So You Want To Be A Waiter

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

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The book that you have been waiting for is finally out!

No, not my book.

Sorry to get you all excited.

No, it’s Tips²: Tips For Improving Your Tips by David Hayden of the Hospitality Formula Network.

Let me be blunt – if you are a waiter/server/bartender and you don’t buy this book, then you really don’t care about how much money you make. This book is a multiplier of skills and bank. It’s written in a clear, concise yet comprehensive style. It’s laid out logically and covers just about every topic that a waiter needs to know in terms of maximizing his or her earning potential.

The book is broken down into 10 sections and 41 chapters. With sections like Before Your Shift, Starting Your Shift, Interacting with Your Guests, and The Mechanics of Serving, the book puts lie to Hayden’s statement that “This book is NOT a training manual. Due to the fact that you picked up this book, it is assumed you know how to wait tables”. Those preliminary sections cover much of what the rank amateur waiter needs to know to make his or her descent into the maelstrom of waiting tables a smooth and unbumpy one. This book should be part of the training package of every restaurant who hires people who have never been waiters.

But it doesn’t stop there – with subsequent sections like Selling and Serving Wine, The Pitch, The Key Times, Selling as a Server, Special Guests, and The Intangibles, the main intent of the book becomes clear – waiter make money, guest get good experience, manager get smooth shift – everybody happy.

My blog covers many of the same points. In fact, you’ll get a sense of déjà vu when you read Mr. Hayden’s book if you’ve spent any time with my posts. The main difference is the clarity of vision and training. I tend to ramble, go off-the-cuff, go off on tangents, and generally get parenthetical (sometimes). You’ll find little of that in this book. What you’ll find is  a book full of practical hints, tips and directives that aren’t just theoretical abstracts; they can be applied on a daily basis.

Do I think it’s complete? Hell no! There are valid points that this very blog have made that are left out. Anyone who has waited tables for a long time has had situations that have given them insight that could be valuable to the waiter-at-large. But, all in all, the book is probably the most practical and valuable resource that a waiter could find on any bookshelf (either real or virtual) in North America. I say North America because other restaurant cultures have different standards and practices that might be at odds with the North American restaurant culture.

In a perfect world, this book would be the core of the book that I had intended when I first considered starting a blog on the subject of waiting tables. I wanted a book that was lavishly illustrated with photographs, filled with sidebars of interesting factoids and footnotes, brimming with information about everything from rapini to Calvados. I envisioned parts of the book that would be considered reference material for the ages – a book with the heft of a wine atlas, the look, feel and knowledge of a Thomas Keller book, the practical and accessible wisdom of a “…for Dummies” book. This book would be part of the curriculum at Cornell, would sit on every restaurant book shelf, would grace the coffee tables of the rich and poor alike, and my name would be whispered with a measured awe in the break rooms of restaurants for years to come.

Well, sorry. The bones are there; the framework sitting in the archives of this very blog. Until the storied day when a literary agent looks at my concept, knows just the perfect graphic designer to create the cheap equivalent of the Nathan Myhrvold “Modern Cuisine” $625 cookbook, my dream of the ultimate book on waiting tables is just that – a dream.

Until then, this book by David Hayden does what I hoped to do – make it possible for a newly-minted waiter to avoid the usual pitfalls of “learning on the job”. This is a dual goal; not only does it mean that waiters can share the knowledge necessary to maximize earnings, it means that fewer restaurant guests will have to suffer the fumbling of such “on-the-fly training”.

It’s lean, it’s mean – it’s the opposite of what I intended. And just what the world needs.


Buy my book or I'll make you look like a fool in front of your date.

Cookbook of the day – Going Solo In The Kitchen

Going solo in the kitchen1

Going Solo in the Kitchen

by Jane Doerfer

  • Publisher:Knopf; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (August 25, 1998)
  • ISBN 10: 0375703934
  • ISBN 13: 978-0375703935
  • You know, sometimes you either want to, or are forced to by circumstances,  cook  just for yourself. You live alone, your significant other is out of town, you’ve been dumped/divorced/downsized and just want to wallow in solitary pity, your significant other or family members don’t like some of the same food that you do, you want to take something tasty and unique to work as your lunch – you take your pick.

    Cookbooks are designed for recipes serving at least two (but usually 4 or more). So, you have to get the slide rule out and start trying to figure out how to divide a third of a cup of flour into fourths. Or, even harder, how to divide already small measurements like 1/2 tsp. It’s not as difficult if you’re used to eyeballing and estimating, as I am. For most recipes, there’s some wiggle room, the exception being baking, which often relies on exact measurements. but not everyone is confident in their ability to fly by the seat of their pants. Some people need the security of a fixed recipe to follow.

    So, it’s about time that we started seeing cookbooks for one.

    Jane Doerfer has written a practical cookbook that serves this purpose quite well.

    Want to make a single serving of mashed potatoes? No problem. How about Caesar dressing for a single salad? It’s here. How about a smaller meat loaf that won’t feed the entire block or that you won’t be having meatloaf sandwiches for a week? There’s a tidy little recipe using a pound of ground chuck and a cup of crushed crackers (plus the other things that you’ll need).

    Obviously, many of these recipes could be done with leftovers in mind. I’m not sure about making just enough dressing for a single Caesar salad, or making one of the various single serving soups since soups are often better the next day anyway and are easy to store for a week.  But who among us haven’t made soup and put most of it away only to have to eat it for a week just to use it up or end up throwing the remainder away when it gets fuzzy? In cases like this, it’s easy to double the portions so that you don’t have a gallon of the stuff left over but it’s more than just a single serving. You can actually eat it a few days later and not feel like you’re just continuing the meal that you had yesterday.

    The first part of the book is handy for singles who live alone full-time. There are shopping strategies, storing and freezing advice and pantry stocking guidelines that are helpful.

    Are the recipes groundbreaking and exotic? No they’re not. You’re not going to learn how to cut down a lot of stuff from other cuisines. But you can get some ideas on your own from some of the strategies that she employs. Plus, you might learn a little about eyeballing ingredients in the future. You’ll experience smaller measurements, sometimes for the first time. You’ll use lots of 1/8 and 1/4 teaspoons of ingredients that you would normally see in tablespoon increments. It will also help you to see proportions in a different light, which can help you when tackling larger recipes as well.

    So, I recommend this book not only for cooks cooking only for themselves, but for any cook that wants to get a better feel for measurements. It’s a side benefit that’s not readily apparent.

    A side benefit that is immediately apparent is the fact that it’s an inexpensive volume.

    And if you want to, you can present your dinner to yourself this way:

    Turkey TV Dinner

    Cookbook of the day – The Seducer’s Cookbook

    Seducer's cookbook

    The Seducer’s Cookbook

    by Mimi Sheraton

    Publisher Random House (1963)

    This was a gag gift given to me by my GM one Christmas. I’m not sure what the message was supposed to be or what his image of me was, but I’m glad to have received it because it’s a cheeky little product of pre-Kennedy assassination America.

    This was the time of a freeing of the mores of the 50s and the promise of a more urbane and worldly US. Jackie Kennedy was the hostess and style editor of America and, although we didn’t know it at the time, JFK was working his way through the distaff Washington and Hollywood elite while his wife was seducing America at large.

    This book bridges both of those themes with humor, panache and a nod and a wink by famed food critic and writer, Mimi Sheraton.

    It’s illustrated in that wonderful line drawing early 60s cartoon style by Paul Coker. You might not know the name unless you’re a MAD Magazine freak, but his sparse style helped define the cartoon style of the early 60s:

    Coker 007

    His artwork really establishes the time, place and atmosphere of the book.

    Oh yeah, the book – it’s very witty. You get little bon mots as How to Seduce Your wife – “A good rule of thumb here is to keep thinking what you would do if you were after a woman who was not your wife and then stick as close to that program as possible”. It’s not quite Oscar Wilde, but it’ll do in a pinch.

    It’s not just for the sleazy male seducer with the cravat and bearskin rug either. There’s plenty of tricks that the evil woman will pull off to bag her prey, both sides of the equation being represented by a lot of perfectly good 60s recipes, some obvious and some not so.

    So, I’m really lucky to have this First Edition library covered treasure from a time almost forgotten. I’m eternally grateful to that GM for enhancing my bookshelf.

    BTW, this edition is dedicated to Dick.

    I think it’s fortunate that she was married to a guy named Richard, whom she apparently seduced well enough to still be married to him lo these 50 years.


    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.

    Cookbook of the day – The Paris Cookbook


    The Paris Cookbook

    by Patricia Wells

  • Publisher William Morrow Cookbooks (October 24, 2001)
  • ISBN 10: 0060184698
  • ISBN 13: 978-0060184698
  • Famed food author Patricia Wells has written a love letter to Parisian life. Having lived in France since 1980, she’s at home in the glittering night life of Paris or the slow calm of her home in Provence, which she has also written about in her book (to be reviewed by me in a future post), The Provence Cookbook. She wrote about bistros long before it was discovered by a voracious American culinary scene.

    She certainly doesn’t give bistros short shrift in this book, but she also discusses the 25! Michelin starred chef Joël Robuchon, featuring several of his recipes including the famedMacaroni aux Truffles Joël Robuchon, variations of which have become quite fashionable here in the States.  She pulls a recipe from Guy Savoy’s brasserie, Cap Vernet (Salade à la Maraîchère Cap Vernet,a simple mixed green viniagrette-infused salad with thinly shaved ParmegianoReggiano). And she creates dishes inspired by market vendors and old clipped French magazine recipes.

    Many famous and obscure Parisian citizens inside the culinary orbit are name-checked and you’ll catch a measure of the passion that Wells feels for Paris and French cuisine. 

    It’s an interesting read and well worth adding to your cooking library.


    Cookbook of the day – The Original Thai Cookbook

    thai cookbook

    The Original Thai Cookbook

    by Jennifer Brennan

    Publisher Perigee; Reprint edition (31 May 2002)

    ISBN 10: 0399510338

    ISBN 13: 978-0399510335

    This book claims to be “The first complete, authentic Thai cookbook published in America”.

    Since it was first published in 1981, I suspect that this might very well be true.

    And you should pick it up.

    Half recipes and half cultural and historical overview of a very interesting country in Indochina, this book will inform your culinary education and compliment the book True Thai by Victor Sodsook that I’ve previously reviewed. His book is mostly recipes, but this book has a lot of “background info”.

    You’ll learn how the cuisine of Thailand is bound by the logistics of their native kitchens, and you follow the evolution of a cuisine that has many parents due to its history of being ruled by various regimes and peoples. You’ll learn little tips like simmering chili paste-infused coconut milk uncovered instead of covering in order to prevent curdling.

    And you’ll have plenty of recipes with which to compare with the True Thai cookbook and you’ll discover which ones you favor over the other. If you are a vegetarian, you’ll find plenty to work with here.

    What you don’t get is a bunch of pretty pictures. This book is all business.

    Thai Fish Soup

    Cookbook of the day – Wine

    Christian Callec

    Wine: A Comprehensive Look at the World’s Best Wines

    by Christian Callec

  • Publisher  (October 7, 2003)
  • ISBN 10: 0517221659
  • ISBN 13: 978-0517221655
  • This book is one of those books that was designed from the outset to be marketed as a “remainder”, those less expensive books that you find on the budget tables of bookstores. It’s a handy source of wine information, but its great virtue, and the reason that I’m specifically recommending it this morning,  is the copious amount of photos of actual bottles that illustrate the various winemaking regions. Using top producers as visual examples, you’ll get a look at the labels of many great  producers and the bottles that hold their product.  There are plenty of labels in lieu of bottles as well as the usual panoply of vineyard and “behind the scenes” shots.

    Visually, this is real blessing for any dedicated wine enthusiast and is worth digging around for. As of this posting, has about 15 copies in both new and used condition, and they range in price from .99 to $21.95.

    If you want a visual tour of the great bottles of the world, this is your round-trip ticket.

    Cookbook of the day – The World Atlas of Wine


    The World Atlas of Wine

    by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson

    Publisher –Mitchell Beazley

    ISBN-10: 1840003324

    ISBN-13: 978-1840003321

    A confession – I’m a sucker for a topographic map. Perhaps this is a remnant of my backpacking days or my time in the military.

    So I’m a sucker for this book, especially since I love wine as well.

    Johnson and Robinson are leading wine writers and so, they are perfect for fleshing out the details behind the maps.

    And these maps! Some are detailed non-topographic but coded for vineyards, forests, etc.  Some have terrain features like hills and mountains airbrushed in. And some offer the detail of a USGS topographic map. Regardless of what type of map they use, there’s detail down to some of the smallest settlements and clearly defined vineyard areas.

    You also get detail soil analysis as well as climatic issues that impact the region. You get details on plantings and there are copious photographs that flesh out the life behind the bottle.

    This book should be part of any reasonable wine library, as it’s a valuable research tool.

    Johnson and Robinson

    Cookbook of the day – Jerk, Barbecue from Jamaica


    Jerk: Barbecue from Jamaica

    By Helen Willinsky

    Publisher  Crossing Press (September 1, 1990)

    ISBN 10: 0895944391

    ISBN 13: 978-0895944399

    The book opens with the holy trinity of jerk cooking – jerk rub, jerk marinade and dry jerk rub. It then goes on to explain that allspice, one of the foundation spices of jerk, isn’t what most people think it is, that is, a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. This is a reasonable mistake that many cooks make because they take the name of the spice too literally. It was named precisely because it mimics several other spices. But it’s actually a discrete product, pimento, which is the berry of the tree, Pimenta officianalis.

    You’ll find recipes for such famous dishes as curry goat, jerk chicken, broiled jerk snapper, and the like. You’ll also find a very reasonable bread pudding as well as festival, an accompaniment similar to hush puppies. You’ll learn about a lovely dish of jerked lobster with coconut.

    All in all, a no -nonsense, no-frills book which was praised by the Jamaican Daily Gleaner as “Charismatic! Spicy! Authentic”!

    I highly recommend this out-of-print book if you come across it. You can preview a large part of the book here:


    New link added – Slashfood

    This site is one of the new breeds of blogs – the compendium. It’s not a single person laboriously typing blog post after blog post promoting a single viewpoint, but a group of single people typing blog post after blog post, blending viewpoints and outlooks from all over. Each has an area of expertise and a unique viewpoint. It’s a veritable bouillabaisse of blogs.

    Here you’ll find a wide-ranging and interactive culinary universe. There are waiters, home cooks, food critics and general know-it-alls. If you can’t find something of interest here, then you should re-evaluate whether you ‘re actually interested in the culinary world.

    It is a pretty commercial site, with garish ads that explode onto your screen and obscure the landscape. However, there’s nothing wrong with that, now is there? It looks like an upscale food court, and I mean this is the most positive way.

     This should be one of the sites that you regularly check in with, and, as such, it receives the ultimate honor here at SYWTBAW – it’s own place in the Foodie blogroll.

    So, let’s welcome Slashfood!