Title: Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter
Author: Phoebe Damrosch
Genre: Non-fiction, biography
Publication Date: 2008
Purchase Price: About $15.00
Welcome to the second (and final) part of my “Get a Job!” series. Last time I gave a quick rundown of What Color is Your Parachute?, a book that will help you find the job that is perfect for you.
Today I’ll be talking about a book that goes into great detail about a job I would hate to have: waitress.
Other than the people who do yard work for a living, I think that restaurant wait staff is the most underappreciated work demographic. The best waiters/waitresses make their jobs look easy, and often are under-tipped because of it.
My closest brush with food service was a couple years ago, when I was a hostess at a certain well-known restaurant chain. Members of the wait staff were frequently belittled, insulted, and generally run ragged by rude customers. The phrase “the customer is always right” may have been given lip service on the floor, but at the drink station it tended to sound more like, “Table 30 is a douche.”
Miraculously, Phoebe Damrosch manages to avoid (most) jerks in her stint in the food service industry. It probably has something to do with the fact that her job was at Per Se, a four-star French restaurant in New York City.
As you may have guessed from this blog’s subject line, Phoebe isn’t your typical New York waitress. Instead of waiting tables to support herself while she writes, Phoebe waits tables because…well, she enjoys it.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t stressful. Only in a snooty New York restaurant is a waitress likely to be asked what the escargot was fed prior to its demise and subsequent plating.
Equal parts biography, food industry tell-all, and foodie fetish, Service Included is a quick and elegant read.
The summary I read of Service Included made it seem as though the book would be a bit more of a “tell-all” than a the biography it turned out to be. I don’t read very much “trash,” but sometimes a little gossip/dishing is just what a reader needs.
So it wasn’t what I expected — in fact, it turned out to be better. Damrosch is a witty writer, able to poke fun at herself and her co-workers. She is a channel into a world with which I have very little experience, and I enjoyed seeing that world through her eyes.
If you’re interested in learning about all the hard work that a restaurant’s wait staff puts into their jobs, I highly suggest Service Included.
It’s also worth noting that even though most restaurants are not of Per Se’s caliber, members of restaurant wait staffs work very hard to memorize the menu, remember who ordered which drinks and which meals, and often are paid between $2.00 and $3.00 an hour.
Damrosch’s book was not only a way for me to see into a different world, but also to remember that there are plenty of people around me who make their living waiting tables. Keep this in mind next time you sit down at the local eatery.
You Learn (Alanis Morissette)
“A few lines later, came a magical quote by M.F.K. Escher: ‘Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it’s broken.’ I read musings on the sound of the word egg, on its shape, and on its meaning…Perhaps the best lines in the piece were her last: ‘The egg is drama and succor, birth and parenthood, sex and death, the start and the finish. The egg is inevitable.’ ” (p. 131)
“A lot of time and care goes into aging cheese. It has to be turned so it ripens evenly; patted, so the mold doesn’t build into an overthick rind; pricked, so the mold can penetrate; and worried over, because cheeses, much like children, pets, and plants, need to be coddled. …The fluffy white mold growing on the Constant Bliss made the little cheeses look like iced cakes from a distance and baby chicks up close.” (pp. 163-164)
What’s your experience with the food service industry? Would you ever be a waiter? Would you rather do so at a little bistro, a mom and pop eatery, or even a four-star restaurant?