David Binz: Restaurant Work Requires Talent, Dedication

I have to agree with 95% of the article (Empty Kitchens, April 3) and thank you for bringing this to the attention of the non-industry folks known as diners.  My experience is both front of the house and back.  I’ve line cooked, prep cooked, bartended, bussed and waited tables, sometimes all at the same establishment, sometimes in the same week.  So my perspective is different.  I concur with everything Mr. Hale highlights, but I think people so often forget the talents required for front of the house work and how the opportunities exist for back of the house to transition. 

I’ve known more than a few dishwashers and prep cooks, who after a period of demonstrated dedication to their jobs, been given the opportunity to begin at the bottom of the dining room ladder.  This can be as simple as working at a pizza joint, when moving from dishes to busser, begins a persons ascent to one of those finer dining jobs.  Of course it requires learning, dedication and the ability to remember everything (which is where 90% of the service population fails).
The difference between a good server and a bad server is the dedication to your guest’s happiness and the organizational skills to keep things moving.  How many times I’d love to see some higher-than-mighty chef, keep six tables of demanding or drunk or cranky diners, filled up, topped up, cleaned up, while serving the proper course in the proper order to the proper person, again times six tables, while smiling and making small talk the whole way.  It’s not so easy when you list it out and that’s why there are so many bad servers.
I am fortunate to live in LA where the dining scene is new every day, but service is more geared towards head shots than cranial contents.  When I find a good server, I visit them often and leave extra extra % for them.  I used to be in thier shoes and feel it’s my civic duty to support the competent service staff of LA, hoping that it will spread, just a little bit.
Back to my main point, I personally know many people that went from kitchen wages (by the way a steady paycheck is reliable – where the dining public is not) to tipping.  Like every business in existence, there is a ladder to climb and whether you choose to climb towards sous chef or maitre d’, there is a choice and a path for those who have the moxy to step up.
David M Binz
Los Angeles

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