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Everything posted by TheFoodTutor

  1. TheFoodTutor

    Confit de Porc

    Well, since you'd be cooking all of those wonderful flavors that you buy good evoo for right out of it by the time you're done, I'd say that's a good reason not to do it, just for starters. Oh, it wouldn't be dangerous or make you sick or anything, but the technique of confit - to preserve an animal in its own fat - arose conveniently because animal fats like lard and duck fat are solid at room temperature, so the fat forms a seal over the meat you are preserving, and it can be left on the counter or shelf for months on end at that point. Olive oil, on the other hand, is not solid at room temperature, but if you started a confit with it and some fairly fatty meat, the meat would render fat into the olive oil, leaving you with an overall mixture of fats that may or may not be solid at room temperature, depending on the balance of lard to olive oil. But that's not really a problem, since you could just keep the confit in the refrigerator where it will solidify easily. But, by the time you've rendered all of that fat, the olive oil you started with will basically taste like pork fat, with very few reminders of the original substance. So what would be the point, especially when you can buy lard or other vegetable oils much cheaper and get basically the same result? I make confit a lot, but with duck, and pretty much any fat that I start with ends up being duck fat by the time I'm done, or at least it would appear so to the untrained eye. If anyone else has had different results, I'd be interested in hearing about them.
  2. Cool thread! I began my appreciation of Asian foods when I lived in Cleveland, but that was a long time ago (1993), so I've had an opportunity to try many more Asian cuisines since I moved to Atlanta. But I did want to find out if some of the restaurants I liked back then were still around, and if they're any good by today's standards. I used to eat at Bo Loong on St. Claire fairly often, because I worked in that area, and I remember having some very good dim sum early in the day, plus good roast duck in the evening and a few good seafood dishes. Do they do any of the more "authentic" Chinese dishes now, and can you order them without a translator? I remember I also ate at a couple of other Chinese places on St. Claire (Chin's? I think I remember that place being sort of a filthy hole, but I also remember eating there, so it must not have been that bad ), so if anyone could update me on that particular section of town, I'd love to hear about what's new and different, or what's been torn down. And do people still refer to Bo Loong as "Boo Long's?" I always hated that. I also noticed a reference to Pho Hoa upthread. As you can see by the link, it is a chain, but not one that I'd shun, particularly if one is looking for a healthy alternative, since they're really predictable and user-friendly. I do prefer to eat where my Vietnamese friends like the food, though, and that usually means it will have a little more fat to it. I did eat Vietnamese in Cleveland when I lived there, but I didn't know much about the food then, and it was a long time ago, so I don't remember the names of any of the places I tried. I lived in Tremont waaaaay back then. Are there any Tremontsters on eGullet?
  3. If presence of cake in a movie were any indicator of its success, this would be a blockbuster. Grand cakes for special occasions, yes, but more often little cakes to be eaten with tea, biscuity cookies, glazed sweets and all other sorts of confections. Kirsten Dunst swallows enough sugar to feed a modest army, yet never gains an ounce, even through pregnancy. Jason Schwartzmann apparantly gained sympathy weight just watching her, giving his standard, hapless performance, albeit pudgier than usual. Good music, pretty food, lots of shoes. Not an especially good film, though.
  4. Stop lying. And I was going to answer the thing about The Varsity, though I've never had that Frosted Orange thingy there, but the references to Orange Julius now have me wondering something else: I was under the impression that Orange Julius was somewhat healthier than what I assume they'd be serving at The Varsity. Doesn't it have, like, extra vitamins in it, or something? Oh, and I think I know the answer to the last question, too, but I'll bite my tongue.
  5. While I would absolutely love to come over and cook something for you, I can't, because I'm working a double. You could come and eat where I work, though I know you're not terribly fond of that place. It is "Very Wild Mushroom Soup" day, which I think isn't actually "Very Wild," though it does have wild and brown rice in it. Wednesday's soup is probably the one best suited to your tastes, since it's light and brothy and less caloric. OK, I'm just trying to think of an excuse for you to come see me. How about Sabri Kebab House for takeout? Or has that gotten so inconsistent that it's not worth bothering with?
  6. Of course, the flipside of this comes about when I encounter customers who cannot figure out that the numerals on the menu are the prices. Personally, I much prefer the cleaner look of pricing without dollar signs, and whether pricing at $14.95 is meant to trick me or not, I find it somewhat insulting. If it's 15, tell me it's 15, and yes, I can figure that I'd have to pay in U.S. currency, since we're not very close to a border with another nation here in Atlanta. As simple as all of this seems, I still have exchanges like this one: "Is this your menu?" (pointing directly at the menu) "Yes," is my bewildered reply, as I try to think of anything else that the object in front of the person could possibly be, since it is very obviously a menu, with descriptions of food and prices clearly printed on it. "Well, could I get something with the prices on it?" If I didn't have the job that I have, I never, in a million years, would have guessed that there are people who wouldn't understand that the numbers on a menu correspond with the prices, whereas the words tend to describe the food items. It's like some sort of IQ test of the lowest order, and yet I run across people who fail it on a regular basis. "Where da' prices be at?" is an actual question that I've had to answer. On more than one occasion. It's more a source of amusement for me, rather than any attempt at pretension or smokescreen to mask higher prices. Actually, most of the independent restaurants I frequent that use simple numbers without decimals have comparable or lower prices than many of the large chains that price entrees at $12.95, $15.99, etc. I really don't see how this is an issue in any way.
  7. Hey therese! Is this one of the spongy desserts? I noticed you got the daikon cakes as well. Did they have a sautee cart for those and some of the other dumplings? What was in the egg roll sprinkled with sesame seeds? I'm glad to hear that Oriental Pearl ditched the lousy buffet to go back to providing the authentic Chinese and great dim sum they had before the remodeling. Great blog, again, as expected.
  8. See, now you're just weaselling to back up your original answer, because you've re-thought the whole issue, and a whole, knotty bunch of outliers have reared their ugly, yet delicious, heads. Cheesecake is clearly pie, and how could you disagree with Alton Brown, anyway? You two are practically the same person. My answer is pie. Pie and cobblers, crumbles and Brown Betties. Pie simply has more diversity of texture and flavor than cake, with a touch of salt and flakiness in the crust, tang in the fruit or other types of filling, a possibly different top-crust texture, plus an accompaniment like whipped cream or ice cream, adding a hot/cold contrast to all the other salty/sweet/crunchy/gooey things going on. So many possibilities in pie, and now that it's finally warm, it's time for Key Lime. Key Lime knocks just about every other dessert out of the ring within the first round or two. My mother-in-law, a very Southern woman, preferred cake. She told me several stories about how, when she was pregnant, she was told that pregnant women could not have cake (?), and as a result, she craved cake for 9 months straight and didn't eat it. I never understood this, because I don't understand what ingredient in cake would make it unallowable, nor do I understand why any pregnant woman would allow other people to tell her she could not eat cake. If I were pregnant, I'd probably eat 3 slices of cake at every meal. As my appetizer. But I'm not generally that fond of cake. If I really wanted some cake right now, I'd probably want one of these. I made this one a number of times, after seeing the recipe in the newspaper, and now that I'd know to use better-quality chocolate, like Scharffenberger, I think it would be smashing with some homemade ice cream. And why don't fudge and cookies get their say in this whole mess?
  9. I could not agree with you more if you and I were sharing the same brain, sir. Very nicely put. I, of course, have a number of varied experiences with people who have all sorts of food preferences, allergies real or invented, dietary restrictions, etc. Let me preface any stories I share with one explanation: I will go above and beyond, as a server, to make absolutely sure that your requests are followed to the letter, no matter what the reason is behind them. In the past week, I have given a guest his entree on 3 separate plates (meat on one, sides on the other plates) because he simply said to me, "I don't like my food to touch." Fine. I also had a regular guest ask if his son, who was feeling finicky that night, could get a half of a grilled cheese sandwich and one chicken tender with fries as his meal, because the child simply couldn't decide if he wanted the tenders or the grilled cheese. Certainly, sir. Ask, and it shall be done, because fulfilling your requests is my job, and if I don't want to do that anymore, I'll simply stop coming to work. But don't, please don't lie to me. When a person lies to me, it is insulting in the utmost, because the lie is made with the presumption that a) I'm not smart enough to tell when someone is lying and b) I'm not smart enough to simply do my job as well as I do without a life-threatening situation held over my head. I cannot emphasize enough that the constant claiming of allergies when none exist causes restaurant employees to become jaded enough that I'm ready to simply recommend that all people with real allergies avoid restaurants altogether. We had an incident, not too long ago, when a person with a life-threatening allergy to tomatoes ordered the roasted chicken, which comes with our couscous, and the couscous contains large chunks of tomatoes. The guest saw this when the dish was delivered, and then stated that she did not know there were tomatoes in it (I suppose she didn't ask because it didn't seem like a likely addition to that dish), and then requested an entirely new dish. The chicken could not be re-used for her, because it had touched the tomatoes. This is not an unreasonable request. However, one of the cooks who did not respect the severity of the instructions given all down the line from the server and the manager simply moved the chicken from one plate to another, and there were a couple of grains of couscous left on the chicken, indicating it was the same bird (a fortunate sloppy move on his part, since it may have saved someone's life.) The whole ordeal ended in a very costly comp and someone leaving the restaurant without eating at all. Now, there is absolutely no excuse for sloppy behavior, but restaurants have a lot of work to deal with when it comes to just normal operations and handling people who are actually allergic to foods. The trend of inventing allergies, in order to get special treatment in restaurants, is a very, very bad trend that can, as mentioned, lead to food preparers ignoring claims of allergies and possibly endangering someone's life. I have never taken anyone's claim of allergy less than deadly seriously, but I cannot speak for everyone in the restaurant industry.
  10. Ah, but the thing is, it doesn't. Click! After seeing that particular legend over and over in this thread, I simply couldn't keep myself from clarifying. And I'll go ahead and place myself in the camp firmly against bribing the Maitre d.' Giving away something that belongs to the owner of the establishment, whether it is a table, or some extra coffee, or some biscotti with your latte, or a free dessert, etc., is simply stealing from someone in exchange for getting a tip from someone else, and it should never be allowed. I worked in a place where the Maitre d' did this regularly, years ago, and I could always tell when he was doing it, because he'd write a special code on the chit which meant, basically that these were friends of the Maitre d.' Not such good friends that he'd actually know their names and write them on the chit, which he did for his actual friends, but the indication was there that we should treat this person as a special guest. I never liked these people, particularly because they didn't tip me terribly well at all, especially after the Maitre d' comped an appetizer and a dessert, in exchange for the bill he'd received. I've never bribed a Maitre d', nor taken a bribe, but I did once get an unexpected tip from a first-time guest to a very nice restaurant who, through a mistake made by the general manager, was seated in a primo booth. I saw the mistake as it was happening, but was helpless to stop it, even though I knew the booth might be reserved for regular guests scheduled to come in later that evening. When I seated the gentleman and his guest, he palmed me a $20, and it was a moment before I realized that he thought he was rewarding me for getting him a nice table. I felt that I'd be doing more harm than good if I gave him back the $20 and explained that we'd only accidentally seated him there, so I just left the matter unspoken and let him enjoy what turned out to be a terrific meal and a great first experience at the restaurant. I hope I didn't screw up my karma by doing that.
  11. This is a great comment, and it's very poignant to me, personally. Many workers come to their jobs, on any given day, hung-over, depressed, tired, ill, filled with personal baggage, and not all of them are subject to the sorts of reviews that people in service work receive. On any given Saturday or Sunday lunch, I might end up waiting on a restaurant reviewer, an internet critic, a manager from another one of our restaurants, or even the dreaded "secret shopper" - people whom restaurants hire to evaluate every aspect of how food is being served - and I might be caught making a mistake. But I am aware of this, so even when I'm feeling blue or bitter, I know that I must make my best effort to do what I am supposed to do, every single time, and I give a genuine smile to everyone. That is my job, and when I no longer want to do it, I'll know that it's time for me to quit. I have chosen this, with complete knowledge of everything that comes with it. I love that aspect of this site, by the way. If I see someone writing a number of things that apply to my personal food preferences, or my life, I can look at everything they've written here, and gain a history of their interests in food and/or restaurants. It's an excellent way of interpreting where a person is coming from, in my opinion, and I'm very glad you pointed it out. Thanks.
  12. There is a another way of looking at this particular aspect of the discussion (only posting the positive, and not posting blah or negative reviews) and that is that basically all press is good press. Having worked in journalism, and having written and read a lot of material on the internet, I really believe this to be true. If I go to a restaurant and have a bad experience, and then do a write-up on the internet, I can guarantee you that someone, or perhaps several someones, will go to that restaurant, simply because I've refreshed their memories of that spot in their minds, or perhaps they will remember that they read the review, but forget whether it was positive or negative, or perhaps that particular person knows my persona on the internet, and thinks I'm a gigantic load of horse-puckey, so he wants to evaluate that restaurant for himself. Seriously, you're probably not doing a restaurant any favors by holding back negative comments, but I do agree that it is always nice to try to speak with management about any real problems that are happening, while you are still in the restaurant. A comment like, "My server is a really nice person, and she seems very enthusiastic, but I wish she could have given me better advice on the wine list," would be very, very helpful to a manager in improving overall operations. And if something is seriously wrong, you could give feedback and have some or all of your check comped, in exchange for your trouble. As part of my restaurant background (I am an industry person, but I also write a lot about restaurant where I dine), I've always believed in "100% table touches," which means that the floor manager should actually visit each table once, just to make a final quality check, and that is a great time to get information about how the restaurant is running. Of course, that doesn't always happen, and things fall through the cracks, and some restaurants really are very, very bad places to eat. And in that case, you can always stretch your literary genius by writing the most creative, scathing review you can conjure. Tales of horrifying service, disgusting food and hideous decor make up some of the most entertaining restaurant reviews I've ever read.
  13. I haven't heard of this particular technique, either, when it comes to getting a table to leave the restaurant so that another turn can be made. On the other hand, I have seen an item "86"d temporarily in an evening, and then brought back to availability, after an employee made a grocery store run to get ingredients or did the necessary prep, so that is a possibility. And then again, I have seen servers who have been rude when they are having an off day, as many other people do in many other professions. I usually don't read a lot into it when I get bad service, which is something I see, occasionally. But if a place repeatedly has bad service, at that point I usually weigh how much I really like to eat their food, compared with how much trouble it will be to eat there. Oh, and the standard way to get a table turned and get people to leave is to ask, "Is there anything else I can get for you?" instead of offering to get them dessert, or coffee, or anything specific. It works very well on everyone but those diners who came out to eat specifically to get a dessert.
  14. I can tell immediately that this will be a thrillingly beautiful blog. I love your dining room, your view, and the life plan of running that sort of place in retirement. Oh, and did I mention that your menu is charming to the extreme? I want a Mes Amis Scotsman. I mean that literally, in that I want one right now. Please tell me how the whiskey figures into the oatmeal. Is it cooked in a sauce, poured straight over the top, or served in a shot glass, as in, "Here's your brekkie shot of whiskey, ma'am." (The last being a perfectly suitable option, though I'd like to hear any other preparations described.) I'd most likely want that, and I'd want a companion to get the eggs with the ostrich steak, cooked very rare. Is it easy to procure ostrich meat where you live? Do people eat it often enough that it's fairly common? Thank you for blogging, and I really hope you enjoy this week!
  15. That's hilarious! We're on the same page, definitely. When you discuss doing restaurant work 20 years ago, mention the fact that you wrote hand-written tickets and hung them, and that you know everything is done electronically with computers now - I'm saying this because I have that exact experience, with having worked in restaurants about that long ago, and then having a gap where I did many other things, and then going back to restaurant work. The key is not so much to "lie" about your past experience, but to build up what you have done that is relevant to the job. Any employer who has seen you show your talent at "multi-tasking" in the past 4 years is an excellent reference, or any friend who knows you well can also help. Restaurant managers do not have a lot of time to check references, anyway, and I haven't had a single one check any of mine for any job that I've ever gotten, anyway, but I know people who have, and it always helps to know people who can say good things about you. As far as lying to get a job, and then losing the job because you lied, this can happen, but it is fairly rare. I know of one person who lied to get a sous chef job, and he did get fired, but he was not black-balled at other restaurants in the city, as far as I can tell. And I knew a waitress who got an extremely nice front server job at a prestigious opening of a very expensive restaurant by saying that she worked at Maxim's in Paris, knowing that no one would ever check that reference. Incidentally, she was 43. I told managers that I knew that she was lying, and they told me that they simply didn't fire people, except for extreme situations, and I pointed out that they wouldn't even need to, since I was certain she would quit soon, anyway. And that she would do so by simply not showing up for her shift, leaving them high and dry. And of course, I was right. Just don't completely fabricate things that you'd be ashamed to tell your mother you said, and you'll do fine.
  16. I have thought about this question a lot over the past 24 hours, and this is the best response that I can think of for you: I don't know for certain if 46 is too old to start a waitressing career, because I don't know how old 46 is for your particular body, your mind, or your personality, but I can give you some advice. First, do a little research. Watch the movie Waiting, visit websites like bitterwaitress.com and others, listen to people in the industry, hear what their biggest gripes are, and decide if these are job problems with which you can live, comfortably. Get to know people who are doing this type of work, so that you can ask them which places are the best for earning money and being treated well as an employee. If it's at all possible, get your first job at a place where you do not want to stay, so that you can learn everything you need to know, make all of the mistakes you are going to make, and then move on without any real consequences. In order to get the sweet money job, the one where you don't have to do a lot of crap work, but you still take home a nice income every day, it's a good idea to come up with a story. Everyone is going to want to know why you are changing careers at your age, so your story should go something like this: I had a life-changing event [a car accident, a surgery, a death in the family, a divorce, insert your highly emotional story here, without tear-jerking details] and I suddenly realized that life was too short to waste on pushing papers in a cubicle. I realized that what I really wanted to do was to make people happy by serving them good food, telling them all about the fine ingredients that went into their favorite dishes, and giving them a pleasant experience. Actually, this advice translates well to anyone switching professions in mid-life. Give them your best smile and a good story, and be enthusiastic, and someone will give you a chance. Don't give up if it doesn't work the first time, because you haven't burned any bridges yet. And I may be entering controversial territory when I say this, but it doesn't hurt to inflate your past experience a bit. You sound quite intelligent, from your posts, so getting the entry-level job at a restaurant is going to be demoralizing and brutal - you don't want to be a busser at the finest restaurant in town, believe me, so it would be better to start as a front or back server at one of the lesser establishments - and if you have a good friend in another city who will commit to answering a phone with a "Thank you for calling [whichever] restaurant! How can I help you?" and then give you a (fake) reference, you will have a leg up. I'm sorry. I know lying is wrong and all, but the restaurant "fraternity" is quite hard to break into, and earning respect from your co-workers as a starting employee is going to be really difficult, unless you pretend that you've been doing it for a little while. The customers can be really difficult, but your co-workers are more likely to break you, unless you have a strategy. I'm sorry this is so long, and I could even go on further, but instead I'll just wish you good luck. Edited to add that, if you want a good job at a nice restaurant, a suit and a printed resume are always a nice plus that states clearly that you take this sort of opportunity seriously. I always do those two things, and it always puts me at the top of the list when managers are considering a new hire. Don't forget to bring a pen for filling out the application, since servers are expected to carry 3-5 pens to work every day, so not bringing one will likely mean that you won't even be interviewed.
  17. Actually, the "caul" mentioned in reference to parturition is a piece of the amniotic sac that holds the amniotic fluid surrounding the pre-natal infant. There is a myth that if an infant is born with a piece of this membrane on his/her head, it will bring good luck to that child, particularly in preventing a death by drowning. Back when children were born in the home, some people chose to save that piece of tissue, as a sort of good luck "charm." The placenta is actually a much more weighty piece of tissue. But this does bring up the fact that this is still a food-related discussion, since people do actually eat placenta, sometimes. Both the caul and the placenta are considered to be "medical waste," so I'm sure that many hospital employees would have a certain degree of discomfort letting people take them home, but I have heard that this sort of thing can be done. Therese would know, better than I would, about what the standard procedure would be for doing that sort of thing. I also trust that she will correct me if I'm wrong in describing any of this. Of course, any recipes for placenta would probably be better suited for an already existing thread about eating human "parts." Oh, and I'm not in the slightest bit interested in seeing those recipes, in case you were going to ask.
  18. We have the Buckhead Backlot cinema here in Atlanta, but the choice of wine is only chardonnay and white zinfandel, and there are a few beers by the bottle. The food is ghastly, however, and the service is very poor, understandably, because servers can't patrol the tables after the movie starts. I got some wings the last time I was there (my second visit), and they were served with celery and carrot sticks that literally smelled sour and rotten. I actually would have been better off just getting the popcorn with the immitation-butter-flavored-grease. The Lefont Theater on Monroe does sell bottled beer and little bottles of wine, though. And when you're done with the bottles, you can just roll them down the floor under the seats in front of you, like you did in high school.
  19. It used to be accurate, actually. Thousands of copies of films were printed on film rolls to show the film in all theatres at the same time (very expensive), had to be transported to them (very expensive) and had to be played by professional screeners in the film room (also very expensive). These days however, most studios distribute their copies of films on digital mediums, so it's very cheap to produce, to transport, and any low-wage schmo can hit a play button. The price of films these days has got nothing to do with anything but profit for the theatre companies. Is this really no longer true? I would have thought that the royalty fees would be raised more than enough to counter any lowering of costs through digital technology. After all, the amount of money actors make has certainly gone up, more than the rate of inflation, and the technology in making the movie has gone up in price, as more advances are made. And ticket prices have not gone up that much in the last 15 years, though there was a brief period that they seemed to inflate quickly, about 7 years ago, if I remember correctly. The royalty fees for showing the movie in the prime period when it can only be seen in the theater were the biggest reason that most movie houses lost money on ticket sales, but recouped it on popcorn sales and soda sales (both very cheap products to make, but sold at a high price.) Lowering of the royalty fees allows $1 theaters to sell later-market tickets, after most people who want to see the film have already seen it, and still recoup their losses on concession sales. Cinema employees have pretty much always been on the low end of the pay scale, at least in my lifetime, so I don't see how that's changed much, outside of the stagnancy of minimum wage in this country. I'm very interested in hearing more, since the business model of the cinemas losing money on ticket sales, yet gaining it all back on popcorn and such, is one of the standards that many in the hospitality industry follow when calculating the overall budget for the month.
  20. Many of them do it by getting experience from the larger companies, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. To speak for myself, I certainly appreciate gaining this information, and I will use it, if I ever open my own restaurant. In this market, I wouldn't even think of opening a new restaurant without that base, because this is a really, really tough market, which requires very fast service and extremely good, though basic, food. I'd feel obligated to send them a thank-you note for all of that, if it weren't for the fact that I know the company doesn't give anything to me for free. I work for every bit of it, and I make plenty of money for them, while I learn. I'm sure they've thought out that aspect, too. There is no doubt that things can get fairly impersonal, but my experience with some of the smaller restaurants that own and operate in this particular market, where people spend upwards of an hour a day sitting in traffic, time is a huge issue. Without some of the things we do to save time, we would lose a lot of business, and in fact, we do. We are very conscious of the fact that there's a Ruby Tuesday next door, and while people will be less satisfied with the food and service there, there is a certain point when the wait is so long that people are no longer willing to wait for food made from scratch. But in different markets, things work completely differently. Here, we can't even enforce a rule against cell-phones, with people spending just an average of 45 minutes in the restaurant, on an average day. Sometimes, it gets ridiculous, but we just have to adapt to an extremely fast environment. I wouldn't necessarily choose to live in an environment where people are constantly working, wearing earpiece cellphones all of the time, barely taking the time to order a meal, while still conducting business. I just wanted to convey a bit about where I work, and how we handle all of these issues.
  21. I just did a web search, to refresh myself on where all of the locations are, and the closest one that comes to being "Midwest" is in Kansas City. I'm not sure if that counts, because "Midwest" is a very non-outlined area of the United States. I'd love to offer you a franchise opportunity, but it's not an operation that wants to franchise. Some companies in this business simply do not want to franchise, such as Brinker, which franchised for a period, but then bought back all of their franchised stores, because they wanted to have that much more control over any operations carrying the name. It's always a big gamble, taking money for a location carrying the name, and then checking back in with a field representative, to see if standards are being held, in exchange for getting the name that brings in a certain amount of business. If I ever came up with a business concept that could be franchised, I'd be very likely to not go in that direction. It just adds too many variables. I really just wanted to give this information so that independent business operators could take advantage of it, without attending Cornell, or other, very expensive, programs. If it's helpful to even one person, that would make me happy.
  22. So this leads me to another, very efficient procedure, when it comes to managing the front of the house, and actually the whole house. The procedure surrounding the dishwasher. It sounds really pedestrian, if you think of dishwashing as a mundane activity that doesn't pay very well, but it is very, very important, if you plan on having a very busy restaurant. Most restaurants tend to have front of the house employees who bus dishes off of tables, and they are all, individually, responsible for scraping those dishes when they get to the dishwasher, and this leads to long line-ups of servers (or bussers, back-servers, whatever) waiting to be able to scrape their dishes, while standing there with heavy piles of plates in their arms. We don't do this. I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't think of this idea first, because it seems so simple, but I'm pretty sure someone thought of this while I was still too young to even hold a restaurant job. When a server comes up to the dish area, loaded with dishes, he or she just shouts, "Drop and go!" This means that the person ahead can leave dishes behind, to be scraped, and the person in back agrees to scrape them, so that the other employee can go run food, greet tables, take out drinks or do whatever needs to be done. The person in front asks, "What do you need?" which gives the second person an opportunity to ask for 2 iced teas to be dropped at table 5, or to pass off a credit card that needs to be swiped, or anything. This saves an incredibly unbelievable amount of time, trust me. It's so counter-intuitive to think of helping out other employees who only make their living off of tips by sharing jobs this way, because most restaurants have an "every man for himself" mentality, but it really helps us all to make more money, and so it always works. And the next part of "Hobart" procedure - our dishwashing machine is named "Hobart," after the company that makes it - is to bring clean china to the line cooks. Some companies hire an extra person to work in the dish pit and constantly back up china to the line, but we make our servers do it, as a standard. And the line cooks are accustomed to our regular presence on the cooking line, because we are always bringing them more plates to serve food. The practice saves labor dollars, and makes things more efficient. Many of the cooks like to shout out my name in Spanish when they see me. That's probably not part of corporate procedure. More likely, they just think I'm pretty cute, or something.
  23. I hadn't really even thought about it that much, before you mentioned it, but that's an incredibly important point. Our restaurant market in this city is incredibly volatile. If I were to open a restaurant here, I could only wish and hope that it would still be open 5 years later, since I think that would be an incredible accomplishment. Many of my restauranteur friends have seen their restaurants close in the last year, which has been incredibly sad and frightening to some of us in the business. But to close a restaurant due to loss of lease, rather than slow business, would probably have me smacking my head for years to come, saying, "Details, details! Why didn't I think of that?" The restaurant that closed was location number 1, and the one where I work is location number 2, which has been open since 1979. A guest asked me how long the place had been open the other day, and I told him this, plus I gave the added information that there's one employee who has been there for the entire time. The guest asked me which one he was, and I told him that it was the person who was washing dishes at that very moment. He cocked his head and said, "You mean it's that hard to move up in this company?" Pretty funny, to me anyway, since I know the fellow in question, and he's just a really terrific guy who does his job well. The company has rewarded him, handsomely, for his loyalty and hard work, on every anniversary. Every day, when he leaves the restaurant to catch the bus home, all the servers stand up and wave at him. He's our rockstar. He even causes us to to our jobs better, or do things more according to "spec," because he's part of the glue that makes it all work.
  24. Holy cow! Are you kidding? Of course they are. In the course of my lifetime, the frequency with which people eat in restaurants has way more than doubled, and it seems to have increased even more than that, given that I live in a much larger and busier city than where I grew up. The result of this is that people are much, much less patient with service than they have been in the past. To be seated at a table, and then wait an entire 60 seconds or more to be greeted seems like an eternity. Or to me it does, anyway. I think in terms of restaurant time, almost all of the time. I know from experience as a manager and server that time becomes inflated really quickly, the longer a guest is waiting for something to happen. It's not uncommon to hear a guest say, "I've been waiting 30 minutes for my entree," and then to look at the time-stamped ticket, which shows that it's only been 12 minutes. But 10 minutes is actually the longest time we consider acceptable, for anything, in the place I'm talking about. If I know someone wants to eat at a more liesurely pace, I have to make a mental note to slow the process down, because we're just geared to be that fast, all the time. The restaurant is in a busy district, with many offices, so even if you've only got an hour for lunch, and you arrive at noon, and the restaurant is already on a wait (which it will be), you can wait to be seated, sit, order, eat and pay your bill, and still be back to your office in time. And that's part of why we're always busy, which is why we're always on a wait at noon. It's circular, that way. Oh, for the rest of the question: Greet where I work is timed at immediately - less than 30 seconds. First round (drinks to the table) is less than 2 minutes. Appetizer is lightning-quick, and usually way less than 5 minutes. All of the actions are timed out when I do the recertification, all in print, with boxes checked off. And we get tested by surprise "secret shoppers," on top of that. Whew!
  25. i guess it's not cheesy to me. and to others i'm sure. as far as crapplebee's goes, i've had better service at crapplebee's, and other chains, than i have at local non-chain places. perhaps there's a lesson to be learned there. but what do i know: i'm just a customer. ← Not cheesy at all? I can see that, sometimes. I guess I'm just strongly critical of those unnecessary gestures. And there is no "just a customer." After all, he is always right. Right? As a person who is also a customer, since I dine out entirely too often, I can't say that I've had great service at that particular chain, in comparison to other non-chains. But I have a boatload of options here, and I take advantage of them, often, and rarely get bad service. But I tend to lean toward a large variety of ethnic places, plentiful in this area. Maybe that makes a difference.
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