Annoyances and Bad Form

Time for my annual Christmas party ponder. A grumpy, exhausted caterer’s list of annoyances and bad form –

You failed to inform us “Sparky” is a very bad dog. You – executive of a major corporation hosting a Christmas party with your lovely wife. Never mind ridiculous expectations and timeline, we’ll make it fabulous. Pardon me? Sparky is snarling at my chef because he doesn’t like men wearing caps? Would you like a hair in your prime rib? Never mind. Oh, Sparky is hungry. You want my chef to feed him while carving the beef? Maybe you should feed Sparky and put him in another room. How silly of me, Sparky is much too precious. Just watch him beg for food as your guests awkwardly pretend Sparky isn’t drooling at their feet. Let me assure you – bad dogs are neither cute or entertaining, Sparky is a very bad dog.

Bad dogs have nothing on bad people. Being a reflection of his clueless environment, Sparky pales in comparison to blithering clunk-heads oblivious to their surroundings. You’re a guest at a company dinner – guests at 6 pm, passed appetizers and drinks for an hour, please be seated for dinner at 7 pm. Look around – this isn’t a restaurant, did you notice the kitchen we set up behind pipe and drape. Never mind, please be seated. Oh wait, you changed tables and now are making a scene because servers couldn’t find you to deliver a gluten free vegan meal? My sincerest apologies, if you would be so kind as to take your seat we’ll have you eating in no time.

Place setting jumpers and bad dogs pale next to passed appetizer garbage dumpers. Garbage dumpers catapult beyond canape lunges. Pushing guests aside to ensure first crack at a platter,  only embarrasses individuals oblivious to polite decorum. Taking an appetizer then depositing the pick, spoon or napkin back on the tray of canapes epitomizes bad form. Garbage dumping eclipses annoyance, forcing an immediate server about face to the kitchen. Clearly common sense eludes these geniuses – why should they care when a full platter returns to the kitchen for a scrub because their garbage prevents servers from feeding co-workers.

Baked Brie is not a pie. Yes, I see you put half a pound on your plate but no, I don’t have a fork. See the little knife for spreading it on sliced baguette? Notice scores of people politely waiting to spread a morsel of Brie on that bread? Is grumpiness trickling from corners of my forced smile? Fair enough, you probably haven’t seen a wheel of Brie large enough for fifty people – figure it out – I still don’t have a fork.

I’m sorry, your host didn’t order coffee. No, I don’t have any hot water with lemon. Can I make an exception for you? With all due respect please don’t confuse my good nature with perceived ability to pull a kettle out of my ass. I’m sure you’re lovely, mean well and truly desire a warm beverage – please look around, this isn’t a restaurant, there isn’t a pot of coffee in the back. This is the observation deck of an office tower – even if I could boil water, your host didn’t pay for hot beverage service. Can you understand my limitations, has it occurred to you one exception opens a can of worms I haven’t the staff, authority or inclination to deal with. Do you really think one exception ends with you, that none of 200 in this room will demand equal consideration? You don’t like my attitude, poor customer service? Take it up with your host – I don’t have a freaking kettle.

Why are you blocking our service area? Are you vacant, oblivious, gripped with self importance vast enough to deem it your right to stand where you damn well please? How many times have I politely asked you to step aside? Are you passive aggressive, amused by my servers struggling to maneuver around you, honestly this inconsiderate? Did you notice that one ton truck outside? What crosses your mind each time I ask you to move? Are you conscious of exhausted staff struggling with enormous loads, dolly after dolly of heavy equipment hauled outside, loaded on that truck? Silly me, of course you didn’t.

I’m tired – Christmas party season is over in a week. Like childbirth and tequila, destined to seem like a good idea the next time it rolls around.






Why The Bartender?

After restaurant meals we tip our server, the individual directly responsible for a pleasant experience. That server “tips out” the kitchen, hostess, bus people, bar and so on. Popped in for a cocktail – we leave the bartender a couple bucks. Tip the valet, coat check, washroom attendant – we recognize unspoken gratuity parameters.

Where polite acknowledgement goes the moment people attend catered events is beyond me. For some reason, every last expression of gratitude goes to the bartender.

Take tonight for example. With multiple events taking place, I found myself in a private home, managing a 70th birthday party with upwards of 70 guests. Multiple events spread our staff thin, translation – my chef and I had to rely on 2 temp agency staff scheduled to meet us on site. Arriving half an hour before their start time, we get to work unloading our truck, rolling tables in place, setting out chairs.

Five, now ten minutes late, I call the agency. Unsure if they’ll make it, now I’m setting up the bar, hauling racks of glassware, beer and wine, and setting up a water station as guests trickle in early. Half an hour late, two bewildered looking women arrive with their driver. Driver immediately compensates for their rather limited grasp of the English language with – we got lost, what time are they off and the bartender doesn’t know how to open wine could you do it for her.

Bartender immediately puts the red wine on ice. Oh my. Have you ever tended bar? “I’ve poured wine at hotel banquets” she replies. Can you pour beer into a glass? Bartender’s face lights up – “I’ve seen it done, you tip the glass a little, right?”. All I can politely muster is “give them the bottle unless they ask for a glass”. I uncork six bottles of wine and hope for the best.

My chef is in the weeds, I should have been helping him organize the kitchen. Our client indicated a few guests would bring food he’d like us to platter and pass. All we could do was exchange silent WTF’s as every last guest cheerfully plonked contributions on the counter. The merciful deposited frilly toothpicks strung with seafood or deli staples. Far too many good intentions arrived with assembly required. “Turn this baguette into crustini, spread it with guacamole, top with poached prawn and decorate with cherry tomato halves and petals of edible flowers”.

Oh shit, the bar! I run outside to find temp one and two debating possible ways of extracting a wine cork in light of a hinged corkscrew. Hard to say which caught my attention first – the bemused guest audience or valiant temp effort. Gotta hand it to those temps, man they wanted to open that bottle. “Where’s your bartenders tip jar?”  slurs one of the guests. “She’s doing a great job, let her have a tip jar”.

My chef hasn’t stopped in six hours, the yard is littered with empty glasses and kitchen looks like a bomb went off. I haven’t stopped moving, patience is becoming a premium and server temp now prefers offering moral support to bartender temp over bussing dirty dishes.

“I want to tip your bartender, where’s the tip jar – your bartender is working so hard”. “Thank you” I reply, that’s very kind.

What is it with bartenders? Did anyone think of the chef or notice temp couldn’t tend bar if her life depended on it? Why doesn’t it occur to anyone to tip the chef? His cheerful competence soldiered for stoic hours. I sent temp one and temp two home at 10 pm. Chef and I took down the tables, stacked chairs, cleaned the kitchen, loaded our truck, drove back to the shop and signed out after 12 hours of relentless shenanigans.

The next time you attend a wedding or catered party – look beyond the bartender. It takes much more than a bartender to make a party fabulous.