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Hostess Confidential: Never Drink With Bartenders

  Hostess Confidential is Jewcy's ongoing column about the dirty secrets of a swanky Manhattan restaurant. In the past it's tackled antisemitism and lecherous customers. Everyone in the restaurant industry is an alcoholic. General managers sample wine on the job, … Read More

By / January 11, 2008

 

Hostess Confidential is Jewcy's ongoing column about the dirty secrets of a swanky Manhattan restaurant. In the past it's tackled antisemitism and lecherous customers.

Everyone in the restaurant industry is an alcoholic. General managers sample wine on the job, waiters get trashed after every shift, and cooks drink so much they practically bleed Bud Light. And, of course, I’m a total light-weight. Two drinks and I’m buzzed, anything after four and I’m wasted. This New Years, after passing out in the ladies room— that’s right I FELL ASLEEP IN A BATHROOM STALL— I decided that I couldn’t do it anymore. I could no longer pretend I was a bad-ass.

So my New Year's resolution was to drink less. But then brunch happened. Brunch shifts, as Anthony Bourdain has said, are torture. You have to wake up early, the money is shit, and you have to deal with a circus of screaming babies. Sometimes I lie awake at night and hear the cries of desperate parents, “Please, do you have any crayons?” It is the single most depressing shift, and it’s damaging to one’s psyche and well-being. So after working a particularly grueling brunch, I was ready to call it a night at 5 PM. I wanted to crawl into my bed and order some take-out. As I was leaving, Josh, the bartender, asked me if I wanted to go to the Spanish tapas bar across the street for some sangria. Free drinks with great company…so much for not drinking. Four drinks later, we were talking about what it means to work in the restaurant industry. “Basically,” Josh said, “you have to be fucked up to work in a restaurant. Restaurants are for people who can't function anywhere else. We work late hours, long hours, and weekends, but we do it because, it's all we know."
I thought about how many people working in the restaurant industry are unfulfilled artists or people who like to live beyond their means. Chefs who enjoy screaming at people, bartenders who come to work drunk and drink during their shifts. What about the hosts or waitresses hooking up with managers in the closets or bathrooms after-hours? Maybe Josh was right: Maybe we are all fucked up. But then I thought about all of the busboys traveling from out of state to earn a living. The guys who work quickly and efficiently, with little recognition. I thought about the hosts I work with who enjoying sitting a cute couple at a nice table, or helping make someone’s anniversary or birthday special. There are managers who are fair, considerate, and flexible, there are cooks who are kind, and there are, though very rare, waiters who enjoy working and do it well. Maybe we aren’t all fucked up. “I think all kinds of people work at restaurants. Sure, we work there because we don’t really want to work 9-5, and we aren’t exactly in love with offices, but that doesn’t make us outcasts, that just makes us picky.” I said. Josh laughed at me. I wish it was because what I had said was naïve and silly. But I knew it was because I had slurred all my words. It dawned on me that I wouldn’t have had this conversation had I not been drunk. I decided to refine my New Years resolution: I will never drink again…with bartenders.

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