Thursday, May 31, 2012

when the thrill is gone

I overheard someone explain to their friend how she compared the faded excitement of her year old job to falling in love only to have the sizzle die.  We've all been there.  However I, for one, am tired of people telling me when things should be rocking as opposed to rolling away or vice versa.  Why does the initial start of anything resort to a day-to-day regime that insinuates the thrill is gone? Why must that be?

Although I was never a daddy's girl, if there's something to be said about my relationship with my father is we are very much alike and we understand each other's artistic side.  He'd tell my mom things about me that he was always able to read and I'd jump back in shock of its validity.  Is it because I show my colors through or because I don't hide behind the lines?  As I remembered a dear friend today, I was reminded of how much I'd go out of my way for her, she whom I lost at a very young age.  She was compassionate beyond reason and she still, to this day, leaves an impression on me whenever I think of the way we should love and not deconstruct.

Don't give up on the grand finale.  Sure, the excitement of "brand new" dies (this is not meant to sound dramatic), but it can coincide with other great things that surface.  I relay this to my love for wine and its existence in its ever-growing community.  I never bore from it.  Every time I learn something new, or watch the look on a guest's face when they are trying a grape variety for the first time, or figure out the difference between day bright and starlight when blind tasting in a room with minimal natural light, or pick up slate over clay or chalk in its nose, or being able to pin point the vintage by its hue and the maturity of its flavor profile.  I get off on this shit and that is why this thrill is not gone for me.  It's called passion.  Once you have it, you can apply it wherever you choose and so desire and that magic you crave will never die.  This is truth.  Make that choice to live for each moment unconditionally and don't ever look back with regret.  It will only age you.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Could you please rewind that?

I began serving 13 years ago for a catering company up north as a second job to raise some extra cash.  Catering is a whole different ball game, but for what it's worth, I am thankful for having this prior experience before joining the restaurant ranks.  It taught me to hustle and keep quiet.  When you do catering, you don't talk much with the guests as you would in a restaurant environment and you move like your life depends on it.  This was a valuable lesson obtained because once I switched to one-on-one service, I learned how to hone the skill that makes a true server:  humble hospitality. I take serving very seriously.  I talk to my guests about food and wine like it lives within me.  I'm not saying I know everything because I don't, but as a server you are learning every minute you cover your station.  When dining out, I often think about the way the server had done this or that and I constantly use those experiences to improve my game.

Here's the deal.  I dread reading food reviews because so much focus is either lost or overplayed on the service aspect.  Just recently, there had been coverage on particular restaurants that actually did the latter - it offered rough criticism on the service.  And every time I read such reviews, I want to jump into that very moment, change the entire ambiance and ask them to "please rewind that" and give me a chance to prove you wrong.

The first time I was a part of a review was less than six years ago and I was nervous as hell.  It was rumored the critic would show up and I was picked by the executive chef to wait on her and I honestly felt he chose the wrong person.  But I stayed focused and went over all the details with the sous chef running the line and he assured me I would be fine.  I took a deep breathe and dived in and I never looked back. The review was a great success.  I can't recall the actual wording used to describe the service aspect, but it did exert positive feedback.  I was very happy with the results and since then, I made a pact to myself to strive to labor those experiences with great passion.

The truth is, every experience will always be different.  If a concept of a restaurant is one that fares differently than the norm, that should most definitely be taken into account.  The review I read recently mentioned something to the effect of the server setting up camp, well maybe this was true, but when the idea behind the theme is completely different (aka the road less traveled), servers will over prepare instead of neglect.  I feel I have a good sense of when to observe, when to chat and when to walk away.  I owe many thanks to my Sociology degree for teaching me the mechanics of human form and how to interpret the personality of each individual.  And that is the true secret to serving, knowing how to read your guest.  It is power and anyone who wants to make the service experience one the guest will never forget, you must master the art of social interaction.

Here is my final message to food critics, "be a fan, but don't pick sides" - each restaurant is its own creation.  I work with very passionate people, both front of the house and in the kitchen.  They don't mess around.  They show up because they love what they do and they do what they do with heart.  It's not easy to work the kitchen.  I'll be the first to admit it.  That's why my role as a server must counteract with their labor of love that is born amidst kitchen space of high heat indexes.  The guest doesn't get to hear what the line cook has to say, so the server must indirectly speak for them. They must show them the way.  The beauty of serving is having the ability of creating a two hour experience that showcases the efforts of the executive chef, kitchen staff and the restaurant theme as a whole.  I would like to invite anyone who's had a miss experience anywhere to come see me and show you how I roll.  After all, as my Twitter bio reads:  love food and wine, serving such, then devouring it myself.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

anger is served

I heeded a lot of advice this past year from breaking up with myself, letting go of disappointments and expecting less.  Each one born from an experience, a time and a place.  I won't repeat myself, but I have floated through reprises most recently that brought about a lot of anger.  A few weeks ago I saw someone, I thought a friend, for who they really were.  It blew me away, but in hindsight I believe this entire year prepared me for this because instead of crying, I became angry.  I felt my heart harden again and forced a smile on my face because I knew deep down inside it would make me stronger.  Then just yesterday, I heard from a common friend that an industry peer spoke bad words about me behind my back.  Right then, I wanted to land my fist on her face, but internally I knew my manners would make the best of me and I turned the other cheek.

For now.

I went to the movies the other day and watched the Avengers.  I was in awe of Bruce Banner's character.  I am not a comic book fan, but I watched the Incredible Hulk often as a child.  My favorite line in the movie was when Bruce replies to Captain America, "That's my secret, I'm always angry."  The timing of my seeing this movie and the most recent events in my life are not coincident, as I am a true believer of everything happens for a reason.  We may not want to admit it, but we need to get angry.  It's a healthy way of letting off steam.  Remember yourself as a child, how you never held back, how if you felt strongly about something, you didn't thinking twice before you said anything.  As a result, you didn't feel stress, your health didn't deteriorate and the next day you felt great.  Well, ladies and gentlemen, I want to feel great again.  Admit it, you do too.

The Incredible Hulk gets stronger the angrier he gets.  Granted, it's a fictional character, but one we must regard in times of need.  These days, there's lots of things I'm angry about.  Yet when I repress my feelings, I don't accomplish anything.  This produces a hidden box inside of me that grows and in turn, is never healed.  But if I take that box out and release my emotions, I am doing a greater service to myself.  It's not to say that I may never make someone or something a victim of anger, but don't be afraid to admit you're mad because you're the only one who defends you.  You're your own hero and if you never unleash your hero then life's not worth fighting or living for, is it?

I'll get back to the supposed colleague, and I'll have chosen words that will definitely make her reposition what she speaks of in the future.  I won't turn green or start throwing punches, but I'll serve her my anger and believe me when I'm won't be coming back to the kitchen.