Service Included

Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that I finished this book just hours before one of the most mind-boggling, down right awful service I’ve ever experienced at a restaurant…

I picked up this book after having heard an interview with the author, Phoebe Damroche*, on the always educational NPR’s Splendid Table.  Landing a backwaiter job at Thomas Keller’s NYC restaurant Per Se, Damroche describes the incredible planning, training, and choreography (sometimes literally) involved in working at a 4-star fine dining establishment:

The Cappuccino of Forrest Mushrooms, for example, called for one person to hold the soup terrine on a tray, one to hold mushroom biscotti, the mushroom foam, and the mushroom dusting powder (a la cinnamon) on a tray, and one to serve the soup.  If a maitre d’ stepped in to help, he made four.  If the sommelier happened to be around pouring wine, he became a fifth.  The backserver pouring water and serving bread made six.

A surprisingly short book, Damroche interweaves her personal romance with the sommelier (which one reviewer compared to Sex and the City – which I guess I can agree with, if you’re thinking about the torturously uncommittable Mr. Big/Carrie coupling) and the first 18 months or so of Per Se’s existence.  It was interesting to get this perspective, especially with someone who is atuned to the business side of the restaurant industry.

If you’ll excuse my transposing of my old reviews, for my own sake, from the lovely Edmonton Public Library; I found Service Included to be…

Sincerely better than Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica:

Waiter Rant was an enjoyable behind-the-scenes look at life as a waiter in a high-end Italian restaurant. Dublanica is gossipy and holds no punches, but this also makes him come off as whinny and unreasonably mouthy. I’m not sure I’d like him as my waiter! The general account of the front-of-house operations is interesting, learning about how restaurants assign shifts, work out tips, deal with special holidays, and (frighteningly) punish bad customers! The story line where the author is offered, then works on his book deal is a bit strange given the fact that were actually reading the output of this process…  maybe this stems from the blog which inspired the book. While this might work for Waiter Rant, I’m sorry to say that the author might end up being a one-trick pony.

Also better, though less dedicated (and less emotionally candid than) Waiting by Debra Ginsberg:

A fun, “Confessions of a Shopaholic”-style book (but well executed compared to Kinsella’s books) about waitressing. Eye opening, it really provides a behind the scene look at the service industry as well as restaurant life. A really quick read which packs more information throughout than one realizes.

*Phoebe Damroche should seriously look into a better website!  With a book released in late 2008, you’d think there’d be something more than 1 picture and some clips from reviews here!

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