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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

The Waiter Chronicles: Drup Rep Dinner

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Ristorante and Bar has a private dining room that can accommodate up to 30 people. Often, pharmaceutical companies will host dinners there for local doctors, doctors they are hoping to coerce into prescribing their companies drugs. There's nothing like free food and wine to sway a doctor.

I've worked a few of these now, and the benefits are obvious. First, since it's bound to be a large party, the gratuity is built in at about 18%. Second, since the representative from the drug company is paying, doctors have no squabble about ordering the most expensive wines and entrees on the menu, driving up the bill and, therefore, the tip. The other night a party of 12 doctors and four drug reps rang up $1500 (I knew we were in good shape when one of the doctors asked for a bottle of "the best Cabernet you have"--$99).

But a waiter earns this impressive tip. Aside from the routine stress that attends large parties, these parties bring with them their own unique challenges. For one, there is the challenge of maintaining a charitable view of human nature as you watch people--doctors, no less!--grab for as much free stuff as they can get. It's not uncommon to have one of the doctors, after finishing her $15 appetizer, $30 entree, $10 dessert, and $20 worth of wine, order a Filet Mignon from the kitchen--to go.

Here my background as a Presbyterian minister comes to the rescue. One of the "essential tenets" of Presbyterian theology and polity is a recognition of the human tendency toward "tyranny and idolatry"; uber-wealthy doctors are no different.

Also, these will be among the most demanding diners you will service. Not only with they order obscure cocktails by the tray-load, but they will also ask for more bread. And more bread. And more bread. When it comes time to order, they will rarely order something exactly as it's described in the menu. Instead, some customizing is always in order: "can I get that with mushrooms instead of shrimp? Tell the chef to leave off the pepper. Oh, and add some anchovies to that."

Or leave them off. The other night a gentleman ordered a Caesar Salad with the acknowledgment that he's a vegetarian. But when I brought the salad, topped with two anchovies, he looked at them like they were earthworms. "What is that?" he asked me, pointing to the two small fish like he was terrified to touch them.

"Oh, those are anchovies," I answered.

"I'm a vegetarian"

I knew that. I offered to bring him something else. He didn't want that. I offered to take the anchovies off. There he waffled and looked conflicted, and as he looked around the room for some sympathy, I quickly took his fork and scraped the two anchovies onto his side plate and scooped that plate up. Then I moved on.

He didn't touch the salad.

Finally, there is the specter, for me, of carrying plates and refilling waters while overhearing a big-idea conversation carried on by people who have advanced educations. I'm no doctor (though my wife is), but I used to have those big-idea conversations, buttressed by own advanced degree, although never in a setting like that. Indeed, the greatest difficulty in waiting on a group like this is the desire to be a part of it, to sit around a common table with colleagues and share ideas and challenges. My colleagues would not, I assure you, demand constant baskets of bread.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:48 AM

4 Comments:

My colleagues would not, I assure you, demand constant baskets of bread.

I don't know what plan you're on, but when my prayer refers to "daily bread" it comes in the all-you-can-eat packaging.
I do recall many refills of breadsticks at the OG...not to mention the salad refills!
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 9:02 PM  
These people's daily bread costs a helluva lot more than the OG's.

I'm the waiter though. I bring the bread.
commented by Blogger Not Prince Hamlet, 10:16 PM  
You could forget the bread down in Westport. BBQ chikcen, baby!
commented by Blogger Scott, 8:04 AM  

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