San Francisco—June 5 , 2007
Some in the restaurant business know what they are doing. Others do not. Now I don't want to say who doesn't, but it is interesting to peruse craigslist.org to see who feels in need of help.
For instance, I see that Michael Mina needs bus people. Their add reads, " He/She must have a minimum of 2 years experience as a bus person in a fine dining restaurant. Must have excellent communication and customer service skills."
Wow! Would such a person ever move up to waiter or waitress? Doubtful. Anyway, MM lists a fax number to send your resume to for consideration.
MM is also "accepting applications for a full-time lead bartender." Here I don't know why only two years of experience is required for the lead bartender. Maybe that is a reflection of how MM regards the bar. I once ordered a drink there, and the bartender wipped out a can of Dole's pineapple juice and poured it straight into the mix. Doesn't the concept of fresh ingredients apply in the bar as well as the kitchen? Once again the candidates must have "excellent communication and customer service skills." Seems reasonable except it would be nice if he or she were a person too. Ever got a drink from someone with "excellent communication and customer service skills." Probably not a great drink, probably not much of a conversation.
Take Dave over at Le Central. He probably wouldn't qualify. But he is an excellent bartender; he is a fun guy to chat with and makes great drinks.
I see that Jeanty Jack's is also looking for some help: both an executive and sous chefs. What does that mean? Well, I can guess. The kitchen staff walked out? And who's in there now doing what? Should I wait to go in until the new chef and his/her helper is in place? And how will I know? Send my resume and wait for a reply stating that the position has been filled?
I can tell you about a meal I had there awhile back that may indicate that the problem has been going on for some time. It was like this. The waiter was a charming fellow and was experienced, but his experience was at some other restaurant. At the first glitch he let us know that he was brand new at Jeanty, which should have been our exit signal. Because everything that could go wrong did. But the worst thing, since I don't want to waste your time, is this: The main course arrived about when dessert should have. I don't know the problem, though I suspect that the waiter did not know how to place the order with the POS (know that term? dread it! means Point of Sale) terminal. We had our cocktails, we had our bread, we had our wine, we even somehow had at least one appetizer, but the food? Where was it? Now in a situation like this, it is my inclination to exercise patience. No matter how you look at it you are going to be putting out a lot of dough. Might as well make the best of it and enjoy yourself.
Well, you maintain that attitude for awhile. But then your stomach turns against you. "Damn," it says, "I want my dinner. What, just what, is going on here?" Now I'm a pretty patient person but the irritation was beginning to bubble up. Other tables that had come in after us seemed to have their main courses. More French bead is arriving by the minute at our table but that is not exactly what we want. Finally my daughter-in-law from Brazil blurts it out as the waiter comes by: "WHERE IS THE FOOD?" She too is a reasonably patient person, but it is the hungry child that comes out in her. It is her stomach speaking, really. Or the collective stomach of the table: "WHERE THE HELL IS OUR FOOD, YOU IDIOT!"
"I was beginning to wonder that myself," says our waiter and heads for the kitchen.
A half hour later it shows up. But of course this is a botched dinner that costs me around $400. Am I a happy customer? No, of course not. Do I say so? No, I don't. But I probably should have. Do I tip? Yes, but I probably should not have. Are we offered an explanation for this? No. Seems like something should have been said, and maybe a reduction in the bill should have been offered. But mood is at play here. You are still trying to maintain a bit of your mood, maybe still trying to save face with your fellow diners. But let's be blunt: You are paying a lot of money to be screwed. If I want to get screwed, I can think of a lot of free ways to do it.
Now is the this a one-time thing at the restaurant? Think about it. Right, probably not. Oh, the restaurant would probably like you to think so. But no, they have probably done this to others. Maybe a whole lot of others. So in addition to an executive chef and a sous chef, I hope Jeanty comes up with some trained wait staff too. The restaurant is largely frequented by the elderly but the food is good, the conception is grand, the bar is a gem, and the building is historical and fantastic, so why do they want to ruin a good thing? Don't know. Some people just hate success.
Now I see also that Bix's is looking for a line chef. The add claims this is an "excellent opportunity to work with Chef Bruce Hill in San Francisco's premiere supper club." Not completely untrue here. Bix's may be a bit stuffy but they don't screw up. Old San Francisco did not believe in screwing up at supper time, nor does Bix's. Which may be the reason that Bix's is packed at supper time. They also have another thing going for them: pianist Don Asher playing on Sundays.
Stanley's Steamers is advertising for hot-dog vendors in Union Square, paying $9.50 per hour and claiming that tips come to $25-$50 per day. But now that is not fine food in San Francisco, so we will skip over Stanley's Steamers. However, if we are really down and out ...
Burt Children's Center is also looking for a head cook and cook's assistant. But we will skip Burt's too.
Magnolia in the Height is looking for "experienced line cooks." Now that is an interesting place. Magnolia is also a brewery. They make some fine ones. But do you know the history of this place? Fascinating. Magnolia Thunderpussy was the original owner back in the sixties. She specialized in making obscene deserts. You can read about it here. Magnolia was last famous for stopping logging trucks up in Mendocino back in the days before Mendocino cut down all the logs and closed the big mill at Fort Bragg. How did she do it? She stripped off her close and the trucks stopped. The great Thunderpussy died a few years ago.
Boulevard claims it "needs a good cook." Jeez, I thought they aspired to higher things than that. Just "a good cook?" Why not a great cook? Of if not a great one, then go the other way. Advertise for a "pretty good cook?" Isn't pretty good good enough, anyway? Know Boulevard? I wanted to shoot a photo there one day for a free listing in a restaurant guide. The manager said I couldn't do it without contacting the PR person for Boulevard. I said that would take too much time; I was shooting photos of dozens of places that day. No one had objected yet. So I tell you this: I don't want to see an advertisement for just a "good cook" for a high-class place like this that is too good to photograph without special permission. I want see an add for the the best damn cook in the city, or The City, even if they still don't have a photo in the restaurant guide.
Contrast this to the treatment by Lorenzo Petroni when I went over to North Beach Restaurant to get some information about his place. "Sure. You hungry.? I get you something. Let's sit down over here where we can talk." Two hours later, both stuffed with food, stories, and the information I wanted, I was on my way. There is a good way to do things and a bad. Some know how, others don't. Saluto, Lorenzo!
But moving on, I see Bar Crudo is seeking an experienced line chef and is putting it bluntly to would-be applicants: "No Whiners please!" Has it been that bad there on Bush Street next to the Tunnel Top bar above Green Door Ecstasy Massage on Stockton? Why not just take 'em around the corner and into the alley there were Brigid O'Shaughnessy is supposed to have shot Dan Archer in the Maltese Falcon and work 'em over. Then see if they complain about hard work and long hours?