What the heck does that mean?

All about working as a waiter, pursuing my dream, eating vegetarian, and loving where I live!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hypocrisy: Vegetarian Selling Veal

It's bothered me many times at work. Peddling meat. But that's my job, even if I don't believe in eating meat as a personal choice, I'm still going to sell it to others. When I was looking for a serving job, I tried to find one at a vegan or vegetarian friendly restaurant...but most of those places are so small, that there's hardly ever any openings, and even if there is, I probably couldn't make much money at those places or have a flexible schedule. I tried one of the bigger veggie places, a chain called Real Food Daily... but they weren't hiring or at least they weren't hiring me. So.... I sell meat.

I figure that working at an Italian restaurant is at least better than working at a steak house, which I could certainly never do. I've never tasted 85% of our dishes, but I know the ingredients and their flavor profiles and I ask my co-workers what they think of every dish. So even though I don't eat meat, I know what to recommend. And I certainly recommend vegetarian dishes whenever it makes sense.

But I still feel guilty about it.

And I never feel more guilty than when I sell veal (which, by the way, I never suggest). Even one of our chefs isn't comfortable with veal and says that he tries to avoid eating it whenever he can. Surprisingly, there are a lot of people who don't even know what veal is...usually they're under the age of 30.

INNOCENT GUEST: Excuse me, um... but what is veal?

Now I'm wondering if I'll get in trouble or offend them if I tell them what it really is... Baby cow that's been trapped in a cage and not allowed to move. Apparently ours is fed "real" food and not a 100% milk diet which is supposed to be better for the calf?
ME: It's a type of beef?
INNOCENT GUEST: So, it's like, a different cut?
ME: Ummmm... no. It's a calf.
ME: A very, very young cow. 
INNOCENT GUEST: Oh. Does it taste better?
ME: (cringing) Um... I don't really eat it. Um... It's a very thin cut, so it's supposedly more tender. 

The other day, a girl ordered her boyfriend the Veal Chop for his birthday. It's an 18 oz, giant slab of baby cow with the bone still in. I can't think of anything more upsetting or disgusting. They were very excited about it because he had never had veal before and apparently it "melted in your mouth." Again, I had to feign enthusiasm so as not to be rude. Most servers would be thrilled that someone orders the Veal Chop because it's the most expensive dish on the menu.

The other day, an older gentleman and I had the following exchange.

OLD GUY: Ooooo... I'll have the picatta.
ME: Chicken picatta?
OLD GUY: No, veal picatta. Baby cow! Moooooo! Yum.

I did not crack a smile. He assumed I would find this amusing. He was NOT amused that I ignored his remark and moved on to his friend's order. What else could I do? It's my job.

So that's it. My confession. I'm a big vegetarian hypocrite who would someday like to make money by NOT selling meat.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Tim Gunn, please love me!

I adore Tim Gunn.

Tim Gunn has been promoting his new book around Los Angeles and I KEEP MISSING HIM! I check his Facebook page too late and miss out on his random appearances. A few days ago he was in Santa Monica at the Borders. Missed it. And a few days before that, he was filming at CBS for Craig Ferguson. And guess where I was????? Working NEXT DOOR! I was a mere football field's distance from Tim Gunn and I did not see him.

Tim Gunn, don't you like Italian food? We can be very vegetarian friendly! I know you're into PETA and all that and SO AM I!!!! However, had I actually waited on Tim Gunn, I probably would have fallen to pieces.

...Like the time Eric Idle came in and I kept getting his songs stuck in my head and was whistling in the kitchen and then became paranoid that I would whistle by his table. It's a good thing I wasn't his server because I probably would have said something idiotic.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Post Cold Recovery Part 2

More vegetarian noms today! Hooray! This past week I really, really spoiled myself. I don't think anyone needs even ONE cupcake a week, but sometimes I can cram 3 or more into fewer than seven days. Let's call it a special talent.

Not too far from my place, in Franklin Village, near the UCB theatre, there is an amazing little place called Locali. It's a tiny health food convenience store and deli. I LOVE it.

You can get tons of gluten-free, vegan, free range, organic goodness there. They carry special dietary items or green household products. It's one of the only places where I can find vegan marshmallows at a decent price, and that's what I was craving when I went there. But of course, I couldn't resist. I had to get a Veggie Reuben. Being the German Midwestern girl that I am, I adore sauerkraut and I really do get cravings for delicious messy Reubens. Locali's is THE BEST.

I'm proud of my little camera phone!

Even my LP loved this. He doesn't eat pork or beef, but he thought this was better than most turkey reuben options. Locali didn't end up having any marshmallows in stock, so I'll have to check back sometime soon (perfect excuse!)... but I was able to get this vegan, gluten-free S'MORE cupcake!

It wasn't the best gluten-free cupcake I've ever had. Lark (see previous post) does a flour-less chocolate cupcake that's incredible. It tasted more like a muffin, and I didn't really get much of a S'MORE flavor, but the marshmallow-y topping was scrumptious.

And that's why I LOVE L.A. because I have such a variety of amazing places to try and so many option available to me. I'm a lucky vegetarian.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Post-Cold Recovery

I am a big baby about being sick. HUGE. I stomp around the apartment all day in my pajamas and over-sized bathrobe, demand that my life partner buy me giant cartons of no pulp, low acid orange juice, and I SULK. Big baby. Luckily, I don't get sick very often and this last cold lasted a very, very short time. Even still, I decided to milk it, and spent the past week being lazy (and not writing, obviously) and treating myself to over-priced vegetarian goodies! Hooray!

While I was just getting over my cold, I took a trip to Sunset Junction for a pick me up. The photo on the right is the view from where I parked. I live really close to this area, and if I'd been feeling better, I probably would have biked.

First, I decided to visit Flore Vegan Cafe. Flore Vegan is a super small cafe. If you like people watching and can stand some traffic exhaust, I recommend sitting outside. But the inside is cozy and funky. Like if your Goodwill loving grandmother decided to decorate a vegan restaurant. I've been here with vegan friends before and everything is usually pretty tasty and not too expensive.

I got a big fat Veggie Club with potato salad and a Fresh Ginger Ale. The tempeh "bacon" they used was especially good, but the drink was my favorite part. It had a strong ginger flavor with a lot of kick and it even eased my crushing sinus pressure headache! The ginger ale made me feel SO much better that I decided to reward myself with some cupcakes.   Yes. That IS how my mind works.

I went to Lark Cake Shop, which is my FAVORITE place for cupcakes in Los Angeles. Yes, even more than Sprinkles, which is good, but overrated. I got a vegan Chocolate Orange cupcake. Even though I'm not vegan, this is still one of my favorites. I also tried the Coffee Cake cupcake for the first time. It was tasty, but was pretty much just like coffee cake in cupcake form. I don't know why I was expecting anything different. I wish my photo did it justice. But just look at the gorgeous chocolate frosting! It looks like a rose!

Tune in tomorrow for more tasty treats! I really spoiled myself this past week!

Friday, September 10, 2010

COLD-- a haiku

I hate being sick.
Ugh-- have to work tomorrow.
Sniffles make me sad.

The End.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Write Up #4

Fuck my life and fuck that guy.

Tonight I received Write Up #4. Written Documentation of an Incident. Luckily, "written documentation" at my restaurant has become somewhat of a joke.

WRITE UP #1: I overslept for a shift. I called the minute I woke up and vehemently apologized. I was told that they weren't that busy and would be fine without me. Don't worry about it. The next day I received a write up because it was "so busy." I was informed later that it was "so busy" that all the servers were put to work filling out sign-ups for our company e-mail newsletter.

WRITE UP #2: I received a negative score for an online survey. Apparently, a table complained that my service was slow even though we weren't busy. There weren't any details given to me about this table and I have no idea of the circumstances surrounding this table. Curiously, there were a lot of problems with the computers crashing/acting funny at this time...no idea if that was the case on this day. I didn't even know how to defend myself.

WRITE UP #3: This one was completely ridiculous. They did a write up for almost EVERY SINGLE SERVER because we had all stopped filling out the tip out report sheet. Why? It had long ago been moved from the area where we dropped our check out/money for the house to a random location where we always forgot. The management hadn't been bringing up that this was important or warned that write ups would follow. It came out of nowhere. I began to realize that write ups didn't have much significance.


I was a closer. When I already had a party of 11 and a party of 8 and two other tables...we just got sat with two more tables and I was told that a specific table had requested me. I went over, did my thing...people got wine and drinks...got their salads/soup out quickly, cleared it, entrees went down perfectly. They commented specifically that everything was perfect (which NEVER happens for them!). I had my manager run out some A1 sauce/dressing for them. Everything still seemed great. They got another bottle of wine (for which I even got a decanter the first time) and round 2 drinks. Somewhere after this, I guess they lacked some water at some point and one of the guys decided to get a drink for himself at the bar. Later on he got another drink for himself while I was standing there AT THE TABLE. I assumed he had a reason for doing this. Like...he's an alcoholic (drink 4 btw). Boxed up food, brought them their free pastas (it's a special/promotion thing), cleared the table.... Check had been dropped earlier.

Now keep in mind that all this time I've got 5 bajillion other things to do and am freaking busy as hell. But I think they're cool. They joke around. They're having a great time. Swell!

Turns out the guy who is a regular and requested me complained to the manager that I provided them with THE WORST SERVICE EVER. Because they ran out of water and his buddy had to get his third and fourth drink from the bar. I couldn't believe this. Everything had seemed fine. I thought he must have been joking. I checked the money they left. Twenty bucks on $239.00 and he told the host stand specifically that his "tip reflected the service."

I was so completely aghast that I said, fine, I'm saying something since a few of them were still hanging out in the bar:

ME: I'm sorry folks. I heard that you were unhappy with my service tonight. I apologize.
NICE LADY: Oh, no! Everything was GREAT! It's just that we stepped away from the table and someone cleared away our wine and we still had two full glasses left.
ME: I heard about that. I'm sorry. Sal got you some more wine, right? He took care of you?
NICE LADY: He did. Thank you. Yes, everything else was great.
ASSHOLE: Actually, no. You know, we never had enough water. We were thirsty. And "Brian" had to get his own drinks from the bar.
ME: Yes, I'm sorry about that. I understand. I was very busy, end of the evening and all, and I tried to bring water as often as a I could. I'm sorry that it wasn't up to par...but I was very busy and did the best that I could. I understand that you said that your "tip reflected the service?"
ME: Okay. great. Once again, sorry about that. Have a great night. See you soon!

Apparently, he made a "Wow, that was awkward" face after I walked away.

And my manager witnessed all of this.

And that's why I got a write up. Because you NEVER confront a guest.


I hope now that he'll NEVER request me again. I remember that guy. He didn't tip well even when the service was "great." Even the hostess told my manager that this guy is a regular weirdo and douchebag. Oh, well. All I can hope is that this doesn't come back around to bite me.

So much for Write Up #4.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Baby Harbor Seals Make Everything Better

Today I was feeling really bummed out. Mostly because I've had to talk more than usual about my completely stagnant pursuit of acting. In the past week, multiple tables EVERY shift have asked if I'm an actor. IT'S GETTING ABSURD. The next table that asks if I'm an actor is going to get asked why they assume that. We have people at work getting their PhD, saving for medical school, writing, playing music, doing stand-up. There are people there who speak FOUR languages. One of our bussers is a mechanical engineer who owns a business back in Mexico and sends his money back to his family. Not EVERYONE is an actor. In fact, the majority of them are not. But... I am. Or, at least, I'm trying to be more than just an aspiring one.

I've spent the past year helping out with an Acting for the Camera class, and that's pretty much it. Yes, I've paid off debt and saved money, and that IS part of the bigger goal. There are a lot of expenses involved in chasing this dream and I look at it like running a small business... I didn't want to go after it while drowning in a sea of interest. But that's all paid off now and no more excuses.

The point is... I was pretty depressed today, feeling lost, and I was not too enthusiastic to be at work. I gave some tables away, traded for a crappier section, and as a result... I walked away from a five hour shift with $30. Whatever. You know what makes everything better???

They make everything better! I came home and my wonderful LP, who always makes everything better, showed me our lastest issue of Zoo News from our beloved L.A. Zoo... and it had the most adorable photo of this baby seal on it. Click the link for more cuteness!

Friday, September 3, 2010

My Life is NOT About Pasta...

So why is this happening to me?
It's 4:33 AM and I'm having trouble sleeping and you know what suddenly popped into my head?
VERY NICE LADY: I'm sorry, do you have any straws in your apron pocket?
ME: I'm sorry, I don't. But I can get one for you. 
VERY NICE LADY: Thanks so much!
I forgot her straw. And she never asked again. 

They tipped very well, so I can only assume that my senior moment did not affect their overall experience. But I still feel bad because they were so nice. But why does this happen??? It's extremely irritating. I'm trying to go to bed. I'm trying to accomplish other things with my life. Why must my nighttime thoughts be tortured by server related bullshit?

But do you really need a straw for your water? Some people get really offended that we don't automatically bring them to the table. Maybe I should just be like Steve Martin and be, um, proactive.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Awkward Conversations

The most recent Hyperbole and a Half post definitely had me thinking about awkward conversations as a server.

Please visit Hyperbole and a Half!
I adore her comics and the most recent one was just a reminder of how socially awkward I am.

I notice that other servers at work have loooooooooooong enthusiastic conversations with their tables. They LOVE talking to their tables and find a connection with every single one that walks through the door. They remember names and develop regulars. I can barely remember the person who came in the week before.

The only regulars I have are the annoying ones because those are the only ones I remember. And I must be the only person who's nice to them because why the hell else would they always request me??

There's one table that I don't mind as much. They always tip decently and don't require conversation. They like each other well enough and that's something I can appreciate. When they sit down, I know that they want:
  1. Ice tea with light ice
  2. Coke with extra ice
  3. Burnt bread (no seriously, we burn the bread for them)
  4. Butter
  5. Well done salmon in a lemon butter sauce with capers. 
And that's it! Once you know what it is that they like, it's the easiest eight bucks ever.  And I like them because they don't try to make conversation. That's when I get into trouble.

ME: Hey folks, how's everything taste so far?
TABLE: It's really delicious.
ME: Fantastic! Enjoy your meal!
(I start to walk away)
TABLE: Seriously though, this is really nice. The sauce is incredible.
ME: Oh, good. I'm really glad you like it. That's a really great dish.
(I start to walk away)
TABLE: And her food is really good, too. Thanks for the recommendations.
ME: Yeeeeaaah. I'm really, really glad you're enjoying it. Um... do you want another glass of wine or anything?
TABLE: No, I'm fine... But speaking of wineries...

And then I'm trapped. I don't know how to extricate myself from this conversation. Usually, I'll pretend that a different table has motioned for me and leave to get them unnecessary refills.

At least when we're talking about food, then we're dealing with something job related and it doesn't get too uncomfortable. What I hate is when the conversation turns personal.

AWKWARD DUDE: It's really funny that you mentioned how young she looks. Can I tell her why we thought that was so funny? It's so funny.
AWKWARD GAL: Yeah, go ahead...tell her.
ME: Ummmmmm...
AWKWARD DUDE: Yeah. It's so funny! She has a STEP-DAUGHTER who is OLDER than she is!!!
ME: Um....Wow. Your step-daughter is OLDER than you? That's....pretty funny.
(Meanwhile, I'm thinking how extremely f'd up that is)
AWKWARD GAL: Yeah! And I have a son who is 22 years younger than his half-sister!
ME: Wow. Um... do you all get along?
AWKWARD GAL: Oh, yeah! She likes me. Loves her little brother.
ME: Huh. So when you go out, people must think you're sisters and that your son is actually her son.
AWKWARD GAL: Yeah! That happens!
AWKWARD GUY: Isn't that hilarious?!
ME: Yeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaah.

And then I turned around and walked away while forcing canned laughter. I really didn't understand how that could be funny.

I've also had people try to talk me into their pyramid schemes and convince me that I should host their Dove Chocolate Party at my house. Of course, the most awkward conversations are the ones that end up focused on my non-existent acting career. Yes. PLEASE remind me why I fail at life. THANK YOU for reminding me that I don't have an agent. NO, you haven't seen me in anything.

So, thank you, Hyperbole and a Half for reminding me that I am not alone in my dread of awkward conversations!
Not that this has anything to do with this post... It's just how every day of my life goes.