Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A waiters rant

I’ve been reading Waiter Rant for a few years now, long before I even understood about blogs, so it’s with anticipation that I finally got my hands on a copy of his recently released book.
I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘A Waiter’s writing and witnessed my own waiters rant story the other day, perhaps it was my mood and anticipation of opening my newly purchased book, but I stopped with amusement and listened into this interesting conversation.

Waiting at the bar was a regular customer; always impeccably dressed in an old fashioned suit, complete with matching tie and pocket hankie, he sits waiting patiently, sipping his first Crown Lager for the day. Mr Old Fashioned, does old fashioned boys business, he conducts his business wrangling from the comfort of a plush restaurant, he is at this plush restaurant today and many others, many other days, I would not be surprised to learn if it was one every day of the week.
He waits patiently, flicking through the paper for his dining partner to arrive, we are friendly and jovial but he never seems interested to strike up a more personal conversation so, typically it’s only the paper that is his beer drinking companion. To be honest, we are usually too busy sipping first coffees of the day to mind.

Soon the other part of the dining duo arrives and they chat, order more drinks and eventually move in to the waiting table. As they walk through, another guest calls out and greets Mr Old Fashioned, quick introductions all round and then The Other Guest makes polite conversation that he is not at the other More Famous trattoria around the corner.
“No, I can never seem to get a table there” Mr Old Fashioned sighs
“oh” The Other Guest nods
“It’s just that they don’t have the right table, at the right time”
“Well it’s good here anyway, and have you tried the schnitzel?” The Other Guest changes the topic

I smile to myself, as I know EXACTLY what they are talking about and more importantly, why he can't get a table.
Mr Old Fashioned sits down and orders another Crown and the water glasses are removed (he doesn’t ‘do’ water).

I walk away and can’t help but openly giggle to myself, I was wondering about all of this, just the other day.
The More Famous trattoria is familiar to me, I worked there when it was hot, and Mr Old Fashioned was merely another punter. We didn’t like him because he was new and didn’t understand the rules… the tipping rules.
We did not give two hoots how often he came, (the owners did not seem too fussed either, actually) and it was in fact more painful, the more he dined. It became our responsibility to try and 'educate' him; by giving him the bad table, only at a late or early time, or just never quite being able to remember the brand of beer he liked, or perhaps remembering when they were a little warm… all sad but true.

The moral of the story is Mr Old Fashioned just doesn’t get the rules; tip or risk becoming a second priority customer. He doesn’t get it, or perhaps he does and stubbornly has moved on from the More Famous place as a result. Unfortunately, The More Famous place, had many more famous customers, so they probably have not even missed him.

I'm not sure if his 'education' will continue at the new place; experience has taught me, that these things work themselves out by the end of the week but with labour shortages in the hospitality industry, most waiters don't have this clarity from experience... he is at their mercy. So, perhaps a table by the toilet with a warmish Crown for a few months will prove the point. It’s always extremely professional, but never dream service; that’s saved for the people that do ‘get’ the rules.

Oh and before you all get parnoid; no, waiters do not spit in your food if they don't like you. Even 'A Waiter', says that is just going too far and from what I've read of his book, he does like a waiters game or two...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Wow! A night of surprises at The Good Food Guide Awards

Well, PDC and I sit here with proud smiles as I report on the excitement of The Age Good Food Guide Awards.

A few new awards and a couple of shocks...

2009 Awards
Restaurant of the Year - Attica (a fantastic result, well done!)
Best New Restaurant - Bistro Guillaume
Chef of the Year - Frank Camorra, MoVida
Young Chef of the Year - (two winners this year) Justin Wise, The Press Club and Christopher Donnellan, The Lake House
Service Excellence Award - Martin Fairhurst, The Lake House
Professional Excellence Award - Will Studd, -Cheese Campaigner (nice title!)
Outstanding Achievement Award - Con Christopoulos
Dish of the Year - Smoked trout broth, Attica (not too far removed from the pork broth that I loved there)
Country Restaurant of the Year - Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld
**Best New Country Restaurant - Tea Rooms of Yarck
**Winery Restaurant of the Year - Giant Steps (in the Yarra Valley)
Wine List of the Year - Circa, the Prince (again, congrats!)
Best Short Wine List - Ten Minutes by Tractor
**Bacchus (Don Levy Fitzpatrick) Award - Bar Lourinha
Website of the Year - Three, One, Two
Wine Service Award - Rocco Esposito, Wardens in Beechworh
**Interior Design - Giuseppe, Arnaldo and Sons (my friend was right, it is really amazing)

2008 Multiple hats of interest…
Three Hats
Jacques Reymond and Vue de Monde is back sharing the top pinnacle

Two Hats
Verge (back up again) MoVida (up from '07), Bistro Guillaume (a new entrant from across the boarder), Royal Mail Hotel (country section)

Up and Down
The Press Club - fallen a little from two hats, Chef and New Restaurant of the year in '08 to one hat... ouch

Well, I heard whispers that it was all about demotions this year, these places lost their only hat -
The Argo, Da Noi (nice dig!), Delizia Cucina, Fenix (watch for Ray next year), France Soir (ouch!), The Graham, Hotel Lincoin, Idea..., Maisonette, Maris, Middle Brighton Baths, Mirka (I told you it wasn't all that), Punch Lane (a sad loss), Shiranui

Controversy and surprises…
Taxi Dining room - did I miss it or did they lose two hats?? :O
Becco - 'The Boys' have had it good for a while, and now the playing field is levelled ;)
France Soir - hatless after such a long service to Melbourne

**New awards this year

Thoughts on the results??? Please join in...

12.30am Opps correction... Sorry to the Taxi team, as corrected by Niki, Taxi still has their two hats. Perhaps it was Shaun Micallefs speed to announce the winners or the bottle of Tuscan red in front of me, but I missed it and their hat status remains unchanged. Cheers and sorry!! Jack

Good Food Guide Awards tonight

Live streaming from The Age is just about to start.

So who wins what?

I'll be watching at home tonight and will report back with winners once the show is over.

Bon appetite...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

An addiction

Hacked open with the tiny blade from a wine knife, the treasures inside are addictive and cheap.
About 50c AUD for eight locally grown panama passionfruit in Dalat, Vietnam.
I ate them like mad before holidays as well, and combined them to make an exotic twist to My Mums Impossible Pie.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Lazy, beautiful breakfast

I can’t apologise enough to readers at home, keeping warm in what I read has been the coldest winter for some time, but I’d love to share my breakfast experience of the last five days at the Muang Kulay Pan Hotel in Koh Samui.

Lets start with the setting, just beautiful, have a look for yourself… above is the bell that you ring for service, if a smiling face is not to be seen.
Pretty little raised tables and seating. Elegant, yet simple. We were served to start, freshly squeezed orange juice from green skinned, mandarin tasting oranges, individual fruit platters and green tea for me and strong black coffee in a small thermos for PDC.

Breakfast was a choice of ‘American breakfast’ – eggs with sausage, bacon and ham, ‘Continental’ -chocolate croissant, yoghurt and more fruit or rice congee and curry dishes that we did not explore.
Eggs it was, most mornings, as I was a little scared of the croissant and yoghurt option (how good it could possibly be -I usually err on the side of some thing that I know I will enjoy, especially at breakfast), yet I should not have been afraid; the yoghurt was rich and tangy as it should be and the croissant better than some from fancy French bakeries in Melbourne.
Breakfast was also served with some grain toast wrapped in a thick linen napkin with a selection of housemade jams, the caramelised pineapple was a highlight nearly as bright as the banana, lime and palm sugar jam in Laos. PDC was so ravenous from an early run along the beach (I know, sorry!! ) to also order the banana pancakes in addition to all of this. Stretched out on a lounge, being served breakfast from fun, friendly, yet careful staff it makes it hard to leave but that was what we have done today. The staff were sad to hear that it was our last day with them, “have a safe trip and we will see you next year”, a mutal wish, but with our penchant for travel to new places, I’m not sure it will happen, but it is a nice way to bid farewell – see you next time!