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.
Bill and Sharon had just enough time to make to the restaurant after the 7:45 movie. They were starved. Bill was excited to finally get a chance to eat at Tuttopronto. Sharon had been there for dinner with her girlfriends. His friend Tom at the office had a rough first visit; but was very enthusiastic about the service and sincerity in which they recovered from the first disappointing experience.
Now it was Bill's turn. Bill and Sharon took turns picking the movie and restaurant for their nights out. Bill had chosen a new action film; but then conceded on pizza and went with a "fine dining" Italian restaurant. This way he could still have his pasta with red sauce; and she could satisfy her more "educated" pallet, as she refereed to it.
The movie was great and they both enjoyed it. It had both action and a humorous side. They were in a great mood as they left the theater. Then they noticed the time. It was now 9:45. The restaurant was only five minutes away; but it closed at ten. They raced to the car, jumped in and drove a little faster than the speed limit to get there in time. They did it. They arrived at nine fifty five, five minutes before the restaurant closed. It was Wednesday night, and they didn't have a reservation; but the restaurant didn't look busy.
They were greeted by a waitress as they entered the restaurant. She asked if they had a reservation. They told her no. Her welcoming look quickly changed to one of frustration. She told them to please wait and the Maitre D' would be with them shortly.
A few minutes later a gentleman appeared and greeted them. He asked them to please follow him to a table and proceeded into the dining room. They were seated at a table close to the kitchen. The dining room was attractive; but only about half full. The restaurant was obviously winding down after a busy night.
The waitress came over and asked for their drink order. When she returned with the drinks, she asked them if they were ready to order.
"We close at 10, the kitchen is getting ready to clean up. If you'd like to eat you'd better order now," she said.
"We'd like to hear your specials if you have any," Bill said. He hated being rushed. Sharon knew what she wanted; and knew Bill was just being difficult.
"I know what I want," Sharon interrupted. "I'll have the field greens salad with apricot mango vinaigrette; and then the grilled veal chop with portabellos."
"Well," Bill added, "I guess I'll just have a small Caesar salad and the fusilli with sausage and olives."
"Very well," replied the waitress, "I'll get this order in right away."
Soon the salads were served. They were attractive, piled high on the plate and dressed with the perfect amount of dressing. The salads were perfect. Bill had put down his fork for a second when a busboy came over and asked if he was done.
"No," Bill replied; but soon after a server came by with their entrees.
"I'm so sorry," the waitress insisted. "The Chef put the dinners up, so I thought I should get them out to you while they were hot."
After the waitress left, Bill turned to Sharon and told her how much he hated it when they rushed him. Sharon did not agree. She understood how hard the restaurant workers worked; and they were anxious to get home. Bill felt that if service was really what it was all about, they should be there to serve until the last guest is satisfied. They seated until ten, the kitchen should work at the same pace as the guests. That would mean that they have to wait for the last order some times. That's just how it is, he insisted.
What do you think? If the restaurant closes at 10, do orders have to be in by 10, or is it at the guests' leisure. Who do you think was rushing? Was it really the kitchen; or did the server push it and just blame it on the kitchen?
How do you think the meal went from there? How would you react if this happened to you?
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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