The Serial That Takes You to Dinner
by Chef Bob Munnich
Back of the House is a real chef's fictional story about running a restaurant and the politics behind the scenes that diners rarely see.
Jules was nervous enough without the added pressure of the wait staff needing more training. Jules checked the line. Everything seemed to be in order. She took a copy of the menu, and starting with the appetizers started checking every ingredient. As she got to the entrees it was time to start dinner service. " Well, I hope we're ready," she thought to herself as she called out the first order.
"OK, I'm ordering, Two spinach salads; I'll take one sirloin and a striped bass please!" and off they went. The next dupe came in, and she ordered it. Soon, before she knew it there was a full board of checks and the first entrees were ready to go out.
"Fire table four", Mary said. Mary had been a waitress for about a year. She knew the ins and outs of the restaurant business pretty well. She had just cleared the table and called the order as she was scraping the plates at the dishwasher.
"Alright folks let's do it! Give me a Bass and a Sirloin please!" Jules said as the grill person and sauté person handed her pans with the entrees and mis en place for the dishes. She carefully plated the entrees, finishing each one with the appropriate sauces and fresh herbs on top.
"This is easy," she thought to herself. Everyone in the kitchen was just humming along. All the cooks were being extra careful to listen for the orders. Everyone was plating their dishes well. Even the meat and fish was being prepared right on time, and always ready when she asked for it up. "Too easy," She was making herself a little nervous.
The night went on. Even the wait staff was working well. She could tell everyone was a little cautious. Everyone was careful how they called their orders. No server dared to say anything other than raves about the food. The plates looked nice, but how could all the guests be happy? On the first night nonetheless. Why was it so easy.
As the last few tables were being served Jules was pleased that there had been no problems. No food came back, all the food seemed to go out on time, and no complaints or arguments from the servers. An unbelievable first night. The cooks were all pleased with themselves also.
After the last entree was plated, Jules went out to the dining room to meet some of the guests. Her parents had come in during the last seating, as well as a couple of her friends. She walked out from behind the line, went to the changing room, put on a clean jacket, and proudly walked out into the dining room.
"Hey Scott," She smiled, "How's it going?"
Scott looked at her, with a big grin, "What a night. Can you believe we're finally open? All that work." Scott gave her a pat on the back, "Why don't you come on and meet some friends of mine."
Scott took her from table to table. She introduced herself and asked everyone the same question "How was everything?" The answers ran the gamut. While everyone was positive there were a lot of criticisms. Several people felt the salad dressing was bland, a couple had overcooked steaks, and there was one or two comments about the food being cold.
Jules was getting a little upset. But she managed to keep her cool. She kept on smiling, and asking the guests to write down their comments on the comment sheets. "Don't spare my feelings now, I can't improve if I don't know where the problems are." Scott was very proud of Jules.
After meeting everyone and saying hi to her family and friends, Jules asked to see Scott in the back.
"What's wrong?" He asked.
"How come nobody told me about all of these problems?" Jules was visibly upset.
"What problems? Everyone was happy. Sure there were a couple of guests with some suggestions, but this is our first night you know." Scott replied.
"Why didn't the wait staff let me know about these things like cold food or over cooked steaks. We could have done something to make these things better for our guests." Jules said.
"Well, first of all, out of 85 covers only 8 complained. And of those 8 only a few were problems that could have been fixed on the spot. The wait staff is also new, and they need some time to learn the ropes also. They need to learn how and when to check back at tables, how to read a guest and know when there is a problem. That's why we don't charge any of these guests." Scott defended the staff.
"OK, but I don't know. I feel like they should be able to handle this a little better. I'd like to know how things are in the dining room. How am I supposed to win if I don't know when I'm loosing?" Jules asked.
"Don't worry. Just make sure you read the comment cards, and listen to them with an open mind. So many chefs just believe there always right. One of the reasons we chose you is because you can accept criticism, and learn and improve from it. We have another dry' run tomorrow. I guarantee it'll be better." Scott reassured her.
With that Jules smiled, she felt better. She went back to the kitchen to make sure the staff was cleaning up. She wanted to make sure that the kitchen was spotless. Another day tomorrow, and tomorrow would be harder.
Should the wait staff had been more observant from the start? Who's fault is it that some of the guests didn't have great meals? Is it OK for Scott to just accept this? What do they need to do to improve for tomorrows' dry run?
Copyright © 1996, 1997 Bob Munnich. All Rights Reserved.
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
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