Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"Service Included"

While Phoebe Damrosch was figuring out what to do with her life, she supported herself by working as a waiter. Before long she was a captain at the New York City four-star restaurant Per Se, the culinary creation of master chef Thomas Keller. The experience spawned her behind-the-scenes memoir, Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her debut book and reported the following:
Service Included tells the story of how I fell in love with my day job: waiting tables at one of the world’s best restaurants. Prior to waiting tables, I was a writer -- but before that, I was a classical violist and it is to classical music that I now turn in order to unpack page 69.

Let’s say you’ve just flipped on your local public radio station. You’re a little wary because you’ve just suffered through a fund drive, so it’s with relief that you find yourself in the middle of a symphonic interlude. The piece sounds vaguely familiar, but you can’t place it. This is because you’ve tuned into what is known as the “development,” in which the composer leads you from the main theme (the “exposition”) to the return of that theme (the “recapitulation”) through a series of thematically-related key and tempo changes. Page 69 is my development.

We have just survived an electrical fire in the wall of the kitchen, which occurred one week after our big opening (exposition). We trained for the opening by taking dance lessons and written exams, tasting sixteen kinds of chocolate, and learning the names of six butter-producing cows in Vermont. Little do I know that within weeks my most regular guest will be Frank Bruni, the New York Times food critic, and everything I learned in my training will be reviewed, judged, and immortalized (recapitulation).

From Page 69:

Within days of our second opening, guests had posted reviews of their experiences on blogs and foodie websites. Comments on the food were, on the whole, complimentary. Impressions of the room were less so. Early critics found the browns and grays drab, the lines stark and sterile, the marble and glass cold. At best, they described the room as “cosmopolitan.” The room was certainly not quaintly modeled after a farmhouse, as was the fashion in many of the “produce-driven” restaurants around the city; it did not have rococo scrolls and ornate flowers, the crushed velvet/bordello look, or the tarnished mirrors of a faux-bistro. But to find fault with this would be to miss the point. The well-spaced tables, muted colors, and clean lines remained understated on purpose. To further the calming effect, the room was quiet (except for the occasional deafening fire alarm). Even the traffic in Columbus Circle swarmed in silence…
Read an excerpt from Service Included and visit Phoebe Damrosch's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue