At the front of the room, Pierre Siue calls roll. The rest of the room stands in their uniforms quietly, attentively, collectively with pens and pads out ready to jot down the notes from today.
A man with slicked-back silver hair approaches the front of the room carrying a wooden tray - part of today's lesson. "This is from Connecticut," he says pointing to the object on the right of the tray. "And this, is from Provence," pointing to his left. "Both are washed rind and will be new cheese selections on the menu this evening."
This is DANIEL, the flagship restaurant of famed French chef Daniel Boulud - one of seven restaurants in Manhattan with a New York Times four-star review and one of five with three Michelin stars. And this is the meeting held every day before dinner service, where the maître d' goes over the reservation book details, executive chef Jean François Brue explains any addendum to the menu and the general manager Pierre Siue oversees the calm before the dinner rush storm.
There are no models or aspiring actors in the room. It's an education, a continuing education at that - but it's also a career where the word "part-time" doesn't exist in a world where the profession of serving tables is typically viewed as a transient one.
The tree is trimmed. The halls are decked. The gifts are wrapped. The list has been checked - twice, even.
Then you remember Matt at the local watering hole, who knows how to make a gimlet sing. And master oyster shucker Carl at the neighborhood fish counter, who has saved your digits from meeting their gruesome death time and time again.
OH, and what about the maître d' at that little Italian joint you love, who always seems to find a table for you on a full night? And crap, the smiley barista that has your 160-degree skim, no whip, decaf mocha awaiting every morning at 7:45 on the dot.
Figuring out how much to tip and who to tip during the holidays can be as stressful as dealing with the in-laws. Here's a few tips of our own (Editor's Note: Granted, we live in New York, which just happens to be one of the tip-happiest places in the world. Not how you tip in your neck of the woods? Let us know in the comments.):
"Ding dong." "Buzz." "Knock, knock." Delivery.
It’s pizza. Or sushi. Or Chinese food, Italian, Thai, burritos or burgers. I fumble for my wallet, secretly wishing my husband makes it to our apartment door first. I have no desire to be the one to decide how much to tip the delivery guy. Some women want a man around when it’s time to kill an insect or plunge the toilet – my fear is the delivery tip.
Ordering in food is a way of life in New York. Our kitchens are small, our work days long, our social calendars are full and perhaps we’re just lazy. We also can pick from nearly any type food imaginable – from dirt cheap to high end – and have it delivered to our door in a matter of minutes. It’s a huge convenience, but it’s partially offset by the anxiety of figuring out the tip. If I’m the one to answer the door, I usually grab the receipt from the delivery guy (and no, I have never seen a woman doing the job) [Ed. note - plenty of delivery ladies out here in Brooklyn], scan it and try to do some quick math in my head.
We asked, and boy, did readers serve up some boiling hot feedback! In a poll last Friday, we asked one simple question: Have you ever left a restaurant meal without tipping?
At last count, here's how voters responded:
And they didn't stop there. We've collated a few of the over 1,200 passionately pro and anti goose-egg-leaving sentiments below, but first, a few facts.
Vlogger The Wheezy Waiter may have some curious notions* about where Eatocracy got its name, but the former server's got some smart stuff to say in response to our previous posts about people's restaurant pet peeves and restaurant staffers' responses - namely, guidelines for tipping and why you may find you're always at the receiving end of sub-par service. (Spoiler alert - it's probably something you did.)