Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Funny Story (Day 2)

Today was interesting in a couple of ways. Long, necessary yet tedious general orientation. Mostly about benefits, sexual harrassment policy, employee assitance program, etc. Also had a visit from the President and CEO of the property and restaurant. Sometime I will relate a story he shared - very inspirational.

In the afternoon we began Food and Beverage Orientation. Much more interesting and relevant overall. That's where the funny story comes in.

Let's just say that after a day and a half of sitting in a room hearing constant Human Resources speeches I was a little punchy.

We had a new trainer for the Food and Beverage (F&B) who, IMO, was a little uncertain about the group overall. She began training on "How to Approach Your Table." Of course, most people have been trained to say to the table, "Hi, I'm 'David', I will be your server today." Pretty basic stuff - unless your at the B [see the edited first posting for a reason why I am referring to my restaurant/hotel as B]. Of course, 5 star service requires 5 star language. So our trainer asked me what I should say. Again, I'm not exactly actively focussing on the discussion. I look around and see the same thing from the rest of the class. So I look at the trainer, and with a straight face say, "Yo, Yo, Yo. Wassup! You're in the PR [initials for the restaurant]!" The class erupts laughing - but the trainer just stands there with a stunned look on her face. I truly believe that for about 5 to 10 seconds she actually thought I was serious! From that point on she was completely off her game. It was great!

Anyway, that's enough for tonight. I need to study the Mobil 5 Star Rating guidelines for Front of House Servers. I think there are over 150 guidelines to learn. Have a great night!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Knowledge is Power Day 2

Restaurant Term:

Demi Chef: someone who is next incharge after the chef de partie so you are responsible for the station same as he or she is.....as far as I know....Demi loosly means half.
( I got this definition from the site Chef 2 Chef. I would appreciate if someone could respond and let me know if this is accurate.)

Mixed Drink:

Gin Highball:
  1. 1 1/2 ounce gin
  2. Ginger ale to fill
  3. Garnish with a lemon twist
Wine Term/Knowledge:

Chenin Blanc Shen-in Blonck

Usual wine style: Dry to off-dry
Intensity: Light to medium
Aromas/Flavors: Melon, nuts
Acidity: High
Texture: Crisp
Tannin: n/a
Wood: None to very light
Foods: Trout, sole, chicken, sweetbreads, nut/vegetable stew
Cooking styles: Steam, poach, saute
Principle regions: Loire Valley (France)

Cooking Term:

Risotto: Risotto is a traditional Italian dish made with a suitable variety of rice such as Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano. It is one of the most common ways of cooking rice in Italy. It originated in North Italy, specifically Eastern Piedmont, Western Lombardy, and Veneto (where the Vialone Nano comes from) where rice paddies are abundant. It is one of the pillars of Milanese cuisine.
When risotto is cooked, the rice is first cooked briefly in butter or olive oil until evenly coated and the rice starts to turn translucent, before the broth is added, one ladle at a time. There are other similar dishes, but they should not be called "risotto" if the rice is not toasted.
Recipes include "Risotto alla Milanese," made with chicken or beef stock and saffron, which is traditionally served with osso buco (a stew made from veal bones), and "Risotto al Barolo," made with red wine, but thousands of variations exist, both with vegetables and meat, as well as risottos made with various other wines, cheeses, or even fruits. "Risotto al nero di seppia" is a specialty of the Veneto region, made with cuttlefish that have been cooked with their ink-sacs intact.
Risotto has been featured as one of the most commonly ordered (and botched) appetizers on all three seasons of the reality TV show Hell's Kitchen.

[Definition found on Wikipedia]

The First Day on the Job

Today was crazy! We spent all morning hearing about the B and expectations and policies and procedures. (I compared it to getting a root canal. You know it's necessary - you just wish you could get it over with.) Then we toured the entire resort property. That took 2 1/2 hours!

I have a lot to study tonight, but I wanted to post what I found the most interesting about today. It can apply to any position that requires contact with customers - but especially to the hospitality industry.

"How To Go Above and Beyond Our Guests' Expectations:"

  1. Make eye contact, smile, and greet the guest or employee immediately.
  2. Use the guest's or employee's name.
  3. Escort guests or employees to their requested location when possible.
  4. Immediately approach a guest or employee who seems to be lost and offer assistance.
  5. Learn what is expected from your department so you can anticipate the needs of the quests and employees you service.
  6. Follow up on requests, even when it is not a duty of your department.
  7. Never says: "I don't know." Say: "I'll find out."
  8. Never appear hurried, even if you are very busy.
  9. If unable to comply with a guest's wishes, offer an alternative. Avoid negative expressions like: "That's against hotel policy." or "This is not my table."
  10. Keep The B spotless! If you see something that's out of place, pick it up!
  11. Act professional in public areas at all times. Stand erect and avoid leaning against walls or furniture.
  12. Always recommend the B's restaurants and shops to our guests, before suggesting other alternatives. (Beyond the obvious profit considerations, please note that we can only control the service our guests receive while on property.)
  13. Take "ownership" of a guest's problem. Ensure the matter is resolved and that the guest is satisfied with your solution.
  14. Respond to a guest's request within 10 minutes.
  15. Know the services the Hotel offers and the location of the banquet facilities and meeting rooms.
  16. Go the extra mile!

Adapt these to your own situation if you like.

As I toured and spoke with those in the PR and other restaurants, I thought of two keys to success as a dining professional:

  1. Anticipate and respond to your guests' needs before they realize they have them.
  2. Do whatever it takes to manage your guests' memories.

More tomorrow!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Knowledge is Power Day 1

Something that I will do daily (well, as daily as possible), is list terms, recipes and other bits of knowledge that I am learning. I will do my best to list at least one restaurant term, one mixed drink recipe, one wine term or fact and one basic cooking term, recipe or fact. If nothing else, this will serve to hold myself accountable for learning daily, and may become a source for others that find themselves in similar circumstances.

Restaurant Term:
Tasting menu ----- (French name, menu degustation) It gives customers a chance to try a larger number of chef’s creations. Menu may feature 5-6 or 10-12 individual courses serve in small portions. Change daily depending on chef choices and availability of ingredients.

Mixed Drink Recipe:
Bloody Mary Recipe - served in Highball glass
1 1/2 ounce vodka
tomato juice to 3/4 full
small splash lemon juice
dash Worcestershire sauce
dash Tobasco sauce (more for a hotter drink)
shake of salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon horesradish (optional)
garnish witha lime or (for the more ambitious and vegetably inclined) a celery stick

Shake all of these ingredients with ice, then strain into a glass filled with ice
  • ("Bloody" drinkers have diverse tastes, so you should ask if the drinker would like the drink hot, and alter accordingly with Tabasco sauce. There are about as many different recipes for Bloody Marys as there are drinkers. Some prefer gin to vodka, and any number of interesting ingredients may be added or substituted to make that perfect, customized Bloody Mary. You can experiment with clam juice, dill, basil, garlic, curry powder, or barbecue sauce. Feel free to be creative; you may be the bartender who dicovers the perfect combination! as found in Bartending 101: The Basics of Mixology, published in 2005 by St. Martin's Griffen)

Wine Terms/Knowledge:

Chardonnay Shar-don-ay

  • Usual wine style - Dry white
  • Intensity - Medium to strong
  • Aromas/Flavors - Ripe fruit, apples, melon
  • Acidity - Medium
  • Texture - Smooth, buttery
  • Tannin - Very low; usually none
  • Wood - Medium to high
  • Foods - Lobster, shrimp, scallops, salmon, swordfish, halibut, bass, chicken, turkey, squash
  • Cooking styles - Saute, gril, roast
  • Principle regions - Chablis and Cote de Beaune in Burgundy (France); southern France; Calfornia; Oregon; New York; Australia; New Zealand; South Africa

Note: Chardonnay is also often used as a blending component in the production of fine sparkling winse in placed like Champagne (France), North America, Italy, New Zealand, and Australia. Producers of these sparkling wines like to use Chardonnay grown in a cold climate because it provides the finished sparkling wine with a lemony, apple character.

Cooking Term:

Bernaise Sauce:

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 tablespoons tarragon leaves, chopped
2 shallots, minced
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup butter
salt and pepper

  1. Combine vinegar, wine, shallots and tarragon in 2-cup glass measure.
  2. Microwave, uncovered, at high for 1 to 2 minutes or until boiling.
  3. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.
  4. Strain mixture into small bowl; whisk in egg yolks.
  5. In 2-cup glass measure or similar microwaveable bowl, melt butter at medium 40 to 60 seconds.
  6. Do not boil.
  7. Whisk egg yolk mixture into butter.
  8. Microwave, uncovered, at medium 30 to 90 seconds.
  9. Whisk every 15 seconds.
  10. Cook only until mixture starts to thicken.
  11. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

That should do it for today! I will post tomorrow after my first day of work. It is suppossed to be orientation; I think we will be learning the basics about the B Hotel.

Friday, July 6, 2007

What is a Sommeiler? (And how do you pronounce it?)

Here is another term that needed definition:

som·me·lier (sŭm'əl-yā', sô'mə-lyā') n.
A restaurant employee who orders and maintains the wines sold in the restaurant and usually has extensive knowledge about wine and food pairings.

What is a "prix fixe menu?"

I've read this now in several descriptions of the PR, as well as in the book Lessons in Service from Charlie Trotter, written by Edmund Lawler. I fiqured it would be good to know what it means:

prix fixe (prē' fēks')
n., pl. prix fixes
  1. A complete meal of several courses, sometimes with choices permitted, offered by a restaurant at a fixed price.
  2. A fixed price charged for such a meal.

Actually, it makes sense.

Getting Hired

DT (let's use initials to protect the innocent): "Tell me what is in a Bloody Mary."

Me: "I don't know...I don't drink alcohol."

DT: "OK...let's move on to food. What is in Béarnaise Sauce?"

Me: "I think it's an egg based sauce. Other than that I don't know."

Followed by one of those long, awkward pauses that you never want in an interview

Me: "Let me save us both some time, DT. I'm not going to be able to answer any of those questions."

DT: "Then why I am interviewing you?" (Good question, you say!)

Me: "Because DT, I know how to take care of a customer...how to do what is in their best interest every time. You could interview someone who knows every ingredient to every cocktail, sauce and dish, but if they don't put the customer first every time it doesn't matter. You can't teach that. I don't know ingredients...but I can learn those. I know how to treat a customer."

This is how my interview with one of the finest restaurants in the United States started. "Did they hire you" you ask? Amazingly YES! I start on Monday. This blog is going to chronicle the journey that I will go through as I start an adventure as a server at the PR of the B Hotel [I found out today that I could lose my job if posting the "B" name in a blog - privacy and reputation restrictions]. If you don't know anything about the PR, here is the description from Mobil Travel Guide - The Gold Standard of Travel Ratings and Reviews:

  • Just outside CS lies the world-famous, BH, a Mobil Five-Star award winner every year the award has been given. Sitting atop B South is the sophisticated and recently renovated PR. Diners can enjoy live music and dancing Monday through Saturday nights. If dancing is not their speed, they can simply indulge in the magnificent views of CS and C Mountain or drink one of the selections from the Hotel’s 3000 bottle-plus wine collection. Under the creative direction of world-acclaimed Chef B B, patrons can enjoy sophisticated, contemporary, continental cuisine, featuring the influences of Italy, Spain, Africa and France. The menu changes often and offers prix fixe meals of three, four and seven courses. Favorite appetizers include Pistachio-laden Warm Goat Cheese Salad, Five Herbs Ravioli and Chilled Peekytoe Crab with Cherry Relish Salad. Entrée favorites feature choices of Roasted Loin of Colorado Lamb with Purple Mustard, Roasted Breast of Chicken with Wild Mushrooms and Slowly Cooked Halibut in Black Olive Oil.

Here is another article that gives you a good idea of what to expect from the PR, published in the Gazette, CS only newspaper:

  • The cappuccino machine is broken.
    It's 5:14 p.m. on the first busy night in The B's newly reopened PR restaurant, the doors are about to open, and the machine doesn't have a whiff of steam.
    "So make sure if your guests order coffee at the end of the meal," the maitre d' tells the tuxedo-clad staff, "they know we will not have cappuccino this evening."
    Minutes later, just as the servers finish spot-checking the glasses, the first guest arrives with his date and promptly orders a double cappuccino.
    "What should we do? He didn't even give me a chance to tell him," a young server named CD whispers in the foyer by the kitchen. This is his first job as a waiter.
    I guess we'll just get it for him," says the maitre d', DT.
    After years as captain of this formal dining room in the penthouse of the hotel's south tower, a demand for coffee when there is none doesn't ruffle a whisker in his perfectly trimmed mustache.
    He pulls aside one of his most trusted servers, RM, explains the situation, and without a word, M pushes through the foyer door into the clamor of the kitchen, rides the freight elevator nine stories down and walks to The B's golf club. He whips up an espresso behind the club's bar, foams the milk, sets the cup on a saucer, shoots back up the elevator, pauses to wipe a dab of foam from the saucer and take a breath, then calmly sets the hot coffee in front of the guest without giving the smallest hint of its journey.

I will chronicle everything that I learn, every screw up, and exciting event. This should be an interesting ride!