Monday, September 28, 2009

604 How to Be a Jewish Waiter

604 How To Be a Jewish Waiter (With apologies to Dan Greenberg, author of "How to be a Jewish Mother.")

Jewish waiters are like Jewish mothers, in a way. They may be a little cranky, but they have your best interest at heart. Really. No, no, really! Talking here about guys in real Jewish restaurants, of course, not just people of the faith who happen to wait tables in, say, Denny's or The Bull & Bear at the Waldorf.

For anyone making the transition from a "normal" or "regular" restaurant to one of those Carnegie Deli wannabes, start with the vocabulary. While you were called a "server" (how servile that sounds!) at TGI Friday's or Chili's, you're now a waiter. That may not sound like much of a change and may be even a little old fashioned. But it's conceptually different.

A "server" is someone anticipating a career that doesn't have anything to do with serving. Server is a new age, politically correct way to identify restaurant floor help and at the same time, neutralize gender. A waiter is a pro. This is what he (or she) does, not something he aspires to do away with.

So here are some vocabulary tricks to help ease the transition from Applebee's to Katz'.

At The Regular Restaurant, you asked newly seated customers if you could "start them off" with something to drink. Now, you say "you guys wanna Dr. Brown's or coffee or a beer or somethin'?"

A New York or Yiddish accent helps, but is not (usually) a requirement.

At The Regular, if a customer asked for a recommendation, you suggested whatever dish wasn't moving well that night. Now you say "Do I look like Julia Child? You got the menu, pick something."

At The Regular, if a customer asks you how the roast chicken is, you'd enthusiastically endorse it. Now you say "Nyeh. Stay away from the chicken, it's tough and dry. You want bird? Try the turkey, but have it without the stuffing. I don't trust it."

At The Regular, when someone finished a course, you'd say "let me get that plate out of your way..." (It's tough to figure out just how the plate which held the food one just finished is "in the way." In the way of WHAT? The ping pong game you want to start in that spot? The spreadsheet you're designing on the table cloth?) Now you say "you finished with that?"

Master the "who cares" shrug. Try it in front of the mirror. No words necessary. When you practice, though, say to the mirror "who cares?"
Or "I should care?" But keep your mouth shut and your gestures obvious when dealing with the customers.

It's easy, once you get the hang of it.

Oh, one more thing: don't smile. Ever.


--The latest G-20 meeting has come and gone, ending in the usual "joint communique," which says absolutely nothing and could have been written six months in advance. Nothing ever gets done at these meetings because the real work is done by staff, not by the world leaders. Also: If they want to avoid those messy and largely meaningless demonstrations, they'll do the next one by video conference.

--Great news! Economists from the Federal Reserve and from the private sector tell us the recession is over. So how come we all still feel so poor?

--A part time census worker deep in rural Kentucky has been found lynched, hanging naked from a tree, his hands and feet duct taped and the word "Fed" scrawled in Magic Marker on his chest. Cops have narrowed the list of local suspects to those who are capable of both knowing the word "fed" and writing it. It's a short list.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

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