Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Restaurant Life

It occurred to me that I have been working at this restaurant for three months now and have written very little about the goings on of my work life. I want to change that, and will make an effort to tell you more about the entertaining bits of waiting tables in New Zealand.

First off, about my restaurant: It was opened in 2000 by a Michelin-rated chef and his wife. He is from England, and got his start, along with Hell's Kitchen star Gordon Ramsay at one of London's (and the world's) top restaurants. The restaurant is one of the top places to dine in Wellington (take, for example, that my boss received hundreds of calls looking for a Valentine's Day table yesterday).

The restaurant is in a former police station, and is on two floors, with the bar, lounge and private dining room on the bottom floor. It can get quite busy on the weekends (which includes Thursday)...serving more than 100 people in a relatively small restaurant. The waiters are forced to be pretty self-sufficient. There are no bussers or anything of that sort. It's hard work, but lots of fun.

Being "assistant manager" essentially means that I am the duty manager on Sundays and Mondays when the owners and manager take their days off. I work from open to close (on Monday that means a 12-hour, break-less shift...whew).

Some interesting facts/observations:

--In New Zealand, "entrees" are starters or appetizers. What Americans call Entrees are known simply as "mains."
--The majority of Kiwis do not tip. They are very cheap.
--Three-course dinners are quite common (starters, mains, desserts/coffees). Nearly all patrons have three courses. I can't remember the last time I had a three-course meal.
--Yes, head chefs do act like Gordon Ramsay (the fuck this, fuck that, throwing things attitude).

Despite some rough, thankless patches during the holidays, I'm quite happy that I ended up in Wellington and with this job. It's a great CV builder and huge learning experience.

And now for my next test...Valentine's Day. We have 100 booked, mostly tables of two. We have at least one engagement set to occur in the restaurant tonight. It's going to be total insanity. I'll give you the scoop tomorrow.

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