Why This Woman Misses Waiting Tables
In a place this frenzied, traditional wine service requires dexterity. Sometimes I was tempted to plunk the bottle down and forgo the ceremonial uncorking, but I never did. After I got the customers to put their phones away and pay attention, I presented the bottle and often asked whether they’d had the wine before, and if so, where. I’d shout, “Did you know this varietal is found only in a remote region of France?”
While inspecting a label, ripping foil, disgorging a cork, I’d learn that they’d honeymooned in Paris, or were old friends seeing each other for the first time in decades, or were just visiting New York. They’d learn that I love wines from the Loire or that I wanted to work at Buvette based on one taste of Jody’s brandade (salt cod puree on toast) years earlier. The whole point of the ritual was to build a rapport. That’s why I poured small glasses of wine: Every time I circled back to refill them, it was another opportunity to connect.
People often say to me now, “You can’t possibly miss waiting tables!” I don’t long to put up the chairs at 3 a.m. or to feel my wrists cracking from polishing 20,000 wineglasses. What I do miss is creating space for the surprising, tiny acts of graciousness that happen over food. The art of good service is a two-way street on which strangers forge a lovely balance and, on the best nights, a sense of enchantment.
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