So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Advice about starching

If you are a waiter who has to have starched aprons and starched shirts/jackets/etc. and you’ve been disappointed with spray starch, you’re not alone.

Spray starch has some drawbacks as well as its advantage in terms of convenience. It tends to clog and it just doesn’t seem to give you the stiffness and crispness that you get from professional laundries. Even “heavy starch” just doesn’t quite measure up.

Professional laundries use liquid starch (some use powdered starch but it’s a lot harder to use at home) and that’s what you should use too.

The main liquid starch is Sta-Flo. It comes in big blue bottles and is mixed with water. You use a household spray bottle to apply it. Even if you use it at its maximum strength (1 to 1), it has the additional advantage of being a lot cheaper than aerosols and it’s much more environmentally safer. It’s harder to find than spray starch but many grocery stores carry it and you’ll find it at some department stores. If your local store doesn’t carry, you might ask them to carry it.

So if you haven’t tried Sta-Flo, you should give it a shot. You’ll be surprised how much better it is than spray starch. It doesn’t scorch as easily and it even works pretty well with older aprons that don’t take starch so well.

What accessory is the stylish waiter wearing this season?

No, not multi-colored loincloths.

Microfiber polishing cloths.

Any waiter who has had to polish crystal wine glasses using cloth napkins can attest to the iffy nature of the method. If you were lucky, you got a napkin that didn’t shed any lint. but more often than not, wiping a glass meant getting it clean first and then finding a way to get the last bits of lint off of the glass. There was an additional factor – how moist do you get the cloth? You usually have to keep a part of the napkin dry for preventing streaking because if you get it too wet, you can’t ever get the glass dry.

So this is where the microfiber cloth comes in. It usually doesn’t shed much, if any lint. It’s textured, so it seems to prevent streaking. You still have to manage the moisture, but it’s a lot easier to do. You can get a pack of pocketsized cloths for less than a buck for each cloth. If you buy a pack of ten, you can use a different cloth each day and wash the used ones together once or twice a week.

If you are really sophisticated, you can buy lens-cleaning cloths (you know, the kind that you clean glasses or camera lenses with). Like here:

These cloths are shiny and very smooth. They don’t have any texture to speak of. You can’t get them very wet or they won’t really work. but they won’t shed any lint whatsoever and they don’t streak. They won’t get really gnarly glasses clean – you know, like when the dishwashing machine is acting up and you get all sorts of baked on grit on the glasses. but with just a hair of moisture, they will eliminate those pesky water spots and they actually impart a little shine to the glasses that just can’t be beat.

They are more expensive than the “terry cloth” style microfiber cloths. and you have to make sure that you buy large enough pieces because most are cut very small to be used for glasses or camera lenses. but once you use one of these, you probably won’t ever want to go back to any other type of polishing cloth. But you won’t be unhappy with the first type of polishing cloth either.

Just make sure that you keep any polishing cloths reserved for silverware or glass polishing and don’t ever use them with actua polishing compound (or if you do, only use that cloth when using a chemical). You shouldn’t use them with Windex or anything other than straight water when polishing eating utensels. Don’t detail your car with them and then bring them into the restaurant, even if you wash them. You don’t want the aftertase to a nice glass of wine to be 2-Butoxethanol or silicone emulsions.

In the words of John Hodgman, “You’re welcome”.