Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Club: Service Included, By Phoebe Damrosch

It's worth repeating: I love food. So obviously, the majority of my reading lately has been about food and the restaurant industry.

Also, I currently work in a restaurant as a bartender. So I love accounts of the industry. The ins and outs of serving guests. The little facts that only people in this business truly know and understand. No matter if you serve in fine dining or at the corner diner, there are common truths about the food business.

"Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter" by Phoebe Damrosch is a re-telling of her life and experiences while working a Per Se in New York City. My personal serving experiences in restaurants is nowhere near the level of this author. Her descriptions of her job make me salivate with jealous at the level of food quality and sweat with anxiety at the thought of the caliber of service required for such clientele. I day-dream of working for a restaurant like hers where I truly respect the food and chefs. This statement is not meant to bash the establishment which currently employees me. I work for a super corporate chain restaurant ---and, for what it is, the food is above par. But, needless to say, there is no caviar, truffles, or bone marrow. My knowledge of such things in limited to drooling over shows in the Food Network and Travel Channel. In short, my job has not provided the food education that I crave.

Damrosch's telling of the attention to detail in the service at Per Se is overwhelming. It makes me realize how easy I have it at my restaurant .... and yet also to understand the type of service I wish that every guest could receive (even at my casual dining chain restaurant). Eating out at a restaurant is an all around experience of the food, atmosphere, and service -- which should be (positively) memorable and deeply enjoyable whether it's bone marrow or diner pancakes.

Despite the obvious differences between Damrosch's life in "Service Included" and my current life at Nameless- corporate-chain, there are also amazing similarities. The odd pace of life, the comments from friends and family about your job not being "real," the restaurant romance, the eccentric customers, the camaraderie with coworkers, etc.

I could go on forever about how many ways this book touched me but I won't for fear of revealing too much about my employer and for boring non-restaurant-industry folks. Whether or not you work in a restaurant, this book still tells a lovely and fun story. But if you DO work in a restaurant, you will definitely find a kindred spirit in Damrosch.


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