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Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter

Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter

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Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter

valutazioni:
3.5/5 (31 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
267 pagine
3 ore
Pubblicato:
Oct 13, 2009
ISBN:
9780061833786
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Kitchen Confidential meets Sex and the City in this delicious, behind-the-scenes memoir from the first female captain at one of New York City's most prestigious restaurants

While Phoebe Damrosch was figuring out what to do with her life, she supported herself by working as a waiter. Before long she was a captain at the New York City four-star restaurant Per Se, the culinary creation of master chef Thomas Keller.

Service Included is the story of her experiences there: her obsession with food, her love affair with a sommelier, and her observations of the highly competitive and frenetic world of fine dining.

She also provides the following dining tips:

  • Please do not ask your waiter what else he or she does.
  • Please do not steal your waiter's pen.
  • Please do not say you're allergic when you don't like something.
  • Please do not send something back after eating most of it.
  • Please do not make faces or gagging noises when hearing the specials—someone else at the table might like to order one of them.

After reading this book, diners will never sit down at a restaurant table the same way again.

Pubblicato:
Oct 13, 2009
ISBN:
9780061833786
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Phoebe Damrosch is a graduate of Barnard College at Columbia University and holds an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in New York City and no longer waits on tables.


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Service Included - Phoebe Damrosch

pepper

introduction •

i USUALLY SKIP introductions and plunge right into the first chapter. At the end, if I loved the book, I savor everything to delay its inevitable close—even the history of the font. I imagine that reading an introduction at the beginning is like dunking a toe in to check the literary temperature. Your toe, in this case, will experience: an ambiguous disclaimer about fact and fiction, a feeble attempt to summarize this book, an explanation of the title, and a statement of prophylactic contrition.

As to the slippery subject of nonfiction, all I can say is that this book contains the truth according to my memory, with the following exceptions: consolidation of conversations, time, and two characters. I altered a few names and incriminating details and left a great deal out, mainly that which would have embarrassed, angered, or hurt people unnecessarily.

While I worked on this project, well-meaning friends and acquaintances asked what I was writing about, a question for which I was always ill-prepared. At first I told outrageous lies (see City Love). After lying backfired, I tried to be vague: It’s about restaurant culture…. When pressed, I gave a laundry list of topics: food, fine dining, love, jealousy, New York, late-night grazing, guests, cookbooks, critics. Eyes glazed over. The next approach was reverse psychology. This book is not a sepia-toned portrait of my grandmother in the kitchen making meatballs, samosas, congee, or empanadas. It is not a how-to; you will find nary a recipe, nor will you learn to bone, butterfly, boil, or braise. It is not a history of great breadth; most of the story occurs within an eighteen-month period.

After I left Per Se restaurant, the setting of this book, a former colleague passed along a story that the chef told the staff. If you want to understand commitment, he explained, all you have to do is look at the American breakfast of bacon and eggs. The chicken was involved, but the pig was committed.

This is a story about commitment: to food, service, love, perfection, and to being the bacon.

Rated PG: May contain material offensive to Republicans, vegans, pharmaceutical lobbyists, and those on a low-sodium diet. Animals were harmed during the writing of this book.

the art of the day job •

eVENTUALLY I HAD to accept that I wasn’t working in restaurants to support my art like most of my coworkers; I was posing as an artist to justify my work as a waiter. The small café where I worked in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, employed artists as if there were quotas to be met: a drummer, a filmmaker, an actor, a dancer, a photographer, a designer, and myself—who at that point fancied herself a writer. Every so often someone would go on tour, decide to move back to some small town in some small state, or simply leave out of frustration with what he or she wasn’t getting to do. It’s a dangerous combination, this dichotomy of artist/waiter, one that often leads to listless service and half-finished Margaritas forgotten behind the computer.

I lived in a studio apartment upstairs from my high school sweetheart in Williamsburg (recently rated the hippest neighborhood in America—how scientific a study that was, I hardly know). We had broken up three years before and were now pretending to be friends, sharing a computer and sweaters, buying groceries, building bookshelves, and sabotaging each other’s love life. That we spent most of our time together in the kitchen was no surprise; food had always been our bond. Between our early experimentations and our reunion years later, we had grown confident in our techniques and ambitious in our undertakings, mastering emulsifications and reductions, the art of kneading, and the importance of letting things rest. He played the chef, and I the visionary, reading recipes out loud from the floor, my back against the refrigerator door.

When I found myself without a job, my ex-love suggested that I interview at the café where he worked. I would shoot for a busboy position since I had no experience in the business. When the manager asked if I knew how to make a cappuccino, I said in all seriousness that I didn’t, but that I drank a lot of them. I have no idea why she hired me.

The café modeled itself after a funny amalgamation of cultures, from its curved mosaic ceiling to the eclectic cuisine, which I called Middleterranean: scrambled eggs with coriander and ginger, lamb shank with currants and pine nuts, salmon on Israeli couscous. Having just escaped my last job on Fifth Avenue with my sanity intact (I’ll get to that), I pierced my nose, dyed my new pixie cut a dramatic platinum blond, and took to keeping my corkscrew, or wine key, tucked into knee-high boots. The café was perhaps best known for brunch, when the line ran out the door and we mastered the art of sprinting while balancing three or four coffee cups. Bed-headed hipsters make challenging brunch guests, barely able to utter their Bloody Mary order, let alone abide a wait for their eggs Barbarosa with crawfish and chorizo. Margaritas were essential to survival.

I was the only busboy not named Mohammed. Here, as in many restaurants around the city, any deviation from the distinct class/race hierarchy makes everyone uneasy. In most New York restaurants, the chef is Caucasian, the waiters are starving artists, the busboys are from Bangladesh, and the kitchen workers and dishwashers are from Latin America. I honestly think I was promoted so quickly from busboy to waiter because the chef and the waiters felt uncomfortable asking me to mop up their spills, take out the trash, and clean the windows. I certainly wasn’t promoted for my skill or knowledge. When I came to the kitchen to pick up a salad, the cooks took a moment longer to anchor the teetering greens between beet support beams. They knew that when I picked up a bowl of soup the crostini, which was supposed to remain on the rim of the bowl, would be launched like a life raft into turbulent waves of soup. The foam on my soy chai resembled dish suds. I thought Cristal was a china company.

And yet, what better way to begin my career in the business than with a restaurant rife with clichés: roaches in the dry goods, mice everywhere, shady finances, messy love affairs, drugs, theft, basement flooding, and chefs with a penchant for throwing pots, pans, and produce. I lasted more than a year, in which time I saw at least ten waiters and two chefs come and go. We were always out of more than half the wines on the wine list and often couldn’t locate the other half. The reservation system was a pile of Post-its.

When the neighborhood really started to boom and became saturated with new restaurants even hipper than ours, business lagged. The owners, whose only restaurant experience had been to piece this one together with duct tape and borrowed money, responded by hiring a real manager. They couldn’t afford a seasoned one, so they found a cheap one. Enter Jessica, a smoky twenty-four-year-old with a severe bob and a crafty, brooding look. She fit right into the scene, with her leg warmers and short skirts, her carefully smudged eyeliner, and a tube of red lipstick she used as a bookmark in the new reservation book. Within months, both her drug habit and the fact that she was sleeping with the chef were common knowledge. One day she simply disappeared, leaving behind one black sneaker and a mirror. For a while, I took over many of her responsibilities: ordering wine, scheduling the Mohammeds, and planning private parties. The more involved I became in the business, the shadier I realized it was. We owed money to everyone and paid them off only when we needed to order something else.

I only began working in restaurants after I had exhausted quite a few other nontraditional ways of making a living. I had written a Web page for a Filipino dating service. I had walked a dog. I had consolidated online food reviews (my first and last desk job, lasting a whole six weeks). I had proofread for law firms, babysat for JFK’s three grandchildren, and helped organize documentary film viewings at women’s prisons. For two years after college, I pretended that I was about to apply to Ph.D. English literature programs, mostly because I had been in school my whole life and couldn’t imagine anything else.

After all that, I somehow got a job as a role model/nanny/ errand girl for a wealthy family on Fifth Avenue. Since the household staff included two other nannies, a housekeeper, a chauffeur, a yoga instructor, a masseuse, a hair stylist, a self-tan applier, instructors of piano, Hebrew, math, and etiquette for the children, a storage expert, and a personal assistant, there was really very little for me to do. My favorite days were those when their personal chef arrived, flanked by two doormen bearing Fairway bags. Although mostly she made organic chicken nuggets from scratch for the children, she also created multicourse extravaganzas for the mother and father, who were, respectively, anorexic and overworked, and left the poached salmon and tarte tatins to the nannies. I took the job because the afternoon hours allowed me to pretend to be a writer, but after a summer of commuting from the Upper East Side to the Hamptons on a bus full of housekeepers, cooks, and other nannies, it occurred to me that I might work similar hours in a different setting. At the beach there were eight bedrooms straight out of Coastal Living, ocean views, and an incredibly well-stocked Sub-Zero (the personal chef also commuted), and yet, I felt like I was on house arrest.

I suppose I could have found a job in publishing like a good English major, but as far as I was concerned, offices were dusty, stagnant, and badly lit. Kitchens, on the other hand, had a pulse. And unlike nannying, where I took a dysfunctional role in a dysfunctional family not even my own, clearing tables and pouring water seemed to demand a very simple, tangible skill set. Plus, I could work in Brooklyn, get to know my neighbors, and cut the commute down to seconds. The other side of this, of course, was the possibility of becoming a middle-aged diner waitress with varicose veins and a smoker’s cough. I vowed never to utter the phrase Hot your coffee? or address anyone as hon. At family gatherings, I could hear the questions behind the questions. So what was I doing these days? (What was I doing with my terrifyingly expensive college education?) What were my plans? (When would I get a real job?) I told everyone I was writing and waiting to hear from graduate schools, but I had not written a word on anything but a cashier’s check in months. I had, indeed, applied to graduate school, but not to study anything practical. I had chosen creative nonfiction—a genre as staunch in its ambivalence as I was in studying it. Furthermore, applying to the schools I had selected was not a career move, per se; all three deemphasized grading, deadlines, and job placement.

Much more pressing was my acute heartbreak. The high school sweetheart/actor/waiter downstairs, with whom I worked at the restaurant when he wasn’t in rehearsal, had the audacity to fall in love with someone other than myself. The bastard. So there I was, pining after him at work, plastering my ear to the linoleum kitchen floor to no avail, chain-smoking American Spirits on the fire escape (because that’s what one does in Williamsburg), and writing bad poetry. So what if we had nothing in common besides food and a hometown? So what if he hated the city I loved, and I the country for which he longed? We could spend summers in Vermont—maybe open a little artist colony/bed-and-breakfast. When he announced that she was moving in for a while, I told myself to be rational. And then I quit my café job, gathered my savings, and bought a plane ticket to Paris. If I was going to be miserable, I might as well do it somewhere tragically, distractingly (if not conventionally) romantic.

In France, I enrolled in a language school, because I thought I should have some reason to be there besides self-pity—and because it was an easy way to find housing. As it turned out, I was placed in the home of a bitter Catholic divorcée who resented my existence. Upon my arrival at her flat in the posh district of Neuilly, she instructed me not to use the phone or the kitchen and to wear shoes at all times. Bare feet left impressions that were odious to her on her constantly waxed floors. Needless to say, I spent as little time there as possible, choosing instead to wander the streets contemplating my dismal future (alone in a dark apartment in Queens with cats and a wardrobe of green polyester suits). Croissants helped to lift my spirits, as did cheese stores with more cheeses than days in the year, café crèmes and cigarettes at outdoor cafés, wine shops with basement caves, and tiny restaurants with self-serve chocolate mousse in mammoth ceramic bowls. With food as my constant companion, life began to look up.

When I reached the end of my month in Paris, Madame made it clear that she did not wish to extend my stay. I had bought a return ticket for two weeks after my program ended with the vague hope of falling in love and delaying my departure. But as I found love only in a glass and on a plate, and none in the arms of the envisioned Frenchman, I decided to continue my studies elsewhere. Food studies, that is. I began in the Savoie region, famed for its hiking and alpine cheeses. I do not hike, although I do hitchhike and did so in order to get to a tiny monastery famed for its Reblochon-style cheese. I discovered a woman who made sausages from donkey meat, and I lived on baguettes and sausage for my remaining time there.

When I returned to America at the end of July, I went to spend a week with a friend, a cook who had relocated to Napa Valley in order to stalk Thomas Keller. Thomas Keller was the chef of the French Laundry, a restaurant many considered to be one of the best in the country, if not the world. My friend, whose knife skills far outshone his ability to make necessary arrangements, found himself at the end of a waiting list of young cooks who were willing to work for free in the famous kitchen. I had also been curious about the French Laundry, having drooled over the cookbook in bookstores, but was not surprised to find that we were also at the bottom of the waiting list for a reservation. Every day for a week, we put on our one nice outfit and sat in the French Laundry garden, hoping for a cancellation. Every day we were nicely turned away and forced to seek solace in local vineyards.

I arrived back in New York just in time for the stifling August heat and immediately hit the streets looking for work. I had two criteria: fast cash and good food. Having worked in only one restaurant, my plan was to start talking before they even had a chance to look down at my résumé. I got myself a job at a busy Belgian restaurant in the meatpacking district where everything but the mussels looked like something you’d be served on the red-eye to L.A. Three weeks into it, I received a call from the chef I had worked for in Brooklyn. He had quit, having never quite recovered from hurricane Jessica, as I liked to call his affair with the drugged, disappearing, sometime manager. He was opening a chichi new place in Midtown and asked me to come in and be interviewed for a job. I used the same technique in this interview, talking as much about food and the business as possible in order to keep them from looking down at my résumé. Either it worked or he pulled some strings, but I was hired.

I hadn’t anticipated being so lost. Within minutes of walking in the door for my first shift, I was asking my coworkers for help. The uniform was a white shirt, black pants, brown apron, and a tie that I had to have one of the male waiters tie for me. I loosened it but kept the knot after every shift so as to avoid retying. I also used a real computer system for the first time and worked with runners, coffee servers, and maître d’s. There wasn’t much training for the job and most of what I learned about service came from watching the more experienced waiters around me. I carefully observed how they carried their trays, where they set the glasses, from which side they handed a guest the menu.

For about a month, I was sure I would be fired at any moment. The first time I waited on one of the owners, a dessertspoon slipped from my clammy, trembling fingers. It was about a two-foot drop, and when the spoon hit the thick white tablecloth, it bounced and rolled over to his wineglass, which, mercifully, remained upright, but rang throughout the dining room as if heralding a toast. He looked up at me with something akin to wonder from the half-moon booth, which he shared with a bigwig from the Four Seasons whom he had been trying to impress. Well, she sure didn’t last long, I assumed he was thinking. But I wasn’t fired; in fact, I think the look of wonder had more to do with realizing that I existed at all, that dessertspoons didn’t just materialize on one’s table, they were carried by an actual human—one of the sea of humans in brown aprons whose names he never considered learning when he could just call us darlin’ or sweetie or buddy.

When I relaxed into the job, I realized that a capacity to remember an order and stay calm when triple-seated (three tables arriving at once) elevated me to a status far above the worst server. Once I got over my jitters, interacting with guests was easy. People are people, even if richer than God. I began to have regulars, as I had by the end of my time in Brooklyn—only instead of cardamom French toast and black coffee, they ordered the cardamom-dusted lobster tails and premier cru Meursault. Over the course of the restaurant’s opening, many well-known food writers came in: Hal Rubenstein, from New York magazine; Amanda Hesser and William Grimes, from the New York Times. Gourmet did a big article; the Food Network shot a show. I began seeing a few possibilities for myself in this world, but I had some catching up to do.

The one thing this place had in common with the Brooklyn café was the preponderance of artists on the staff. For this reason, when the maître d’ announced one sleepy Sunday night, after I had been there for about three months, that the cast of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy would be sitting in my section while Chef Thomas Keller sat across the room, trading was easy. It was a simple choice for me; I didn’t own a television and had never seen the show,

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31 valutazioni / 21 Recensioni
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  • (2/5)
    Four-star secrets of an eavesdropping waiter would be pretty interesting. Banal observations by a young woman figuring out what she wants to do with her life are not very interesting -- not unless she's got literary skills that Ms. Damrosch does not possess. Very, very few secrets are spilled, and little of consequence is offered in their place.
  • (5/5)
    Its a strange concept, to go to a restaurant and be told that the menu prices cover the cost of the seat, the clean napery, the cover and the food, but you must pay up to 20% more for the food to be served and the dirty plates removed.

    This rests on the fake construct that if you really enjoyed your meal it was down to the wait staff and you should voluntarily pay for that. Fake because if they do the job they are employed for quietly and efficiently you will enjoy the meal, they don't really add to it, but they sure can ruin it without hardly trying at all.

    So what are we expected to pay for then? Outside of their job description what else is it they contribute? Friendliness, and sometimes in an effort to get a bigger tip, an annoying over-helpfulness - filling your water glass when you've just taken a sip, hovering at your elbow so your private conversation is inhibited. But the friendliness is as fake as the concept of the serving staff contributed to you enjoying your meal.

    You want to see friendly? Pay a 20% tip (and if your credit card slip comes with service charge added, you will note there is a blank space for you to add an extra contribution as well, fill it in) and next time you go, your name will be remembered and you will be treated as an honoured guest. Leave less than 10% and you risk having your wait staff turn ugly and tell you what they think of you in sarcastic terms. Leave nothing and feel the blast....

    This book, exposes the fakery of their affection for customers, their greed, and often bad relations among the other staff based on whose in the money position. Its thoroughly enjoyable.

    I was taught, out of my awkward not-very-tip-friendly UK way to serve like an American by a very cheerful girl who enumerated the many ways to milk a customer of a good tip. It was useful information, but when I became the restaurant manager, I found it wasn't particularly correct. A pretty girl, looking sexy, gets better tips than the most competent and friendly male waiters. Boobs, hair and a trout pout wins every time.

    Much later, I was a bar owner and decided to try something different. I paid incremently increasing commission on sales and required my bar staff , male and female, to be genuinely friendly to customers (easy on a small island), whether or not someone tipped. Inside and outside the bar. And guess what, both sales and tips soared. I had people on a waiting list for jobs, people-sharing jobs and the best of those bar staff, ten years on, are still my friends, my closest friends.

    I'd still be in the bar business, making good money, rather than the bookselling one which doesn't pay, but I lost the bar to drugs. The landlord of the premises was involved in a rather big international operation. But that's another story. Involved a lot more money than tips as well.

    2 May 2011
  • (3/5)
    This book was an interesting look into the service staff at a real four star restaurant. I was hoping that there would be more on the topic of eavesdropping on the eccentric clientele. A good enough easy read about the food industry.
  • (2/5)
    High-class restaurant waiter/captain's memoir is very readable but undecided whether to be about the food or about the love affairs. The parts about the food are pretty good, but it's not all that well-written, in my opinion. More tedious than riveting.
  • (3/5)
    Really enjoyed the tips, food descriptions, and the behind-the-scenes peek into all the effort involved in making a four-star restaurant's service perfection for customers & critics. It fizzled out a little bit after the brief Puerto Rican vacation though. Left me feeling like I was served a really nice dinner, but only got one bite of pie for dessert. Still a very enjoyable read.
  • (4/5)
    Summary: Phoebe Damrosch worked as a waiter to support herself, until she realized that she wasn't there until she could find something better, she was there because she loved the food and the restaurant life. Before long, she was working as a waiter in Thomas Keller's new four-star NYC restaurant, Per Se. Damrosch provides readers with a look behind the scenes of fine dining, how restaurants prepare for opening, and for the visit of important critics, and provides tips for diners. She also talks about her love affair with good food, her love affair with the restaurant, and her love affair with a sommelier from her restaurant.Review: Kitchen Confidential was the book that convinced me that I didn't hate memoirs, so I picked up this book looking for more of the same: a behind-the-scenes look at what's really going on when I dine out, only from a front-of-the-house perspective instead of from a chef's perspective. And, I'm pleased to say, that's mostly what I got! Damrosch's writing is easily accessible, and while she doesn't quite have Bourdain's level of snark, the book is still quite funny, and generally fun to read.The parts that I thought were most successful were - no surprises here - the parts in which Damrosch is dishing about what really goes on in restaurants that diners either don't see, or don't recognize. Reading about the involved preparation that went into opening Per Se, the whole section on preparing for and serving a visiting restaurant critic, the occasional bits about what's really going on during waiters' minds during service, and what's going on before the diners get there and after they go home, all of these were the parts of the book that I found the most interesting. Of course, the foodie in me also loved the description of the Per Se menu, and the discussion of the thought that went into its ingredients and its dishes. Given that even the most modest Per Se meal is probably beyond my price range at the moment, I definitely enjoyed Damrosch's ability in bringing the dining experience there to life (although I must admit it was enjoyment mixed with a twinge or two of jealousy). I was less interested in the sections of the book involving Damrosch's personal life. They weren't bad, or poorly written, or even particularly intrusive or anything; they just weren't why I was there. But the book as a whole is light and enjoyable and quick-moving enough that by the time I would start thinking "yeah, yeah, get back to the restaurant," she would. 4 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: Fans of Kitchen Confidential and similar books are the most obvious recommendation, but I think anyone who likes to read about food and/or enjoys day-in-the-life style memoirs should have a good time with this one.
  • (5/5)
    I will admit to sometimes judging books by their covers. I picked up this book because it looked interesting, without reading anything about it. I was delighted to find out that this woman worked at Per Se, Thomas Keller's New York restaurant. (My dream vacation involves his restaurant French Laundry.) A great look at what goes into making a four star restaurant. Impossible to put down!
  • (3/5)
    I love food writing, so I was excited about this book. There is some interesting material about working at Per Se, and the care and attention that goes into the food there. However, I didn't care for all the anecdotes about the author's personal life - it felt like they should have been part of a different memoir. Worth reading if you're very interested in the world of upscale dining.
  • (2/5)
    She needs an editor; the bits about her personal life and the relationship with wine guy Andre were distracting and really, not that interesting. I don't care why you became a waiter honey, I want to know more about how Per Se works, and the cooking, and the food, and everything else.
  • (3/5)
    Reviews here and elsewhere have been mixed, but I thought this was one of the better tales of the food industry that I've read. It discussed service in a high-end restaurant more, say, than Waiter Rant, and was far less self-absorbed than books like The Saucier's Apprentice. The beginning is stronger than the end, and it's not in the sexy "tell-all" category. Still, it's better than many, and worth a read.
  • (4/5)
    Damrosch gets a job as a server at Thomas Keller’s Per Se in Manhattan, one of the world’s best regarded and expensive restaurants. She tells the story of needing to serve with absolute perfection, including getting every utensil in the same spot down to the millimeter and wine glasses turned so the etched label faces each guest. Servers have to know how each dish is made and must learn the idiosyncracies of regulars. In the process, if she’s good, she stands to make huge tips off meals costing well over $1000. She forms relationships with guests, recognizes food critics, and falls in love. Reviewed by:Mark Janda Social Studies Teacher
  • (4/5)
    I quite enjoyed this book. The author's voice was clear without getting too bogged into the details. It hit on the highlights of the Per Se opening, as well as the other challenges faced in her job.
  • (3/5)
    The writing style can be a little precious, but for the untutored it's an enjoyably idiosyncratic view of operations at an elite restaurant -- and perhaps a nicely dishy view (pun intended) for those already in the know. Would make a good double feature with "Garlic and Sapphires."
  • (4/5)
    I have worked in the hospitality industry for over 20 years. In all that time the hardest job I ever had was serving in a restaurant. I appreciated the chapters on opening Per Se, the service training, the menu training and the standards. I laughed out loud several times. It is fun book for insiders to read. I enjoyed the New York Times critics visits.The book would make a fantastic beach or vacation read. I started and finished in one day. The author's personal life and relationships seemed to get in the way towards the end of the book. I wanted to hear more about the restaurant......
  • (3/5)
    fascinating and funny and full of interesting detail about food and people
  • (3/5)
    Damrosch details her brief, yet remarkably fulfilling, career as a waiter and describes the intimate workings of restaurant table service at chef Thomas Keller's Midtown Manhattan's Per Se. Entertaining but ultimately thin. I was left wanting more out of the prose and the story.
  • (3/5)
    An interesting inside look at the restaurant biz. The author is an English major with nothing to write when she starts into waitressing.
  • (4/5)
    Review for HarperCollins:Being a big fan of food and the restaurant experience in general, I was excited to read Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch, and I have to say, it didn’t disappoint. She makes clear the effort that goes into opening a world-class restaurant, and the reader shares her apprehensiveness when food critics come into the restaurant. Damrosch paints a vivid picture of what being a waiter is really like, but what is really exceptional is that she manages to keep it interesting. Though at times I did find my attention lagging, she always managed to reel me back in with some small story, some anecdote that kept the story going. The mix of personal narrative and tales of being a waiter were a bit awkward at times, but generally it works well. My favorite parts of the book were the tips provided by the author at the end of each chapter. I found myself looking forward to these, excited to see what the next tip would be. While some were unnecessary (“Always tip at least 20 percent”), most were witty and well-placed and enough to make me crack a smile, if not a chuckle. Overall, the book is a quick, light read that is a satisfying look into the inner workings of opening and working at a top restaurant.
  • (4/5)
    This was a fun memoir of a woman who took off some time from getting a Masters degree to work in a four star restaurant in NYC. A wonderful look into a world many of us will never experience.
  • (3/5)
    A short (200+ pages), quick (conversational; high-energy) memoir describing the culinary creativity and exemplary service that combine to make New York City's Per Se a 4-star restaurant.However, there's nothing exemplary here literary-wise, and I wanted to read more, more, more about the workings of the restaurant and its patrons ... and less about the author's romance.
  • (3/5)
    Foodie memoir which includes a series of commandments for diners at a four-star establishment. It's an insider look similar to Kitchen Confidential, Heat, or Garlic and Sapphires.