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Wojo

A restaurant critic becomes a waiter

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What a concept! They'd have to pay me a lot of money for that gig.  :laugh:

That's for sure!

I wouldn't want anybody to find out I'd ever been a restaurant critic. :shock:

SB (has already been a waiter)(enjoyed it too!)

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It's a little ironic because I mentioned a while back that I was planning on writing a story about working at my restaurant plus Chambar, "C", and Feenie's during the Dine Out period. It got nixed because of my heady, toddler-driven schedule, but I was hoping to do it next year.

Now, maybe not so much... :unsure:

Damn media.


Edited by Andrew Morrison (log)

Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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I have been on both sides of the equation. I think I worked in every Greek Place in the city. Did "time" at El Patio as well.


Gastronomista

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eGullet's very own 'Fat Guy' chronicled the same experience (experiment?) in his book, so this isn't new ground.

A good 'front of the house, back of the house' comparison for someone who's typically at the table instead of serving the table.

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Congratulations to Frank Bruni for coming out from behind the table and seeing the other side of restaurant life.

A fun read.

s

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These sorts of behind-the-scenes restaurant pieces were hardly revolutionary when I did them, and they're positively tired at this point, but he did a good job with his version. I'd have rather seen him try a kitchen experience, but maybe next year.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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These sorts of behind-the-scenes restaurant pieces were hardly revolutionary when I did them, and they're positively tired at this point, but he did a good job with his version. I'd have rather seen him try a kitchen experience, but maybe next year.

Agreed. But if we didn't learn anything, I'm sure Bruni did. :wink:


Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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Ha actually wrote the word terrific. Repeatedly. I found THAT entertaining. I wonder if his descriptions of menu items were as overwrought as his usual writing style is! :laugh::laugh:

edited by me: overtwrought, hahahahaha!


Edited by Rebecca263 (log)

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Just the same, I'm glad Bruni had the experience of being a waiter.

Now, when's the last time he's been a line chef?


Michael aka "Pan

 

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These sorts of behind-the-scenes restaurant pieces were hardly revolutionary when I did them, and they're positively tired at this point, but he did a good job with his version.

Yeah, and so is the trend piece, but writers keep churning those out. There are very few genres under the sun.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Alas Mr. Burni did not experience waiting on tables after the restaurant had just received a good review. Hoards of ever-so-knowledgeable diners who follow in the reviewer's footsteps, order the same meal as the reviewer, and then pick apart each dish wondering, "How could the BruniMeister ever have liked this," listing the multitude of reasons each dish should never have passed muster and would not had they written the review.

What the article lacked were sidebar interviews of servers who backed up Bruni and customers who put him through his paces


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

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Yeah, and so is the trend piece, but writers keep churning those out. There are very few genres under the sun.

Agreed. And newspaper reporters, especially, are almost by definition writing within genre. I got the sense from the tone of Frank Bruni's piece, however, that he felt he had come up with something original ("But last week I traded places and swapped perspectives, a critic joining the criticized, to get a taste of what servers go through and what we put them through, of how they see and survive us."). Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it caused me to react by pointing out the utter lack of originality in the concept.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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What the article lacked were sidebar interviews of servers who backed up Bruni and customers who put him through his paces

That's for the New York Post to do.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I think he tends to use a "this intrepid reporter" type of tone which gives a gee-whiz sense to everything he writes about even when he is not pretending to be original.

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Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it caused me to react by pointing out the utter lack of originality in the concept.

Yep. Plus, it took up an awful lot of space.

(Still, though, I loved the time Bryan Miller cooked for the chefs he'd reviewed, and let them criticize him.)


"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

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So how much does walking a mile in a server's shoes aid a restaurant reviewer in appreciating a restaurant's efforts? Will Bruni now wield a kinder, gentler pen and be more tolerant of a bumbling server?

Back when I reveiwed restaurants for Philadelphia's City Paper I maintained that having owned a restaurant and having, in my formative years, worked most every position in a restaurant, made me a better reviewer and gave me credibility over the majority of restaurant reviewers who came up through newspaper features, sports or general reporting ranks.

The multitudes who took issue felt that my experience made me too easy on restaurants - that I was too willing to forgive a server in the weeds or an overburdened kitchen - that I gave the restaurant rather than the diner the benefit of the doubt.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Service is not nearly as relevant to what Frank Bruni does as food is. That's why I wish he had spent time in a kitchen, so he could have learned about something where his knowledge is so manifestly deficient. He had already worked as a waiter. He gained some insight by doing a turn at East Coast Grill, but not much that's relevant to his reviewing work. The New York Times reviewer doesn't experience normal service anyway -- he's mostly recognized, and mostly whatever he writes about service is not worth taking seriously. Restaurant reviews are primarily supposed to be about food, or so the theory goes.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I think the problem is that kitchen skills are not as readily learned as serving skills. Over the course of a week a reviewer could probably learn some basic prep, but I pity the restaurant that sticks him on the line for turnout.

I also think that what becomes relevant in any restaurant review is what stands out as particularly good or particularly bad, be it food and/or service.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I think this was a good piece to write, if not maybe for the expected reasons. I'd like to hope some people will recognize their own behavior towards waiters here. That guy who made him repeat the specials over and over while turning and talking to his companion could have been a boss of mine who used to act like he was ready to order and then change him mind. One server came back six times that I counted. He thought that was cute.

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As entertaining as it may be to read of a restaurant's critic's experience as waiter or cook, the idea behind such a stunt is that the critic then will "understand" what restaurant owners have to contend with. And then what? Make allowances in reviews placing onus on customers? A critic should not "understand" anything.Only how it works out, front-of-the-house for the customer. Restaurant prices are high, meaning owners are playing hard ball. So should customers and critics.

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Yes and no.

When I had my restaurant we received consistently good to rave reviews. We were lucky. No reviewers were there the Saturday evening my chef walked out and took half the kitchen with her. No reviewers were there the day the kitchen roof caved in. No reviewers were there on those occasional dreaded days when enough minor things went wrong to throw us totally off our timing. Bad things happen to good restaurants.

A reviewer should have enough understanding of the restaurant business to know if a restaurant is doing a bad job because it is a bad restaurant or doing a bad job because it is a good restaurant that is just suffering one of those inevitable days that happens in any restaurant except, perhaps, the Per Se's and Daniel's of the world.

Because a review stays with the restaurant for years a reviewer should have the empathy and does have the responsibility to understand the difference between a mediocre restaurant offering a representative experience and a good restaurant providing an atypical one.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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