I'm finally done with the restaurant guide and can begin to till the stinky soil of these posts with some more waitressing rants and stories. I am grateful for the opportunity to vent whenever, in the course of my work, I had to brush up against the rancid pus lake that is Yelp, and all of its unholy tributaries of meritless conjecture like CitySearch, Chowhound, and The Austin Chronicle. *wink!*
I will miss statements like "First of all, I don't know if I'm dining at the wrong places but the sushi in TX is not as fresh as in Chicago."
I'm working on an essay about the experience of being a waitress-restaurant critic (a real, paid one bound by ethical and professional standards). It's called "Turncoat: The Eggs Benedict Arnold Story."
I've been working a lot of brunches lately. Something I never thought I'd do after shacking up with a guy whose predilection towards eating brunch together over the Sunday NY Times is such that, when threatened by other plans - like a party or dim sum invitation with, shudder, other people; or being in a dusty West Texas town with no NY Times in it - he actually gets inside the laundry basket and cowers there, weeping.
Brunch can be really great. It's fast as hell, so time passes more quickly; and the turnover is high, so even if a table has really bad mojo ("I'll just have water;" or "I'm too hungover/tired/stuck up inside my own asshole to say 'please' and 'thank you.'"), they'll be out of your life in no time. The energy among the waitstaff is funny, too, as we all are cranked up on coffee, adrenaline, or that crack-in-a-cup 5-Hour Energy, plus the insistent willpower to not fall apart at the expo line when an order of French toast has taken 30 minutes in the middle of the rush.
If working the dining room on a Friday or Saturday night can feel for an hour like battle, brunch is three hours of a dirty, bloody, cheek-rending, hair-pulling South Carolina bar fight. Someone's definitely getting fucked against their will.
Worst of all, the ratio of uptight, middle-aged (I'm calling 55 and higher middle-aged, because, come on...45 is still pretty fucking happening) church-goers is noticeably higher, and so the tip percentage goes down to an average of 13-15% from the standard fine dining 20%. Evangelicals look for any reason to obliterate that tip, so Sunday brunch must be like heaven for them.
The justification for a lower brunch tip cannot be that brunch somehow requires less work - certainly not. We wake up at 7:30 am on a Sunday, while most of our peers are peacefully snoring or having morning sex, to come down here and pour cup after cup of coffee for you. By the time most of the city is awake and kayaking around the lake, walking their dogs in the park, or kicking back with some huevos rancheros on a sunny patio with friends, we are delivering our 50th eggs Benedict to some sneering hag who apparently requires a hose to constantly pour decaf down her miserable gullet.
But you know, we also get the industry people - tables of four waiters and waitresses with sunglasses on, the cracking voices of those who have partied hard and are enjoying their day off, who applaud joyfully when you bring them mimosas, who are happy to be alive and eating lots of good food and not serving the assholes at the table next to them.
I hereby decree that everyone work a Sunday brunch once a year, if only to appreciate how wonderful it is not to. I am happy to be back amongst you, diners and colleagues - antagonistic though you may sometimes be. Although I find criticism - in its classic form - to be useful and necessary, a constant reminder of the gold standard by those who are exquisitely qualified in contextual analysis, I find it a bit like butchery - best left to those with the stomach for it.