Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Home Stretch

By The Foodist

Well, here it is. 18+ months, A gross amount of money, and a world of stress are just about to come to an end. Funny thing is, I have a feeling it's just going to get replaced by something similar.

I started Escoffier Room Advanced Table Service a week and a half ago with the expectation of having a hard time with the material. I mean who does classic table side service anymore?

Just about no one, that's who.

There are so many reasons for not doing it: the heavy labor, the level of skill and training required to pull it off, the product knowledge you have to obtain. Then there's the pressure of lighting alcohol on fire while standing next to a guest.

You gain a newfound respect for service staff of higher end restaurants after this experience. It is no easy task to match 3 different types of silverware (actual Silver), open and decant wines table-side, and memorizing 8 to 10 different cheeses in a language you don't speak . You begin to understand exactly why chefs like Thomas Keller spend weeks, heck, months training their service staff before they even talk to a guest. There's nothing worse then being asked a question about a product and having to go "Let me check that for you" or in the worst case "um, I don't know".

With 6 class days to go until it's done, over, it's even harder to stay focused on the "now", rather then the "what now?". Everything comes together near the end, all your education gets put to use when serving customers who are probably the most inquisitive you'll ever meet.

Because the CIA is a school a school and the stage at the Escoffier represents the home stretch of the curriculum, 90% of the guests are going to grill you like you've been doing it for 30 years, or ask you questions about the program or what your plans are. It becomes a massive juggling act managing time between tables, table maintenance, and ensuring you are doing everything to the best of your ability.

I guess at this point it sounds as though this class is a major pain in my lower back region, but honestly I love it. There's a satisfaction you get out front that you don't get in the kitchen, direct customer interaction. When everything is spot on you get to see it, and enjoy it. But when it goes bad, your in the killzone and its your mess to fix.

In the end the real challenge is keeping your head in the game while you know the end is just around the corner.

1 comment:

Jennie/Tikka said...

I remember having a fairly tipsy guy stick - actually stick - my nose in his glass of wine and ask me, "What is that - what are you getting from that...I can't quite get it." Trying to keep my cool I actually blurted out something like, "Blackberries" or something like that and the guy was just AMAZED.

Another guy went ballistic because I didn't present the bottle to him long enough.