While some people consider waiting tables nothing more than a temp job on the way to something bigger and better, superstar chef Thierry Rautureau trains his waitstaff to be among the best in the nation.
"It's a very American thing," Rautureau explained, "walking from a school desk to a waiting position."
To start, his waiters and waitresses need experience. You have to know the ins and outs of bussing, or bar-backing. Just as you can't expect to start off in a restaurant kitchen as a line-cook without peeling carrots and potatoes first, you need to know the other restaurant jobs before joining the waitstaff.
So what does Rautureau do with new hires?
First they must know how the busser has been trained, so that they can assist if the person working that position forgets or misses something.
Next they take home the wine list; there will be a test.
Afterward, they learn all of the positions in the front of the house. If the hostess is busy, the waitstaff has to pick up the slack, answering phones.
"Hold is the enemy," said Rautureau. He tells his staff that if they're busy, to take a name and number and call that customer back.
Then the waiter or waitress must learn the presentation of wine and the process of the kitchen. They have to know the terminology of food, and Rautereau said there is always a book in the kitchen that defines those terms.
But you have to know what everything means because when you describe the menu to a customer, you have to "give it a little romance."