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餐饮职业新潮流:端盘子

更新时间:2014-1-16 20:36:01 来源:华尔街日报中文网 作者:佚名

Waiting Tables In Fine Restaurants Is Foodies' New Calling
餐饮职业新潮流:端盘子

It only took eight years and a bachelor's degree, but Leah Beach has finally stopped hearing her least-favorite question: What do you really plan to do for a living?

Ms. Beach is already doing it, as a server at restaurant L20 in Chicago. She meticulously assembles and arranges place settings for the restaurant's 14-course $210 tasting menu. She learns about foods and dishes like velvet crab, matsutake mushrooms and craquelin bread and curates it all into engaging talking points for each new party of guests. 'I'm not just listing off a series of ingredients,' says Ms. Beach, 31, who moved to Chicago from Minneapolis in 2011 to pursue her food career. 'I'm telling them a bit of a story.'

Far from biding time before the next acting audition, many of the newest generation of servers at the nation's top restaurants are waiting tables as a way to hone their chops for a career in restaurant management. They are coming out of top culinary and Ivy League schools, and they consider themselves professionals. To get a foot in the door at legendary establishments, many food-obsessed 20-somethings are busing tables.

High-end restaurants are boosting their service game as prices rise up over $100 for a fine meal and guests become more demanding. A sharp wait staff establishes trust before the food arrives. Josiah Citrin, chef owner of Melisse, a Santa Monica, Calif., French restaurant that offers a $125 prix fixe dinner, only wants to hire servers with a professional track record. 'When waiting tables, there's no chance to fix the error' Mr. Citrin says. 'It's not like in the kitchen.'

The kitchen has been the customary entry point for the restaurant industry, with culinary and hospitality grads launching their careers in jobs as prep cooks or line cooks. But recently, ambitious grads are realizing they can earn more money working in the dining room.

Head waiters at top-tier restaurants can earn from $80,000 to as much as $150,000 a year including tips, according to industry executives. In comparison, a line cook might earn as little as $35,000 to $45,000 a year while working longer hours. The nation's highest-rated restaurants, including Per Se, Le Bernardin and Eleven Madison Park in New York and Alinea in Chicago, hire as few as 10% of the individuals applying for waitstaff jobs.

At the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., 20% of graduates from two- and four-year programs go into 'front of the house' positions in the dining room, which also include maitre d's, bartenders and sommeliers, compared with 5% roughly 15 years ago, says Jennifer Purcell, an associate dean overseeing the hospitality and service curriculum. In the past six years, the Culinary Institute has added customer-focused courses, including one on brewed beverages and one on advanced serving. This year, 350 students completed the course work, she says.

Customer expectations of servers are high. Waiters are expected to be at ease and in command of a wide range of facts and skills. In a 16-course dinner at Eleven Madison Park, a single plate might have 15 ingredients and five preparations, says co-owner Will Guidara. Menus change seasonally. Servers are expected to have accurate answers to specific questions about food allergens, the type of sea salt in a particular dish or the origin of the duck. Service of one dessert, a seasonal cheesecake with chocolate, requires the server to perform a card trick.

When they are at the top of their game, servers help create a sense of enthusiasm. 'As a guest, the more passion you feel for the people serving you the food, the more delicious the food,' Mr. Guidara says.

Details count. For a tasting-menu meal, which can take more than three hours, servers introduce dishes at precisely timed intervals. Before the dinner service, servers polish silverware, light candles, smooth tablecloths, arrange wine glasses and box up after-dinner cookies and other take-home treats.

During development of a new dish or beverage, they may weigh in on the type of knife or wine glass to be used. And they give a final inspection to dishes on their way out of the kitchen. At Eleven Madison, the counter where dishes are passed from kitchen to server is covered in a white tablecloth so the wait staff can see the plate exactly how the guest will see it.

Many of the servers at Eleven Madison are recent grads of the Culinary Institute, Cornell, University of Pennsylvania and Harvard. To attract young talent, Mr. Guidara says, the restaurant cultivates a teaching atmosphere, with events such as a weekly 'happy hour' course on cocktails and wine often taught by experienced servers on staff. 'It's hard for us to keep our staff from coming in three or four hours early,' he adds. 'They are not just here for a job; they give themselves fully.'

Several servers who have moved from Eleven Madison Park to more casual restaurants have instituted a similarly professional atmosphere, he adds. A networking group called the Dining Room Collaborative began in New York in 2013 to foster education and a sense of professionalism among wait staff at fine-dining establishments. The idea is to make server 'a sexy dining-room job,' says Anthony Rudolf, the group's co-founder and former general manager at Per Se, in New York.

Celia Erickson, a 24-year-old server at Eleven Madison, has an undergraduate degree in hospitality from Cornell University and completed a yearlong wine and beverage program at the Culinary Institute of America (where her father is provost). When starting at Eleven Madison Park last summer, she shadowed kitchen staff as part of her training and had an entry-level server role. She says she has gained insight into managing a top restaurant. 'My first two months, it was really hard for me. I spent five years in school and now I was waiting tables,' she says.

'It's almost better if the guests don't notice you,' says Chris Humberson, a 23-year-old graduate of the Culinary Institute and a server at Daniel in New York. Mr. Humberson says while in school he realized he didn't want to be a chef. Few guests in a contemporary French restaurant realize how much training it takes to be a server or even bus tables. 'We are definitely viewed as less skilled in the eyes of the [guest],' he says. 'And you have to be OK with that.'

只花了八年时间和一个学士学位,但利亚·比奇(Leah Beach)终于不再听到她最不喜欢的那个问题了:你以后到底打算以什么为生?

比奇已经在行动了,她在芝加哥的L20餐厅做服务员。她细心地为餐厅一个价格为210美元、包含14道菜的试吃菜单组合和摆放餐具。她学习天鹅绒蟹、松茸蘑菇和朱古力面包等菜肴,并且把这些知识组织成与顾客的谈资。31岁的比奇说:“我并不只是简单地列出食材成分,而是给他们讲故事。”比奇2011年从明尼阿波利斯搬到芝加哥以追求自己的餐饮事业。

全美顶级餐厅的最新一代侍应生中,很多人都把伺候用餐当作磨练技巧的途径,谋求将餐饮管理作为职业,而不是为了争取更多时间为下次表演试镜做准备。他们从顶级烹饪和常春藤学校出来,并且自认是专业人士。为了进入传奇式顶级餐厅,很多痴迷于餐饮业的20多岁年轻人都在端盘子。

高档餐厅一顿精美大餐的价格已经超过100美元,客人也越来越挑剔,因此它们开始在服务质量上下功夫。一个聪明伶俐的服务员能在上菜之前与客人建立信任。乔赛亚·西特林(Josiah Citrin)是加州 莫妮卡(Santa Monica)法国餐厅Melisse的主厨兼老板。这家餐厅提供一份125美元的晚餐套餐。西特林只想雇佣有专业工作记录的服务生。他说:“为客人服务的时候,没有弥补错误的机会,这和在厨房里不一样。”

厨房向来都是进入餐饮业的起点,从烹饪和酒店管理专业毕业的学生都是从初级厨师或帮厨做起的。但最近,雄心勃勃的毕业生们意识到,他们在餐厅里工作可以赚更多钱。

据行业高管称,顶级餐厅的领班每年包括小费在内可以赚8万到15万美元。相比之下,帮厨每年只能赚3.5到4.5万美元,而且工作时间更长。申请包括Per Se、Le Bernardin、纽约Eleven Madison Park和芝加哥Alinea在内的最高级餐厅服务生工作的求职者中,只有10%的人能应聘上。

在纽约州海德公园村美国厨艺学院(Culinary Institute of America),负责酒店和服务专业课程表的副院长詹妮弗·珀塞尔(Jennifer Purcell)说,两年制和四年制项目的毕业生中20%都做了餐厅里的“前厅”职位,包括领班、酒吧侍应生和侍酒师,15年前左右只有5%。过去六年里,美国厨艺学院已经增加了以服务顾客为主的课程,包括一门酿制饮料的课程和一门高级服务的课程。她说,今年有350名学生完成了课业。

客人对服务员的期望很高。服务员需要有亲和力,要掌握大量知识和技巧。Eleven Madison Park店主之一威尔·圭达拉(Will Guidara)说,在餐厅一款16道菜的晚餐套餐中,一道菜就可能有15种材料和五种做法。菜单每个季节都会变。服务员需要对客人提出的具体问题做出准确回答,比如食物过敏原、某道菜里的海盐种类,还有鸭子的来源地。上应季巧克力芝士蛋糕时要求服务员表演纸牌戏法。

服务员表现好有助于营造出一种热情。圭达拉说:“作为客人,从为你上菜的服务员身上感受到的热情越多,菜就越好吃。”

细节很关键。吃一顿试吃菜单的套餐要花三个小时以上,服务员会在固定的时间间隙向客人介绍菜肴。晚餐服务之前,服务员要擦拭银器,点蜡烛,熨烫桌布,摆放葡萄酒杯,装好晚餐后的曲奇及其他带走的餐点。

开发新菜肴或饮品时,服务员可以对应该用哪种刀或酒杯发表意见。他们还会在菜从厨房端出来后做最后检查。在Eleven Madison,从厨房传菜到服务员的柜台铺了一个白色桌布,这样服务员就能以客人的视角看到菜肴。

Eleven Madison的很多服务员都刚从美国厨艺学院、康奈尔(Cornell)、宾夕法尼亚大学(University of Pennsylvania)和哈佛(Harvard)毕业。圭达拉说,为了吸引年轻人才,餐厅营造出了一种教学的氛围,经常举办活动,比如每周会有资深服务员给员工传授鸡尾酒和葡萄酒的知识,称之为“快乐时光”课程。他说:“我们很难控制员工不要提前三四个小时来店里。他们来这里不仅仅是工作,他们是全身心投入。”

他说,有些服务员从Eleven Madison Park跳槽到了更休闲的餐厅,他们也营造出了类似的专业氛围。2013年,一个名叫Dining Room Collaborative的社交团体在纽约成立,以促进高档餐厅服务员的教育水平和专业素养。该团体联合创始人及纽约Per Se餐厅前总经理安东尼·鲁道夫(Anthony Rudolf)说,理念在于让服务员“成为一个迷人的餐厅职业”。

24岁的西莉亚·埃里克森(Celia Erickson)是Eleven Madison的一名服务员,她持有康奈尔大学酒店管理的学士学位,并且在美国厨艺学院(她的父亲是院长)完成了一年制的葡萄酒和饮料培训项目。去年夏天开始在Eleven Madison Park工作后,她开始在厨房里帮忙,作为培训的一部分,后来担任初级服务员的工作。她说她获得了管理一家顶级餐厅的心得。她说:“前两个月真的很难熬。我在学校上了五年学,现在却在端盘子。”

23岁的克里斯·安贝尔森(Chris Humberson)毕业于美国厨艺学院,现在在纽约Daniel餐厅做服务员。他说:“客人不注意你的时候会好些。”他说,在学校的时候他意识到自己不想做厨师。在当代法国餐厅,很少有客人会意识到做服务员甚至端盘子需要大量培训。他说:“在客人眼里,我们肯定被认为是没什么技术含量的。你得接受这一点。”

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