LIFE IN THE APPLE
by Melissa Kravitz
|Maybe one day I’ll write the sequel.|
I’ve always loved restaurants –– the food, the dining room, the experience choosing exactly what you want and having delicious things served to you. In New
York, going to restaurants can be a hobby on its own: the nightly process of
selecting a venue, securing a good table, and enjoying each course is a
pleasure for those in a variety of budgets. Yet, without the thousands who chop,
cook, clean, serve, seat, and manage NYC dining locations, the restaurant
industry would cease to exist here.
come up with spending money. For
decades, artists, performers, and writers have been working in the service industry due to its flexible nature and constant rotation of jobs. There will
always be hungry people. With an Ivy League degree in hand and zero NYC restaurant
experience, I applied to work at a variety of restaurants, both for the extra
cash and to get a better understanding of the industry I love writing about:
|College prepared me to say this dozens of times a day –credit|
away at an upscale Japanese restaurant downtown. Immediately, I began learning why “NYC
Restaurant Experience” was necessary to work here—New Yorkers are tough! They
want their tables facing a certain direction, water a certain temperature, food
with or without specific ingredients.
And, you know what? I don’t blame
them! When you’re paying Manhattan’s
astronomical prices, you deserve to take a line from Burger King, and have it
the city reporting, or even just staying in bed to pump out a few chapters of
my novel, I have the pleasure of standing on my feet in dress shoes for the
next seven hours.
One of my favorite parts of working in a restaurant is “Family Meal,” a break in the middle of the cooks’ 10-hour-plus shift where they make creative, delicious dishes out of leftovers and scraps. It’s one of the only times front of house and back of house staff can spend time together, socialize a bit, and indulge in restaurant gossip.
|Sometimes “Family Meal” is basic, but still tasty.–credit|
Working in such proximity to a professional, high-end kitchen also allows me to enhance my cooking skills. On a slow night, the kitchen staff is happy to answer my endless culinary questions, demonstrate a technique, or even teach me something cooking-related.
|Restaurant workers endure long hours –credit|
proofreading menus, and speaking with customers and clients, I may as well make
the most of it, build on my NYC restaurant knowledge and practice skills, like
patience and communication, that will be valuable my whole life. And who knows, maybe I’ll want to open my own restaurant one day.
Working in a restaurant gives me a greater appreciation for the effort that goes into making a good dining establishment function: someone has to fold the napkins, appropriately dim the lights, chill the tap water, boil the tea, and do hundreds of other simple tasks you never considered restaurant priorities. It’s like going to college and having to do your own laundry, – suddenly you appreciate your parents a lot more.
Finding a restaurant job is fairly easy in NYC, and an
excellent way to get involved with yet another subculture that makes up this town. Check out goodfoodjobs.com or Craigslist job listings. Also, it never hurts to
ask. If there’s a venue you frequent or
one at which you’re dying to work, drop off a resume, speak to the manager or owner,
and create your own job path. Reading Kitchen Confidential is a good way to understand the ins and outs of the restaurant industry, but the most effective way is to get behind the scenes and work in a restaurant.