Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pg. 69: Phoebe Damrosch's "Service Included"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Phoebe Damrosch's Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter.

About the book, from the publisher:
Kitchen Confidential meets Sex and the City in this delicious, behind-the-scenes memoir from the first female captain at one of New York City's most prestigious restaurants

While Phoebe Damrosch was figuring out what to do with her life, she supported herself by working as a waiter. Before long she was a captain at the New York City four-star restaurant Per Se, the culinary creation of master chef Thomas Keller.

Service Included is the story of her experiences there: her obsession with food, her love affair with a sommelier, and her observations of the highly competitive and frenetic world of fine dining.

She also provides the following dining tips:

* Please do not ask your waiter what else he or she does.

* Please do not steal your waiter's pen.

* Please do not say you're allergic when you don't like something.

* Please do not send something back after eating most of it.

* Please do not make faces or gagging noises when hearing the specials — someone else at the table might like to order one of them.

After reading this book, diners will never sit down at a restaurant table the same way again.
Among the early praise for Service Included:
"A charming debut by a former waiter at the New York City restaurant Per Se slips in some high-end tricks of the trade. Vermont-bred foodie Damrosch was a few years out of Barnard College when she landed a job at chef Thomas Keller's Per Se. Fast-talking and prone to do her homework, in this case assiduously absorbing Keller's French Laundry Cookbook, Damrosch starts as a backserver, and her training is intensive: attending food seminars, memorizing the acreage of Central Park and learning how not to interrupt dining couples holding hands. In a few months, she's elevated to captain (a rare job for a woman), which entails navigating guests through the elaborate menus and essentially learning the subtleties of putting the guest at ease. Anticipating desire becomes Damrosch's role, as well as making sure New York Times food critic Frank Bruni has the best meal of his life. (Indeed, the place receives four stars.) She begins a romance with Andre the sommelier. Much of the latter half of this youthful, exuberant memoir is overtaken by their burgeoning affair, although the most delightful chapter, I Can Hear You, is full of vignettes of Damrosch's real-life waiting, i.e., the delivery of the Fabergé egg as a marriage proposal, and the parade of celebrities she meets along the way."
--Publishers Weekly

Well-written and fascinating...."

"[Damrosch's] story is the story of someone new to the service industry, hesitant at first, and then falling in love with every aspect of the trade. It is also the story of her falling in love with a sommelier at Per Se. As the inside story of the passion and focus required to really do the job of fulfilling the needs of a guest before they know they even have the needs. Phoebe is George Plimpton, bringing us a portrait of profession from the inside."
--Juliette Rossant

"If you love food, if you lust after a meal in a four-star restaurant, if you've wondered how the staff flawlessly serves you in fancy restaurants, read this book. Damrosch is funny, intelligent, and a great writer, and she will have you appreciating waiters, fine dining, and the whole aura of the restaurant business."
--Gayle Shanks

"Damrosch details her brief, yet remarkably fulfilling, career as a waiter and lays bare for readers the intimate workings of restaurant table service. Damrosch's ascent through the ranks at chef Thomas Keller's Midtown Manhattan's Per Se offered her a unique glimpse into high-end dining. Demystifying the hierarchy of captains, waiters, and busboys, Damrosch gives the uninitiated a crash course in those management and organizational issues that keep food streaming in perfect synchronization from kitchen to table. Although maintaining perfect service is a good restaurant's habit, success flows equally from good publicity. So Damrosch describes the frenzy produced in the kitchen by every sighting of a critic in the dining room. Without naming names, Damrosch also offers tales of overbearing, self-involved celebrities and their dining foibles. Tips on how to earn a waiter's respect (don't be a no-show; don't send back an entrée that you've nearly finished) pepper the text."

Service Included is a highly entertaining, wryly revealing, and very funny look at the emotional ups and downs behind a fine restaurant’s elaborately stage-managed appearance of grace and ease. It’s also an accurate picture of the exhausting depth of commitment necessary to making a great restaurant great.”
--Thomas McNamee, author of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse

“With Service Included, Phoebe Damrosch gets us reservations at one of New York’s finest restaurants and seats us at the best table in the house. Her passion for great food and her joy in serving it make this an experience worth savoring.”
--Debra Ginsberg, author of Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress
Read an excerpt from Service Included and visit Phoebe Damrosch's website.

The Page 69 Test: Service Included.

--Marshal Zeringue