Served: Why I Have the Best Job in the World

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

20080616-servedbug.jpgOK. I don't have the best job in the world. I'm not deluded enough to think that waiting tables has anything to do with saving lives or sticking it to the man or changing the world. I'm also not deluded enough to think that every gig waiting tables is as pleasant as mine.

That is not to say, either, that my job is painless. (Is any job painless?) You won't hear me singing its praises at 4 a.m., when I am so tired it feels like corkscrews are burrowing into my temples and my blowing out all the candles and brooding isn't enough of a hint for the last table to go home. I'm not too thrilled to bring a woman seven wines to taste ("too chalky," "too peary," "not peary enough") during the height of a rush, before she ultimately decides wine number one was totally palatable. I almost screamed the other night when a diner yanked on my dress to get my attention. Hard. It was strapless.

But as I will be writing from the front-of-the-house front lines, I will have ample time—and ample material—to report about stories of frustration and, on occasion, of horror. It is all too easy to complain. Any waiter will tell you that.

But lest either one of us forget, let me remind you and myself that I love my job. And not because I am utterly crazy, but because my job really does rock. Let me tell you why:

It's Yummy

For a girl who loves food and wine, being surrounded by delicious things is not a small job perk. It's nice to end a long night with a crusty, spicy Cuban and a big glass of cava. Taking a whiff of stinky grayson, tasting a chewy piece of raw buffalo cheese, and trying a new, hazelnut-y Portuguese wine are all part of a night's work. And sometimes a truffle or some aglianico can work magic when one needs a bit of cheering up.

I Get to Share the Love

It's not all selfish consumption. I did not cook the food, plate the cheese, or buy the wine, and yet I can't help but feel a little proud when a guest oozes their delight. Ultimately, I am in the business of delivering pleasure. When people leave satisfied, happy, maybe a little tipsy, I think, "I did that!"

I Get to Run Around

I write this from the joyful Serious Eats headquarters, where Adam is playing music and Ed has brought in Barney Greengrass leftovers. The windows are big and the sun is streaming in. And yet, I find it challenging to conduct a whole day's work perched on my ass. A chef visiting from Seattle stopped by the office to pick up Ed last week. "So you guys sit in front of your computers all day log?" he asked. Waiting tables is a perfect job for those who are hopelessly inept at the art of sitting still.

I Get to Discharge My Inner Social Butterfly

It is also part of my job to chat with people. I can get carried away. My friends whom I work with have to (not so) gently scold me when I get too deep into a long conversation, "Hannah! Come on!" Occasionally jerks walk in the door, sit at a table, and proceed to unabashedly unleash their jerkiness. In response, I have to be civil. Luckily, though, I genuinely like most of the guests who grace us with their presence. Often they are friends, friends of friends, or just nice people who are into the experience of eating and drinking wonderful things. They make my job easy and happy. I have made a few good friends from behind the bar or across the table.

Teamwork, Baby

In my small restaurant, I appreciate the absence of typical kitchen/front-of-the-house tension. We briefly tried brunch. It flopped. With no guests to be found—despite the classy chalkboard we erected—the chef threw me an apron. I made us mimosas. We blasted my iPod and got to work pressing ginger graham crusts into shells and pitting cherries. Brunch is no longer, but when it is slow these days, you will find me diligently shelling favas. And the cooks have been known to fold a napkin or two.

I Want to Be Just Like Them When I Grow Up

Which brings me to the best part, which is the ridiculously cool people I work with. They are smart, talented, passionate, and hilarious. They have about 798 times more knowledge and experience than I do. They have been endlessly patient and have taught me a ton. They have shared many a bottle of vino, many a laugh, and more stupid inside jokes than I can keep up with. Restaurants are a bit like families—of course, all families are a bit dysfunctional. I won't claim an exception. And yet, I wouldn't have my restaurant family any other way.