Serious Eats

Served: Goodbye Waiting Tables, Goodbye NYC, Goodbye Served

I blog by day and wait tables in a New York City restaurant by night. I'm excited to bring you Served, dispatches from the front of the house. Enjoy!

20080616-servedbug.jpgMore than a year ago, I professed in my first Served that I have the best job in the world.

A few weeks ago, I told my boss I was leaving that best job in the world. Then I told my friends, my coworkers, and my family. Telling you guys and saying goodbye to “Served” is emotional. I’m sitting here all teary.

That job may no longer feel like the best job in the world, but there are still awesome moments—when people fall in love with our Matchbook Tinto Ray, or realize that they don’t hate goat cheese after all. There are still many great nights populated by old friends, new people with crazy stories, truffled white bean dip, and silky wine. Nights where I make a ton of money, and the exhaustion is encompassing and satisfying.

It’s a tiny restaurant; my friend once compared working there to moving home after college. “At first you are so happy to be home, and it feels so comfortable and luxurious. But then little things start to bother you. And you realize how deeply dysfunctional your family is.”

Restaurants are indeed families. Mine is (for the most part) incredibly functional. Two years and two months ago, when we bewilderedly opened our doors, every night was a gamble. We would eighty-six everything on the menu, or the cook wouldn’t show up. We didn’t have a computer or a credit card machine or much of a clue.

Now, it is pretty certain that every night will be reasonably busy and reasonably smooth. There will be hitches, because that’s how it goes, but we will do what we do—put out great cheese, food, and wine, and give great service—and we will do it damn well.

The Next Chapter

I finished school in May and I knew it was time for something new. I interviewed for every job opening I could find. My roommates always saw me coming and going in a black dress or in my black suit, clomping ungracefully down four flights of stairs in heels. I was studying for finals, and trying to suck up every ounce of senior year fun. It was exhausting. I knew I was in a good position: I had a solid job already. Actually, multiple jobs. Still, I was ready for something else.

I obsessively emailed my resume to every position on Craigslist that looked the least bit promising. I got a call from a restaurant group I didn’t know much about. I came in for an interview. I ate at some of their restaurants, which were totally off my radar. I was impressed, and surprised that I was impressed. They called and wanted to schedule a second interview.

After four interviews, a standardized test (for real, with little bubbles and number two pencils), a lunch, a dinner, and a day at one of their restaurants, I really wanted the job. I mean really wanted the job. It was a management training program, where I would learn how to run a restaurant and then do exactly that. The people I met were smart, passionate, and did what they did amazingly well. I knew I would learn a lot from them.

The Wait

“We’ll touch base Monday,” they told me. That meant, at least according to the nervous chatter of the other candidates, that on Monday they would have a decision.

On Monday I couldn’t sit still. My phone was glued obnoxiously to my palm. My roommate Matt distracted me with chatter about Germany and Vogue. I couldn’t sleep Monday night. Still no phone call.

On Tuesday morning, I got an email from another candidate. “I heard yesterday! What’s the word?” I felt instantly like puking. Silence couldn’t be good. I called the HR person who had promised to be in touch. It went straight to her voicemail. I called someone else from HR.

“Well,” he said. “I have to let your liaison talk with you. She’s on a plane right now.”

“I’m so nervous! Can you tell me if it’s good news?”

He couldn’t. A few hours later, the flight landed and she called. With good news. I got the job. And it was in Los Angeles.

Goodbye (for Now)

I’ve never been to Southern California, but I’ve been looking for an apartment, and in a few weeks I will fly there with all my stuff and set up my new life. I’m ridiculously excited to learn how to run a restaurant. I hope I love it, but perhaps I will hate it. I can’t know until I do it. It’s definitely one step closer to the dream, which is to one day have my own place.

On Sunday, two of my friends, a maitre d’ and a server at a wonderful restaurant, came in for drinks and chicken liver pate. I sat down at their table and we talked about my new gig. “We love that restaurant,” they confided, “It’s our dirty little secret. You’re going to learn so much.”

Thank you to everyone I have worked with for being the most wonderful teachers, cheerleaders, comedians, and friends. And thanks, you guys, for reading what I have to say, calling me out when you disagree, and having my back. I am the luckiest girl in the world.

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