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Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter Paperback – October 7, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
During her year working at Per Se, Damrosch memorized the life stories of the ingredients in every dish in the restaurant, became well-versed on the architecture visible from the restaurant's windows, and learned to anticipate the needs of her guests before the guests themselves voiced them. She worked eight to ten hour shifts on her feet, juggling the needs of her tables and the whims of her guests while appearing calm and composed. She was one of the only female captains the elite circle of NYC 4-star restaurants.
Service Included is a secret window into the world of ultra-high-end hospitality, and a foodie's delight. It is not, however, an "eavesdropping" tale. Damrosch would have done well to title her memoir more accurately, because it stands on its own as a glimpse inside an unusual and elite profession. Her memoir is also unique among restaurant confessionals, because she's reporting from the front of the house, not the kitchen. The allows her to provide the reader reservations at the best seat in the house for their vicarious experience at Per Se.
Service Included suffers from a lack of clear direction. For the most part, it is a "year inside a restaurant," with a twist of romance, but in one strange passage, the author launches into a diatribe against "gun-toting, pro-life, pro-death, gas-guzzling, warmongering, monolingual, homophobic, wiretapped, Bible-thumping, genetic-engineering, stem-cell-harboring, abstinent creationist" fans of President Bush. This occurs out of context in the middle of an otherwise excellent passage about the family connections among a restaurant's wait staff, and never again does Damrosch discuss politics at length.
The cynical reader might even suspect that Damrosh selected "a year in high-end hospitality" as her first professional writing exercise. She certainly joined and left the industry as if it were an experiment, a chapter in her life accomplished. With fodder for her first book deal, Damrosch submitted her resignation and walked away from her restaurant reputation.
The food descriptions were good, but the relationship with the sommalier was truly tedious to read about.
I love books about the restaurant industry, but I would advise skipping this one. The one question she never answered was how she managed to pay the student loans her pricey education must have incurred, while meandering from job to job. Yes, I know Per Se probably pays well, but Brooklyn barista jobs do not.
I also would have liked a little more information on how Keller's new policy of paying the servers a straight hourly wage rather than tips worked out. Was she the only one who left? This is a huge issue for servers (and the people who tip them),yet she barely addressed it other than to say it was instituted. The author may have thought we were more interested in her personal relationships. I, for one, was not.