If Anthony Bourdain gave us an insight into the restaurant kitchen with Kitchen Confidential, then Steve Dublanica has done the same for the waitstaff in this book: a longtime professional waiter at an upscale restaurant in Manhattan, Dublanica wrote a blog for years about the ins and outs of being a waiter, eventually turning it into this book.
Perhaps fueled by his attempt to remain anonymous — he wrote under the pseudonym “The Waiter” after all — it’s a brutally honest book. Dublanica doesn’t mince words about bad owners, crappy working conditions, and, most of all, the customers. He’s full of stories, from the working conditions of his first place — the owner was an overbearing jerk, the manager was corrupt, the working conditions horrid — to the customers at The Bistro, the eatery where Dublanica was headwaiter for six years. These are the most entertaining stories: from the sweet, to the famous (the ones about Russell Crowe are priceless), to the inane, to the outright obscene, Dublanica doesn’t spare anything or anyone. Perhaps I’m just sheltered (or perhaps Dublanica’s exaggerating), but it’s amazing what goes on at, and what people really expect from, restaurants.
It’s not just the dish on the crazy bad lifestyle of a waiter or the weird and cheap and rude customers, though: it’s also a reflective piece about a man who, while he is good at what he does, is coming to terms with the fact that being a waiter is not the world’s best long-term career. Unfortunately, these sections feel more forced, and are ultimately less interesting; perhaps our expectations when reading books like these are only for the dirt, so we can feel superior. Anything otherwise can be a letdown. Then again, Dublanica did get his degree in psychology, so maybe a large helping of self-reflection was inevitable, even if it didn’t quite fit in with the snarkiness of the rest of the book. The other quibble — something else that doesn’t quite fit — is his use of language: every once in a while he throws in a word (like “sybaritic” — really?) that just made me do a double take. These words feel out of place, almost as if Dublanica is trying to make the book more upscale, and it just doesn’t work.
Even with the defects, though, the book is quite an enjoyable read. And, I promise, it’ll make you rethink the way you treat your waitstaff.
Rated: High, for language: there isn’t one he doesn’t use many, many times; drug use: by others, mostly off screen; and lots and lots of inappropriate actions in a restaurant. (In the bathroom? Really?? Ew.)