Where I write

Where I write

April 18, 2012

All The Worlds a Stage...Lights, Curtain, Restaurant

There are common terms people in the restaurant business use. One of those is "front of the house." The picture above is an example of a fancy "front of the house."  Working at a restaurant is like being in a play. Everyone who works at a restaurant has a role. The diners are the audience. Except instead of sitting out in the darkened theater, diners get to sit right in the midst of the action. In the front of the house, the performers are servers, (you don't think they are always that nice, do you?)  the pretty or handsome hosts, the suave manager and the eager bus boys, now titled server assistants. Same job, picking up dirty dishes.  Not much more money when they were called bus boys, but fancier title.

Here's another photo of the front of the house except now there are people on the stage. Just like at a play, you have to pay to take part in this show. Except instead of buying a ticket first, you pay after. In a play your entertained and in a restaurant you are fed. So elegant or plain, clean or dirty, where you eat your meal is always called front of the house.
The kitchen is called "the back of the house". You might be amazed at how small some kitchens can be and still put out a lot of food. Most the kitchens I've worked in were never as clean as your own house, but that's just how it goes. You might be surprised about how even the prettiest, most expensive restaurants  have kitchens that, well, let's not go there. Let's just say it's best you don't know too much about how "the back of the house" looks.  Stay in the illusion of the play. Look at the pretty actresses and actors, and don't think about the stage hand with the big belly in the back who is controlling the flattering lighting. In the back of the house, toil the the cooks, the prep cooks, all the people who you never get to see who prepare your food. The people who work in the kitchen work very hard for low pay. Not at all glamorous work. I don't have much respect for the usually arrogant chefs with the fancy title and big pay checks, but I'll save that for another blog.
This is a kitchen from an old time restaurant. No that's not me standing back there in a long dress. A bit before my time. This back of the house might look different than the stainless steel appliances of today, but I'm sure it operated the same. Cook food and serve it. And I'm sure those waitresses (they weren't called servers yet) hated their uniform, too.

Here is the person who works the hardest in a restaurant. The dishwasher. It's a brutal job, dirty and wet and thankless. And the pay sucks. I'm surprised anyone even takes this role. I guess it if was play, he'd be the guy who had to sweep the stage, but even that would be easier compared to washing dirty dishes for eight hours a day. I don't like even loading my dishwasher at home!

Years ago when I was working at a hotel restaurant in Denver there was a little old Italian man who was the dishwasher. I wish I could remember his name. He was wiry and wrinkled and kind.  He gave me this advice. (I think I was complaining about my money or lack of.) Anyway, I remember he stopped washing a pot and looked at me as I was whining.

 He said "You will always have bills. No matter how much money you have, you will still have troubles. So just enjoy what you have now." Then he went back to scrubbing. A fitting end to the play. And he was right.


Rita A. said...

Sometimes I wish you'd tell us a little less about the back of the house. Love the "picture" of the little Italian guy with the big heart.

KPeachey said...

Love this one! I have so many unfond memories of the back of the house but still one of my favorite things in life is to go out to eat. Go figure! Susie you are a treasure and I can remember many a wonderful dinning experience with you and hope to have many more (in the front of the house,not the back.

Anonymous said...

I think this is my favorite posting of any so far. I love hearing about the back because diners forget all the work that goes into what comes out to the front! Love the dishwasher quote. What a wise man. I shall call him Guido. Love, Tracy

Arlee Bird said...

I enjoyed this post a great deal. I've never heard a restaurant described in this way, but it makes total sense. As one who spent many years working in theater and has eaten in many restaurants in my lifetime, I think the analogy makes total sense. After all, much of dining out has to do with being entertained and the experience should leave us with a sense of getting our money's worth as well as filling our bellies. Nice job in depicting this.

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