Mental Image?

Since my identity’s been a closely guarded secret for years, I wasn’t surprised to learn that some Waiter Rant readers, independent of reality, developed their own mental image of what I looked like. Now that my face has been plastered all over the media, however, some fans wrote to tell me that they suffered a sort of emotional dissonance between what they thought I’d look like and how I actually look. That doesn’t bother me. I’ve been doing the same thing with radio personalities for years; weaving that female newsreader’s sultry, smoke filled voice into a smoldering vision of a redheaded femme fatalism – only to discover that she really looks like The Church Lady.

Thankfully for my ego, most people said I was handsome, looked exactly how they pictured me, or diplomatically declined to offer an opinion. Several women said I was cute! A couple of women said I wasn’t cute.  And a few wags said I looked like the kind of waiter who sampled every dish I ever served. Well, I guess I do have that well fed ex-ecclesiastical look about me. The silver lining in all this? After seeing that “waiter who ate Cleveland” picture of myself in People Magazine, I’ve made a resolution to get back on that treadmill! At least my cardiologist will be happy.

But what really shocked me were the fantasy images some people had conjured up about me. A few readers told me they were disappointed that I didn’t look like Adrian Brody! What do you say to that? I’m just me! But do you know the most common mental picture readers had about me?

That’s right! People thought I’d look like Anton Ego – the cartoon food critic from Ratatouille! “I’m not arrogant. I’m just drawn that way!” An animated character? Me?  You guys are watching way too much anime!

That’s all for today. I’ll try posting another story soon. It’s been a very crazy and fun couple of weeks. Lots of newspaper, radio, and TV interviews! Here’s a recent Q&A I did with Time.com and another with the LA Times.

I’d also like to thank everyone for the lovely messages of support they’ve sent me and the nice things they’ve said about my book! I appreciate it! Spread the word!


Comments

Mental Image? — 91 Comments

  1. Waiter! I did not picture you like the cartoon character, but remember the guy from the TV show, “The Restaurant”, kind of long haired, olive skinned, toothpick skinny? I thought for sure that you were him for a long time. I was pleasantly surprised and I can see you now in my mind giving the 1000 yard waiter stare! Have fun! Don’t worry about what others say, its what you think that makes the difference! As always, your fan, BIG SEXY!

  2. I pictured you as a 40 ish’ thin man with a well groomed van dyke and a receding hairline. Handsome and stylish with a “rapier” wit.

  3. lol people are a bit odd at how they picture other’s in their head :o ) I had a relatively accurate picture of you in my head foregoing some of the details of course. I think you gave much of yourself away in your postings if people were paying attention :o ) Anyhow, Great work! I am very glad its finally starting to pay off for you! I will miss your introspection on waiting tables though. Ciao!

  4. I’ve been a loyal reader and big fan of your work for several years, Steve, but I have to admit I was a little disappointed to read that in your interview with Time.com, you thought that kitchen staff should not be allowed to take a cut of your tips. Maybe you shared this point of view on Waiter Rant somewhere and I missed it, but I’m quite surprised that you feel this way.

    I’ve been on both sides of the line: I waited tables for 7 years and I’m currently a cook at a high-end restaurant in a sizable city, and I’ll say without a doubt that the kitchen works just as hard to put out the food that customers are enjoying and tipping servers for. There is no doubt in my mind that the kitchen plays a major part in how good your tips are. It should go without saying that if the food is bad, the tip is likely to be worse than usual. But if the food is incredible, you know the tip is likely to be better.

    In the interview you said, “[The tip is] not only for the waiter. When you stiff the waiter, you also punish people who may have had nothing to do with your having a bad experience.” It goes the other way as well–when you tip well, it’s reflective of your entire experience.

    I’m not saying I deserve half of a server’s tips. Though I was a very good server, there’s a reason I don’t work in the front of house any longer. It’s a rough job, and servers deserve to be tipped well when they’re good. But servers should acknowledge that part of the responsibility for making a good experience goes to the back of house as well.

    Maybe I’m spoiled because I work in one of those rare places where the FOH and BOH get along fabulously, but the fact that we get tipped out certainly motivates me to do a better, faster job for the servers. Maybe I’m not as cynical; I’m still fairly young, and I have plenty of time to turn to the dark side ;) .

  5. I did a bit of a double-take when I saw your picture – I hadn’t pictured a specific face or body like some people but I think I just expected you to be older. There was a certain amount of wisdom that came through in your posts, and I associated that with greater age. There’s a compliment in there somewhere.

  6. I thought in my head that you always wore a trenchcoat and looked like an older Humphrey Bogart. I think it’s because of the insights you offer into yourself and others which are so piercing and yet so factual as to almost be cynical. But you look so boyish in your picture; it did really surprise me!

  7. Got a kick out of the description of you as an older “Joey” from “Frends!”. I’ll admit that I had pictured you differently than your photo’s showed, but once I saw you, it was like, “that’s him”. To me you look like a therapist or social worker, which you could easily be. Very kind, was my first thought about your appearance. (And cute.)You look easy to talk to.

  8. No way do you look like Anton Ego – nor did I ever picture you looking like that. You look remarkably like the mental image I had, although your hair was a bit darker. Maybe in the photo, it was just the flash?

  9. Dear Waiter,
    I pictured you looking like a younger version of Hugh Laurie from House. It was your description of the “thousand yard stare” that gave me that image. Sometimes I pictured a Brendan Fraser you, which is much closer to your photo, but your hair on top looks much shorter.
    Congratulations on everything!

  10. Waiter, You look kind of like I had pictured, actually!

    I think you are cute & cuddly looking. I like that type of guy! (hey back off, I’m married…to a cute & cuddly guy!) ;-)

  11. The big reveal must be hard, especially when you realise people have an expectation about how you’ll look baded on nothing more than what you’ve written about.

    Hell, I’m guilty of it too. I think I had your general stature right, but I got the head all wrong. I figured you’d be balding and I guess with more of a Hugh Laurie look to you. Anyway sometimes it’s nice to be wrong. I realise reading that back how silly it sounds.

    Anyway you’re quite the handsome lad! Plus you’ve taght me to always be very wary of how I treat my servers. I’m sure there are a lot of waiters out there who owe you a great deal of thanks!

  12. I don’t know why, you did after all say that you had been told you looked like Elton John, or so I recall it from somewhere, but I saw you as about 5’9″, longer, darker hair, perhaps in a ponytail, and dark eyes. I expected you to look more New York, instead you look more Iowa.

  13. Well Waiter, you don’t look like my mental image. BUT. I prefer your actual self to the butler-esque upper crust kind of dude I was picturing.

    Do a book signing in Seattle please! I would love a real life demonstration of the thousand yard stare!

  14. My biggest disappointment after the entire overkill of the David Beckham invasion was actually hearing him speak! I never have the sound on for either the Internet or television unless I have to on select occasions. So two weeks ago I was at a home with the tv blaring during dinner and a commercial with Beckham came on. OMG-what a woosie voice. Sadly, its voices I remember most. People can be average looking but if they have an incredible voice, I will remember them. Not for a good reason with Beckham.

  15. WOW… all i can say is WOW. I remember stumbling across waiter rant a few years ago thanks to your wine tasting post. Since then i have been a longtime reader, and LOVER of your blog.

    When i heard you were writing a book i was intreaged. I NEVER thought that you would get into the NYT bestseller lists, or get this much media attention. I am truely happy for you, and you deserve everything!

    Your storys always cheer me up, and make me a slightly better person when eating out. Although i am young (19) i always tip at least 20% in america, and i’d say i tip pretty well where i live in the UK aswell.

    All i can say is, well done, and if you are ever in Scotland, or hell even England, hit me up… i think i owe you a few corona’s for all teh years of entertainment! Here’s to annother few years :D

    Cheers!

  16. DAHAHAHA! I can’t say you match what I thought you looked like, but I can say that I can definitely imagine the 1000 yard stare, even from your smiling mug.

  17. You certainly were a lot younger than i thought you were. it is hard because it’s like reading a book– you develop a mental image. You are different from the mental image, but I can understand why you decided to reveal your identity.

    And your hair is not at all how I pictured, but I did picture you wearing glasses. I wish I could’ve had you as a waiter.

  18. You were about what I pictured and I’m one of the chicks that thinks you’re cute.

    Enjoy everything – you deserve it. I’ve loved your blog for many years and am hoping to have you autograph my copy at a future book signing.

  19. Well, in my head I would have cast you as this version of Josh Duhamel:
    http://tinyurl.com/66hf6k

    But the “real” you is someone I would definitely have been happy to greet me at any bistro, and I too am thrilled about all this well-earned success. A good writer gets his dues — at long last! Please do publicize your book signing travels. I’d love to see you in the SF CA Bay Area :-)

  20. You’re not far off from what I imagined, and I think it’s pretty cute. I find it more disconcerting knowing your name, for some reason. I’ll still just think of you as “Waiter”, if you don’t mind.

  21. Dear Waiter,
    I’m a waitress in a restaurant in new jersey and I heard about your book through one of my tables. I am currently reading it and I have to say THANK YOU. I love every line of it I have read. It brings comfort to me to know that I’m not the only one in the world with horrible clients and great stories to tell for the ages. Please write another book someway somehow. Even if it is your most boring stories please do. By reading your book and going through some rough times in the past year I’ve finally pushed myself to go back to school in the fall. Although I will still be working as a waitress in the mean time, your book brings me comfort in my job. I discovered your website with your writings as well and again please keep on writing!

  22. wow… reading this blog for over a year then seeing all these interviews come out… so weird! i didn’t even know i’d stumbled on a real live book writer! I feel like I just participated in something.

    your interviews are great. incredibly fun to read and lucid. great work, Waiter.

    are you going to start making stuff up?

    echo the friends comment.

  23. Hi — I read the Time interview, and i want to clear you up on the “women don’t tip as well” myth. Women tip differently than men: women tend to tip strictly on how good the service was. Men tip more on how much they want to impress the people around them. Because many waiters believe that women don’t tip well, they give them worse service, thus producing a self-fulfilling prophecy. (It used to be that women simply had less money than men. Not that women’s salaries are anywhere near men’s yet, but at least women tend to have their own money now….)

  24. Who cares what you look like? You can write a damn good book/blog and thats all that matters! Congratulations on all your success, I look forward to future books!

  25. Will be buying the book.. You have provided so much entertainment how could I not!?

    Congrats on all your success.. You so deserve it :)

    Amy

  26. i have been a fan for a couple of years now, and just wanted to give you a great big “congratulations”. for what it’s worth, my visual image may have been different, but the decorous way you have handled your success is exactly in line with what i would expect given your past entries.

  27. That’s hilarious; I’ve never seen Ratatouille, but that character still looks exactly like my mental image of Waiter.

  28. I admit that as a lot of your other readers I pictured you as a sort of a Chandleresque character, darkish, jaded, mildly threatening, brooding etc. Definitely not the young, smiling and cute guy you turned out to be. I’ll have to reread all your posts with your real image in mind!
    Anyway, I’m really happy for you and I hope you’re having fun and smile a lot! Congratulations and best wishes

  29. Hey Waiter. I finally got over and picked up a copy of your book and am looking forward to reading it. Being a long time fan of your blog, I decided to spring for the book (which I rarely do). You should be honored. ;)

    Glad to hear that you are having fun with the publicity. Of all of the horror stories you have told us in the past, you certainly deserve some fun times.

  30. LOL!

    Well, I have to say that I pictured you more like that Anton, too – but then realised that I was fully aware of your former life for the Church, and you look EXACTLY as I’d image if I only knew that much about you!

    I suppose that balances out perfectly. Hope you’re planning on a UK booksigning tour at some point?

  31. I had personal web site quite some years ago, long before blogs existed, and I shared much of my life there. The one thing I didn’t have was a photo because I’m a shy, self-conscious, and average looking on a good day, guy.

    I got SO many emails with questions and comments and compliments from women that it really stroked my ego, so after a couple years I finally put a photo up. It didn’t do me justice, but it wasn’t far off. I NEVER got another email from a woman duing the entire time that photo was up and for several months after I took it down. Sigh… talk about a blow to your self confidence.

    Anyway, I had an image of you as a younger, slightly less dark, version of Alton Ego and was admittedly miffed when you didn’t fit that image. I’m still here to read though and to comment now and then, because you’re still the same Waiter and your writing rocks.

  32. I saw you on in an article (I think it was the NY Daily news) pouring Metamucil in a saucepan. I almost peed my pants laughing. Although I pictured you younger (and, oddly with black hair), you strike me as a guy who’s a lot of fun to be around.

  33. I think you have this trustworthy look and seem friendly and approachable, Waiter. I always thought you’d be this skinny, baby-faced guy with wavy dirty blonde hair. That was my impression of you…

  34. I had you pictured as more of a hardened New Yorker type (if that makes sense – you know, rush rush rush, rude, don’t slow down to say hello or smile, will run you down on the sidewalk) and after hearing a radio interview you did awhile back, I really imagined you as such! In reality you have a much kinder face than I’d imagined.

    And before I totally offend any New Yorkers reading this, after visiting the Big Apple last fall, I realized the New Yorker stereotype is really unfair. I met some of the nicest people ever in NYC – friendly, helpful and kind. There’s all types everywhere :)

  35. Congrats, Waiter! I bought your book and I’ve been saving it for a road trip I’m taking tomorrow, so excited to read it! I’m also happy to say that my local library ordered several copies of your book.

    PS: LOL, I also imagined you as Adrian Brody! But don’t worry because I think you’re still way cute as your real self.

  36. Well, Anton Ego turned out to be decent in the end, didn’t he? Like another of his fictional brothers Severus Snape. But from your blog, you always seemed too personable to really be like either of them.

    It’s true, though, I wasn’t expecting to see someone so sweet-faced as you actually are…

  37. Don’t you dare let any negative feedback pick away at your self-esteem! There’s not much that could be more beautiful than the inspiration you’ve given me. Thanks, so much.

  38. I knew my mental picture of you was wrong.

    For many years I went to a certain restaurant and always requested the same server. He is who I saw in my mind’s eye when reading your words. I now see “you”. Good waiters are every where (in my experience), but memorable waiters, I can only name three or four.

  39. You are obviously mistaken. There is no such thing as “too much anime.”

    There is “too much bad anime,” but not too much good anime, or even anime in general.

  40. Ha! I secretly suspected that you were, in fact, one of my husband’s cynical and witty co-workers who is now working as a stand-up comedian!

    So…. I thought you were Jason. Late 30′s, around 5’9″, reddish hair (before you pre-empted mother nature and shaved the whole lot off!). If any of your book signings take you to Atlanta, stop by the Punchline comedy club and tell him hello!

  41. I agree with Suzanne, screw anyone who tries to bring you down with negative feedback. If they had half your success, they wouldn’t dare open their mouths.

    I’d definitely tap that too :p

  42. Hello Ex-Waiter!
    I had hoped that what you looked like would be something between disgusting and an R. Crumb drawing of a “loser,” with flies flying around him. (But classy.) That’s because in this world people’s first impressions seem to be judged by a person’s looks. But we Waiter groupies (yeh!) already knew that you were beautiful just from your blog.
    Your book was great! Wowie zowie, NY Times best sellers list, ho boy!!! Unreal, no?
    And since the book was NOT like your blog, perhaps you could have your next book be short stories of your blogs.
    Yes, of course I’d love to see the 1000 yard stare! But if you show it we’ll all try to copy it and then it would somehow lose some of its power.

  43. I just finished the book last night. EXCELLENT read. I really enjoyed it. But now that the Bistro has also been outed, have you heard anything from “Fluvio” regarding how he was portrayed in the book. It was a lot harsher than your blog, imo. Not that he didn’t deserve it, especially after the way he reacted to your reduction in hours. I’d love to know how his business is doing since the Bistro was outed as well.

    And I have to say, I was SO amused by the story of the one person who figured out who you were. Classic!

    Great job.

  44. I had pictured you as a combination of Matthew Broderick/ an older John Krasinski. Glad we “know” the real you now! And those women are correct, you are cute!

  45. A little older looking, a little thinner, greyish hair, distinguished features, serious but not snooty – that’s how I pictured you. I haven’t seen you on television but from your picture I really have a hard time imagining you giving any kind of serious waiter stare. I hope to get the book soon, but I wonder what’s next? Do you have a secret blog elsewhere called Writer Rant?

  46. You look more or less like I imagined. Or at least I wasn’t suprised. Not like when I saw a picture of Carl Kastle.(sp?) You have a look that I could go for, too bad you are a little over a decade too young for me.

  47. You have always been a mental image of a combination of my favorite waiters. Turns out you look nothing like them, but I still picture you that way when I read your stuff. That’s probably pretty weird, but I’m okay with that.

    And should you ever decide to wait tables again, hopefully you’ll let us know where. I’m sure a ton of us would love to come out and request you as a waiter. Just imagine the tips! lol

  48. Waiter, I kind of always pictured you as a very noirish character, maybe a little bit Bogart-like but not exactly. I have to say, I found your actual picture a surpise…a pleasant surprise. Somehow, you look the way you should.

  49. “I always pictured Waiter as Clive Owen.”

    This! Exactly this! I couldn’t place who I had in my head, but with American hair.

    Whenever I read WellDoneFillet I see Manuel as Dara O’Brian.

  50. Came across your book in Waterstones in East Kilbride, 2 copies tucked away in the corner shelf for the new releases.

    Exposure here in Scotland, and probably the UK, for your book has not been so great I am afraid. The Amazon UK site displays the US version and lists same as #97 in the humour listings.

    A great shame as your book is an excellent read.

    Thank you for sharing those moments, you have a wonderful gift.

  51. Well, you DO look cute!

    But I can’t picture you doing the thousand-yard stare. You just look too friendly. Not saying you look like a doormat, but I just can’t picture you quelling children and subduing yuppies with a single, well-timed, pointed gaze.

    Still cute though ;) You shouldn’t have played yourself down in all those blog posts.

  52. I love the piece in Bloomberg by their restaurant critic. My favorite picture of you is the NY Post picture, which is really cute. If I weren’t way too old for you (about as much older as you are to waitress Beth in your book), and married, I’d be thinking about how to cross paths….

    Keep up the great work!

  53. Zayrina,

    Do I know you? You obviously don’t know me. No life? I am retired at 58 living in my (paid off in full)home on the beach in southern California. My wife and I have been to almost 100 countries, earned master degrees and have 100% lifetime medical/dental insurance
    with no premiums or co-payments. We
    both have ample reciprocal pensions.

    a far cry from the waiter’s pathetic lifestyle.
    no career, no insurance, no pension, etc.
    Zayrina, is your life pathetic like the
    waiter’s?

    by the way, my wife describes the waiter as
    replusive both in appearance and attitude.

  54. Actually, I always thought you’d look like a slightly overweight Adrien Brody too. But now I think you look like a cheerful Rainn Wilson (Aka Dwight Schrute). Heck who cares, I’m so glad you’re finally getting the cred you deserve for your writing. I’m happy like it was a cousin who’s on the NYT list. Felicitaciones desde Venezuela!

  55. Hey Waiter, it IS interesting to hear what other people thought you might look like! And not to offend but I thought you might look a bit younger (we’re the same age). But then again, I realized I ALWAYS think I look younger than I do until someone takes a picture of me! Now that I do know what you look like I place the “real” you in my mind when I read your posts! It’s a good fit. :)

  56. Wow! Is it really you??? Barry & I are very impressed….we are loving the book also. It would be great to hear from you.

  57. gdj — You sound very unhappy. If you and your wife both dislike Waiter, why are you here? Is someone forcing you to be here? Perhaps you should go to the beach or the doctor?

  58. Yeah gdj, you write your grad little, and doubtless fictional biography, but the reality of your life shines through.

    What you really are is just another Internet troll who tries to build himself up by attempting to drag other’s down.

    Is it damp down in your mother’s basement?

  59. I’M HONORED TO SAY I KNOW THE AUTHOR OF THIS GREAT AND HONEST BOOK. I HAVE EATEN IN APPROX 200 UPPER CLASS RESTAURANTS AND AT TIMES THE PITS AND MUST SAY THIS FINE AUTHOR WAS ONE OF THE TOP TWO WAITERS THAT HAVE SERVED MY WIFE AND ME. MOST IMPORTANTLY I CALLED HIM A FRIEND. GOOD LUCK TO YOU!

  60. Seriously gdj, you are a douchebag.
    Nobody likes you and you are pathetic (and so is your wife).

    That being said, good job Waiter, I enjoy every new post you make in your blog.

    And congratulations for your new book! I’m looking forward read it.

  61. I’ve never seen Ratatouille but from the cartoon drawing you have provided, Anton Ego looks exactly like Will Self! Certainly never pictured you looking like Will Self…

    Congrats again on your book!

  62. I think I commented about ” thinking you looked like Adrian Brody” and no, I was not disappointed that you didn’t look like him –more like relieved that you didn’t. Not to suck up or anything, you look better! Its nice to see you posting more often, ! rats..I almost called you “waiter”, Steve. Ha.

  63. gdj you sound exactly like the arsehole customers that this blog is about. Perhaps you recognised yourself and your botoxed wife. That could be why you sound so put out at someone’s success story. Get a real life gdj

  64. It’s funny, I had a definite image of your appearance in my mind, but was positive it was way off the mark. Imagine my surprise when, with the exception of some facial proportions, I was pretty close to the mark. Though you aren’t nearly as angry as I imagined :P

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