Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter
by Phoebe Damrosch
The subtitle is misleading: while there was one chapter that told some stories about some of the wacky customers, the focus was really on the professional (and sometimes personal) life of a high-end waiter. It’s fascinating. It’s eye-opening, nonfiction, and really makes me reassess my experiences at various restaurants. I don’t tend to go to the high-end restaurants like Per Se, where Damrosch worked, but I imagine much of the same structure is true in a watered-down fashion in other restaurants.
Also, the food descriptions are mouth-watering. Even when the descriptions were of food that I don’t generally care for, wow, I wanted to try them out because it sure sounds like this place would be doing them in a way that all people would like. I want to try these dishes! And I really want to visit Per Se to experience them.
I could have done without the sections focused on Damrosch’s adventures in dating, but it was still well written with humor and humility. I just found it somewhat soap-opera-like and an unwanted break from the intricacies of the high-end service industry. It’s possible and even likely that other readers will enjoy those sections, though.
I still don’t understand the interconnected budgets of the restaurant, the service staff, and New York living, but I assume it’s all based on the incomes of the regular clientele who apparently might spent $20,000 on dinner. (After reading this book, I looked up the Per Se website and confirmed that a regular dinner without wine is a fixed price of $310, which is within the realm of possibility if I save, in contrast to the $20K that is just not.)
Damrosch also includes tips on how to interact with service staff, most of which I already knew, and some of which I (rather embarrassingly) did not.
Anyway, this is a fabulous book and I definitely recommend it.