In a well run restaurant, both the front and the back of the house are in sync. A pile of tickets in the kitchen to be “fired” and a jam-packed dining room with standing room only in the bar stretches both sides to the limit.
Luckily at both Waterbar and Farallon the cooks and the waiters have a great relationship. If things get a bit short during service it blows over, or is repaired by the end of the night. It’s important that we all communicate well.
Waiters are the cooks’ eyes and ears to the customers. We rely on them to tell us what the customers are saying both good and not so good. I have a constant dialogue with them about the desserts so I can figure out if our customers are happy. (Clean plates are a good indicator too.)
The waiters also help out before a dessert appears on the menu. If they pass the pastry department at just the right time we hand them a spoon and say- “Taste this.” Not so surprisingly, most of them look our way every time they walk by in hopes of finding a half -created dessert with different sauces and garnishes as we decide what goes best.
For several days before and after a dessert menu change we plate all the desserts right before service: 5:00 for dinner and 11:00 for lunch. (In the restaurant world this is called line-up). At this point waiters and cooks have a chance to try the final version. While we provide a cheat sheet with each dessert menu describing the desserts and all the components, a taste is worth a thousand words. They are in a much better position to talk to a customer if they have tried the dessert themselves.
For me a good dessert menu is when each waiter tells me their favorite dessert is something different. I figure if their answers vary the menu is balanced and will please all palates. Waiter knowledge and endorsement is important for all the food but with desserts it’s especially valuable. When the dessert menu arrives, diners may be full or not sure if they want to indulge in something sweet. I rely on the waiters to tell people what they shouldn’t pass up. Tomorrow they can go to the gym and work a little harder but for now enjoy.