“[Ginsberg's] poignant, gently written stories of waitressing are metaphors for life.” —Dallas Morning News
A veteran waitress dishes up a spicy and robust account of life as it really exists behind kitchen doors.
Part memoir, part social commentary, part guide to how to behave when dining out, Debra Ginsberg's book takes readers on her twenty-year journey as a waitress at a soap-operatic Italian restaurant, an exclusive five-star dining club, the dingiest of diners, and more. While chronicling her evolution as a writer, Ginsberg takes a behind-the-scenes look at restaurant life—revealing that yes, when pushed, a server will spit in food, and, no, that's not really decaf you're getting—and how most people in this business are in a constant state of waiting to do something else.
Colorful, insightful, and often irreverent, Ginsberg's stories truly capture the spirit of the universal things she's learned about human nature, interpersonal relationships, the frightening things that go on in the kitchen, romantic hopes dashed and rebuilt, and all of the frustrating and funny moments in this life. Waiting is for everyone who has had to wait for their life to begin—only to realize, suddenly, that they're living it.
Ginsberg has spent nearly 20 years, more on than off, as a waitress, developing a love/hate relationship with a career most of her college-educated peers see either as a way station or a pink-collar province. Though neither a fully ripe memoir nor a truly spicy dish on the food biz (for that, see Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential; Forecasts, April 24), her collection of anecdotes, covering subjects from her father's luncheonette to fancy restaurants, conveys the unpredictability and humanity of this humble but essential work. Ginsberg sketches co-workers, both lively and burnt out, and her inspired and irresponsible bosses. A good view of the "parallel mating dances of staff and patrons" is one perk of her perch; she posits that the risk-taking, gregarious types who work for tips foster mutual attractions. In the "feudal pyramid" of the waitstaff, busboys are at the bottom and managers at the top, but waitresses must keep both happy to make sure things run smoothly and that tips ensue. Some scenes are wild: as a cocktail waitress during manic "Buck Night," she saw patrons drink the potent (and free) "Bar Mat," made up of bar spillage. Readers might pick up some pointers: bad-tipping regulars will suffer subtle server sabotage; customers who harangue staff for decaf might end up with regular. Ginsberg's more personal segments, which can be aimless, portray an intelligent single mom, fiercely committed to her son, with worries about her potential as a writer and her future. She quits waitressing only to return a year later, concluding that "the act of waiting itself is an active one" and that there is beauty and simplicity in the small acts of her work.
Quick, easy read. I read it in two days. I have to say however, it was a waste of my time. I only read it for lack of something else.
Seems like Ms. Ginsberg was trying entirely too hard to make an otherwise unglamorous occupation seem exciting. She was desperate to have 'gained' some sense of self or confidence out of 'just being a waitress'.
As a career waitress myself, I can say that there were a few moments of the book that held my interest. I was hoping for more examples of her experience in specific situations, some funny stories. Instead the entire book was about what she learned (BORING!) and why she stayed with it as long as she did (actually not long at all!). She talks at one point about how 'burnt-out' she was upon realizing she'd been at the same restaurant for...5 years! *Gasp* Sorry, for us career waitresses, 5 years is nothing!!
That being said, I think the people who would find this book most interesting are those with no experience in the restaurant industry. Unfortunately, I just don't think those people would pick it up in the first place.