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Hostess Confidential

I'm a hostess at a well known restaurant in Manhattan's Union Square. It's a fast-paced environment with demanding customers who have no use for wait-lists, which means I witness a lot of scandalous behavior. Bon Appetit. It’s only 7:30, and … Read More

By / December 21, 2007

I'm a hostess at a well known restaurant in Manhattan's Union Square. It's a fast-paced environment with demanding customers who have no use for wait-lists, which means I witness a lot of scandalous behavior. Bon Appetit.

It’s only 7:30, and already we have 170 reservations on the books. There’s a bunch of old Jewish ladies huddled by the host stand, a line of drunken Brits at coat-check, and just enough room for me to squeeze by when Elise, the maître d', hands me a soignée, a card that tells the restaurant to give special treatment to a table, and says “Tell Chef how many menus are on the tables and pass this out to the server.” The server on the soignée is Selena, table 40. Where is she? I charge through the main dining room, the alcove, and the back dining room–no Selena. I nearly collide into one of the bus boys, his hands full of dirty coffee cups and half-eaten desserts. I step aside and thank God that I am not wearing a pumpkin sundae. As the waiters, bus boys, food runners, and managers scramble past me, I go to the kitchen to see if Selena is there. Then Chef, a small, angry man with a Napoleon complex, yells “Hey! Are you looking for some leftovers or are you going to give me a menu count?” Shit. Chef is the last person I want to rip me a new asshole. As I walk out I see Selena and hand her the soignée. “Table 40 is VIP," I tell her as I scan the restaurant. How many menus are on the tables?

27. Chef is going to love this. I walk back into the kitchen. “Menu count 27, VIP on 40.” I try to sneak out of the veal broth sauna heard but unnoticed.

“Is that on top of the 17 you gave me last time?”

I nod.

“Fire it up guys!” he yells at the line cooks. I make my way back to the host stand, relieved that I don’t work in the kitchen. Elise smiles at me, big this time, and I can tell that whoever I am about to seat is a real pain in the ass. Elise has the sophistication of a good maître d'. Her smiles indicate just how terrible a customer is. “Isabelle, please take these gentlemen to the private party downstairs.”

I look up and see twenty brawny, outrageously tall business men, all in suits two sizes too big for them.

“Are you going to be my date?” one of them asks me, staring at my tits while the guys behind him laugh.

“Right this way gentlemen.” I reply. Objectification is an old game, and I am weary of it. I walk them to the stairs, and while I know that I should walk them to the actual room, I don’t feel like it after that remark. I know Elise needs me more than they do, anyway, so I say “Down the stairs, enjoy your evening.” As I walk away, I consider slamming my shoulder into the gentleman's jaw, but I think better of it and make my way back to the host stand. Finally Elise is alone. No one is crowding her, yelling at her, or insisting on being sat at one of the reserved tables as a walk-in. “We just had a little rush.” she says.

I nod. “How many did we do?”

“Two Hundred, chica.”

Two hundred customers on a Wednesday night? At our restaurant, that's unheard of. While I don’t feel a sweeping, overwhelming sense of accomplishment, I know that we’ve made it and that we’ve survived. “What does Saturday look like?” I ask. Two hundred and twenty on the books. The shit-show has only just begun.

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