Are stories about waiters suddenly hip? I must’ve not gotten the memo.
Imagine my surprise when I opened up the New York Times this morning to read that their vaunted food critic, Frank Bruni, stepped down from his critical perch, strapped on an apron, and indulged in some participatory journalism by working as a waiter in a busy Boston eatery for a week.
At first I was annoyed. This is my gig Frank! You stay on your side of the table and I’ll stay on mine. But, I have to admit, his first line made me smile.
“It’s 7:45 p.m., the East Coast Grill is going full tilt and I’m ready to throttle one of the six diners at Table M-8.”
Oh Frank, I feel your pain. I really do.
I read on, intrigued how a food critic, who can make or break a NYC restaurant with a single article, handled the slings and arrows of outrageous customers. I mean I’ve been talking about this stuff, in detail, for years. I was gratified to read he suffered the arrogant indifference of customers first hand. When a patron starts blabbing to his companions while Frank recites the specials, the author writes, “Does he mistake me for a recorded message, paused and played with the push of a button? Doesn’t he know I have other tables to serve?” And I especially loved when he noticed how a fussy woman, falsely claiming to have a sugar allergy, was drinking sparkling wine. Ah, George Plimpton would have been proud of you my friend.
The waiters at the eatery, the East Coast Grill, also served up some wry observations. My favorite was when Tina, one of the servers Frank shadowed, gave her take on difficult to please customers.
“Some people are interested in having the experience of being disappointed.” Truer words were never spoken.
Personally I’d liked to have seen Frank work in a less than optimal environment. The East Coast Grill sounds like a good place to work. I wonder what kind of article it would’ve been if he worked under a tyrannical owner, dealt with seedy managers demanding bribes for shifts, and navigated a cohort of coke crazed nymphomaniac servers. It might have been more a horror story than a fish out of water story.
All in all, Frank seems to have acquitted himself nicely. Good for him. I’m glad he wrote the article. I enjoyed it immensely.
But turnabout is fair play. If Frank gets to play in my end of the pool it’s only fair I get to play in his.
I extend an offer to Frank and the New York Times. Let me play food critic for a week. I’ll follow Frank around, see how he does his job, and then, under his guidance, review a restaurant for publication in your newspaper. (And Frank, don’t worry about your anonymity, I don’t want anyone to know what I look like either.)
So how about it? Seems like a fair trade. And I promise I won’t get drunk with power. (Well, maybe just a little.)
You have my email address.
I await your response.