Served: Restaurant Job Search

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.jpg“You look dapper,” I told Andrew, my friend from school, who always looks dapper. On Friday, though, he was all dressed up and looking especially suave in a vest and a cherry-colored shirt.

“I just had an interview,” he explained. Turns out the interview was at the sister restaurant of a place where I worked for two years. “Was it X. who interviewed you?” I had to know. X. is the general manager there now, my former boss, and a friend. Sure enough, Andrew had met with X. I promised to put in a good word for him.

After graduating, Andrew ran the front of the house of a restaurant for several months. Then, the restaurant closed. Now he’s looking for another job. To state the obvious: timing is not so good.

In May, I too will finish school. Hooray! But wait! What’s next? My job waiting tables rocks. It is also part time. I just found a great apartment in a great neighborhood (the East Village!). Now I need a job with which to pay my rent. A full time job.

Oh Job, Where Art Thou?

I just got home from an interview at a place where I would be thrilled to work. I arrived a few minutes early, and sat with someone else waiting for her interview. She too was a few minutes early. After my brief discussion with the chef/owner and a partner, the latter held up a big camera and gently asked, “So that we will remember your face, can we take a picture?

“Sure,” I said, not wanting my face to be forgotten. The partner snapped a Polaroid and added it to a tall stack of awkwardly grinning faces. The chef walked me out, shook my hand, and directed his attention to the growing line of job applicants there to meet with him.

I think we had a good conversation, which I obsessively replayed on the subway ride home. But of the twenty, or fifty, or a hundred other conversations they had that day, was it exceptionally memorable? Could it possibly be?

I cursed my lack of photogenicity. The Polaroid would not help my case.

I’m Not Alone

Over a wonderful bottle of Borolo, my chef friend and I discussed the grand deluge of people looking for restaurant jobs. He’s the chef of a restaurant group, so he oversees a few different spots. His sports bar needed a bartender.

So he posted an ad for a bartender on Craigslist. An hour later, he received nearly four hundred responses from wannabe bartenders. “Really? Four hundred?” I asked, not sure if I could believe it.

“Four hundred,” he insisted. So he took down the ad and skimmed resume and after resume. “We interviewed about fifty.” That’s a lot of people wanting to tend bar. To me, an almost unimaginable number. At least, as chef friend confirmed, he found an exceedingly competent bartender.

What’s A Girl to Do

As for now, I have a great job a few nights a week. My restaurant is busier than ever. It feels like home; and the money is good.

And May is still months away. But uncertainty is not my forte. I know that once I have a plan, a gazillion pounds of anxiety will dissolve from on top of my shoulders. Until then, I might want to invest in a massage.

It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one without post-school employment. In the scary economy, graduate school is tempting. My favorite poetry professor still insists I pursue an MFA in poetry. But after a whole life in school, I can’t wait for a change from the academic scenery.

If a rewarding, challenging, fun and lucrative job in New York is not in the cards, it’s mildly comforting to know I could stay with friends in Orcas Island in their chicken coop turned house and learn to bake, or travel to Mexico and study Spanish, or work on an organic farm in Australia.

But I want to be here. I want to live in my small but lovely soon-to-be pad in the East Village. I want to be in the capital city of the food and restaurant worlds, taking part in all the action. I'm knocking on wood, crossing my fingers, and sending my resume to everyone I know.