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Friday, November 19, 2010

I Am Not a Sommelier, But I Play One in My Mind

Last week I worked a dinner shift and at the new job and dinner is what it's all about. People come in there ready to drop some coins and I was happy to help them out. It's funny when you're the new guy because you want to know all the answers to everything, but you just don't yet. When people ask me which is better, the lobster or the strip loin, do they really think that the restaurant lets the servers sample that? No. We get a shift meal of pasta and salad or tacos. So when I say that the lobster is so delicious because it has a subtle taste of the smoke from the wood in the oven, I am blowing said smoke up your ass. I just repeat what I have heard other customers say. And if every single person who orders the arctic char says it's the most wonderful piece of fish they have ever had in their mouth, then I am going to say the same thing. Have I actually tasted it? No. No, I have not. When it comes to wine service, it's even more difficult. I can look at the list and tell you how it is described (citrus with a cherry aftertaste and a full rich flavor of apple fucking blossoms...) but I have not really had it. But the other night, I had a big shot in my station. He was president of some major company and owns about 1000 restaurants around the world and I am pretty sure none of them are called Pizza Hut or Applebee's.

"Pardon me, but do you have a sommelier here?" he asks me.
"No sir, we don't, I'm sorry." He reminded me of a Grey Poupon commercial. "Can I help you?" As soon as the words left my mouth, I regretted it, because unless he was going to ask me about a California Cooler or some cheap ass Yellow Tail Chardonnay, I wasn't going to be able to follow through on my suggestion.
"Yes, I would like a good bottle of wine. What would you recommend?"
My mind started to race. "Should I just pick a random bottle? Which one? The most expensive? If it's expensive it must be good. How do you pronounce that shit anyway? Maybe my two nights in Sonoma wine country over the summer was enough to make me come up with an educated guess. Oh fuck., I dunno." Finally, I said to the man this: "Sir, I am going to be completely honest with you. I work mostly lunches. My wine knowledge is not what it should be. I could make up something so you would think I knew what I was doing, but I think you would rather me admit this to you. Would you let me find someone who can assist you the way you deserve to be?"

The man paused and I thought I had just royally fucked up. He tilted his head and squinted his eyes as if he was so supremely disappointed with me, the service, the restaurant and the entire wine making industry. He sat up a little straighter and cleared his throat. "Young man?" (Brutally long pause.) "I appreciate your honesty and integrity. Thank you for that. And yes, would you mind asking someone else to make a recommendation for me?" I may be paraphrasing that last part, because honesty I got a little woozy when he called me young. I sent someone over who knows the wine menu backwards and forward and he helped the man choose the most perfect bottle of wine.

The gentleman left me a huge tip at the end of the night, presumably because I was an honest upstanding waiter who was willing to admit to his faults if it meant giving the customer better service. Or maybe he tipped me huge because he and his table polished off a couple bottles of wine and several Grey Goose martinis and he was too trashed to tell the difference between his bills in his wallet . Either way, he left happy and so did I.


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19 comments:

Just Plain Tired said...

Leaving happy, that's what it's all about, and stuff.

Bouncin' Barb said...

And you so deserve 100% of that tip and then you can give a piece of that to the person who helped you. The tip was meant as a thank YOU not as a means of income for the restaurant and others who would give shit for service. OK I'm done venting now!

M L said...

That restaurant is lucky to have you! You are an awesome server!!

Anonymous said...

An awesome server who did not even study the wine list!!!! AMATURE.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymnous at 12:37...

If you going to insult our BW at least spell your words correctly--
its "amateur" not amature. Maybe you needs to study the dictionary.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous at 12:37...

If you going to insult our BW at least spell your words correctly--
its "amateur" not amature. Maybe you needs to study the dictionary...

witchybaiter said...

I love laughing at stupid people as much as the next guy but might I suggest we all ignore the troll who has recently come to these golden shores? Starve her of the attention she so desperately craves and maybe she'll crawl back under the bridge from which she slithered.

Lauren H said...

I love being called young...I got carded at a restaurant last weekend and it was such a fantastic feeling!

SlumSlut said...

I wish I knew where BW works so I could write them a letter saying I ate there and he was soooo awesome!

I live kind of far so I can't really go there very easily.

Bouncin' Barb said...

I'm with withcybaiter. When you are dealing with an idiot the best way to get rid of them is to totally ignore them. They thrive on pushing the wrong buttons. Eventually they will go away when no one listens to them.

TwisterB said...

I'm a vegetarian. When someone asks me Which is better, the steak or the seabass...I just make something up.

Mrs. Hyde said...

Good job. This may not be the last time you hear from this man. He might offer you a better job at one of his restaurants, maybe even one not based on tips.

yellowcat said...

We serve Franzia where I work...you know that crap in a box. I recently had a woman ask which was better, the white zin or the merlot and before I could stop myself I said, "I don't know. They both taste like shit." Then I cracked up laughing 'cuz I could see myself getting fired.

Banquet Manager said...

Well done.

Mary A. said...

You are a pro dude!

And I totally get why he referred to you as "young man"

What I don't get is why I get asked about my grandchildren. (sigh)

ChiTown Girl said...

Sadly, my first thought was, "and BW won't even get that damn tip!!!" It pissed me off all over again for you. Like Ms. Hyde said, perhaps a new job will come from this encounter. That would be awesome!

Bagel Fairy said...

I always tell people at my cafe that the tuna salad is delicious even though it smells like old pussy and someone's scraping it half-frozen from the bottom of a pan. But I get regular wages, so then again I have no incentive for such honesty. :-)

The Empress said...

Your customer probably appreciated your honesty and the great service you provided. I hope you quietly tucked that big ass tip into your pocket so you didn't have to share it with anyone but the other waiter that helped you out.

Anonymous said...

I'm really concerned with whether you had to split that tip or not? I just got done reading how you all split your tips up and I'm still hyperventilating over it. I used to work a serving job where one night I made 250 and walked out with 80 because we were "helping out the guys who didn't make as much that night on the party they chose to work".