The SOMM Journal

August/September 2014

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Page 27 of 119

28 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014 { in service } FOR RESTAURANT PATRONS, THE DINING EXPERIENCE should be relaxing and enjoyable. The atmosphere should be welcoming, the food delicious and the service friendly and competent. In some restaurants the service is so choreographed and seamless that many guests have no idea of the time, attention to detail and training that went into organizing it. Average restaurant goers may not be aware that every single service element of their dining experience has been carefully considered. From table numbers to position numbers to accommodating left-handed diners, from course expediting times to obliging specific guest requests, top level restaurant service is as intricate and elaborate as the galaxy of stars. The manner that some service staff move throughout a busy dining room—always moving to each other's right, communicating with one another by eye contact and wordless circumspect signals, anticipat - ing guests needs before the guests themselves even realize what they desire—is the height of behind-the-scenes planning and a triumph of discretion in plain sight. For many front of the house restaurant professionals working at the highest level, this ease and seemingly non-multi-tasking presence comes with experience. After all, the more one serves guests, the more natural it becomes. Still, as many of the more senior and pol - ished career servers that I know convey: Training is the foundation. In an era when one can surf the internet for endless related con- tent, watch videos of absurd ways to open wine bottles without a corkscrew or (gasp) actually read a book about service, I maintain that nothing replaces the physical training and demonstration-based education that provides individuals with the technical skills to suc- ceed in busy restaurants. Owners, managers, and wine directors know that behind the guest's interpretation of ostensibly effortless and gracious service is an arsenal of detailed and technical skills. Everyone entering the restaurant service industry should be trained in detail and to the establishment's specific standards on hundreds of technical steps including how to approach a table, how to carry a tray, how to open specific categories of wines, how to describe the menu, how to clear a table, how to handle an error and on and on and on. Once these foundational technical steps are mastered, a compe - tent server can operate on auto-pilot when it comes to performing the steps of service, all the while multi-tasking and engaging guests on a higher level. Ultimately, restaurant service is like a symphony performance; the guests are the spectators. They deserve to see and hear the perfected piece, not the musicians practicing as rookies. "Nothing replaces the physical training and demonstration-based education." Christie Dufault is a San Francisco–based sommelier and wine educator. She is member of the faculty at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, where she has been an instructor for ten years. She is also a guest lecturer at the San Francisco Wine School. The Service Symphony WHY TECHNICAL SKILLS WILL ALWAYS MATTER by Christie Dufault

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