense and careful observation of the pictures and the language of the listing, you can find a few real Laguioles between $25 – $60 on eBay (I just looked). 

 There are over 50 French factories making these products and, due to the handmade nature of the product, there’s probably some variation (one factory claims that only one person makes each knife from start to finish). Here are some classic Laguiole looks:

 

But a faux Laguiole might be appropriate if you’re buying a gift for a waiter like me who tends to misplace things like corkscrews, sunglasses and umbrellas. In fact, I have such a corkscrew. I bought it new on eBay for around 10 bucks. Has a rosewood handle and from a distance could be mistaken for a Laguiole. But it’s clear that the workmanship is only average at best. The wood on the handle has a loose, open grain and the corkscrew wobbles slightly from side-to-side. But in general, it’s a perfect corkscrew for me. Not so expensive that I have to fret about it and not so cheaply made that it won’t stand up to daily use (mine has been around for almost 2 years now, ironic for someone like me who probably has 2 other decent corkscrews hiding around the house and a couple that I’ve given to the parking lot god).

There is one downside to Laguiole that could be a deal-breaker for some waiters. Some waiters insist on a double-hinged lever.  This uses a stepped approach to cork pulling as the lever itself is longer than usual and is notched both at the end and also at a hinge which allows the waiter to use a two-pull approach. This is handy when you have a delicate or extra-long cork. Personally, while I find them convenient, I’ve never “needed” one. But I know some waiters who would never use a conventional lever because they’ve gotten used to the hinged type. It might be good to casually inspect your intended gift recipient’s current corkscrew, or find a way to ask about their preference without them knowing why you’re asking.

You don’t necessarily have to go with Laguiole. There are some nice “waiter’s friends” out there. Some are fancier than others. Some can be engraved. What you want to avoid is the cheap stamped pot-metal types like you find in the supermarket. Find something that’s made of stainless steel or with a wood handle. Something like this would be nice:

Pluses are hinged levers like you see in the above example, extra-long screws, teflon-coated screws, tight construction.

If your significant other isn’t a klutz like me, they will surely appreciate the gift of a really nice waiter’s friend corkscrew. Might as well spend a few bucks. If they are a klutz or are a more casual acquaintance, by all means be more modest in the type of corkscrew you pop for. But buy a nice one in whatever price range you choose. Look to eBay and other online sources of bargains. Or if you’re lucky enough to have a specialty cutlery store, you might find some nice imported models. Generally, the ones you see in department stores aren’t very good or are good but pedestrian.

So show your favorite waiter some love and get them a nice stocking stuffer this year. They’ll appreciate it. Makes a great Secret Santa gift as well…