So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

Tag Archives: gifts

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.

Gifts for waiters – pt. 4

Get access to your favorite waiter’s wine list where he or she works.

Establish a dollar amount that you want to spend for a gift.

Let’s say that you want to give them a $100 gift. Either buy multiple bottles whose retail prices total that amount, or buy one bottle that equals that amount. The first way gives them exposure to more of their wine list, bottles that they might not ever get to sample, and the latter gives them exposure one really nice bottle that they are unlikely to be able to try.

When you put together the gift package, a nice touch would be a description of the wine, taken either from the winemaker’s website’s tech sheet, or, even better, Wine Spectator’s capsule review. Wine Spectator has some reviews available on-line without a subscription, so you might be lucky and the wine might be reviewed. Failing that, you could always Google the name and you might come up with somebody’s review. If you do, copy it and print it up and paste it to a card which you enclose with the bottle/s.

Another nice touch would be providing a wine-appropriate Riedel glass for each wine. This will drive up the price of the gift, so calculate this into the amount that you want to spend. Riedels come in different price categories and each is specifically and scientifically designed for the type of wine. They start at about $8 a stem and go up to $100 a stem. Let’s say that you decide to go the high-end bottle route and you have $150 to spend, you might want to cap your bottle price at $50 and go with a glass from the Sommelier line. This is a very impressive glass, especially if you are getting a red wine glass. The “Bordeaux Grand Cru” is a huge hand-blown work of art. It’s a 30 oz. glass and it will set you back $100. Obviously, this would be a great gift on its own as well.

Riedel has a nice series for much less, the Vinum. You can get two glasses for around $60 (smaller glasses like Riesling or Chardonnay glasses are cheaper in both series). It’s a smaller, more manageable glass than the Grand Cru, more of an everyday glass (the Grand Cru is very fragile due to its size). If you are really on a budget, or want to put more of your gift money into the wine, Riedel has an even cheaper series, the Ouverture, which runs about $8 – $10 a glass. They are still better than most average glasses out there.

Spiegelau is another maker of nice crystal. They usually run a little less than Riedel but offer similar quality.

both brands have a new category of glass, the “tumbler”. Basically, it’s a flat-bottomed stemless wine glass. I actually have a set of these and they’re pretty cool. They’re good for drinking wine on the sofa. You can actually put them on the armrest, which you can’t really do safely with a stem.

There’s always the decanter route as well. A nice decanter can be a work of art. If you go to Amazon and search for decanters, you’ll see a wide variety, not only in style and shape, but in price as well. Obviously, Riedels can be expensive, but they too have some affordable models. Plan to spend anywhere from around $30 up to $150. I wouldn’t spend any less on a decanter sight unseen because you  really can’t be sure of the quality. Even at $30, you can get a decent quality lead crystal decanter.

Here’s one from Riedel for between $30 – $40. It’s a good visual example of what Riedel’s all about. It doesn’t look all swoopy and modern, in fact, it looks sort of ordinary and ungainly. Well, there’s a purpose to this. It’s a decanter designed for Burgundies (Pinot Noir). Pinots are notoriously fragile and normally don’t need to be decanted at all. A lot of aeration can actually do them harm. Aeration is the exposure to air that some big wines like Cabernet Sauvignon need to go from the bottle to consumption. This decanter minimizes this exposure by being tall and narrow, unlike other decanters which generally get very broad at the bottom to expose more of the wine to oxygen.

If your waiter friend actually keeps a lot of wine at home, something like this fancy wine opener from Metrokane, the Rabbit, might be just what the doctor ordered:

Runs about $50. 

Also, you can go the tabletop route with something like this “”Quest Products Connoisseur Vintner’s Reserve Tabletop Wine Opener, which runs in the $70 price range:

Of course, all of this assumes that your waiter friend drinks wine. You wouldn’t want to consider these gifts to anyone in recovery, now would you?

Gifts for waiters – pt. 2


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.

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 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. 

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