The restaurant needs someone who has the necessary aptitude, who can be both humble and confident.Then, as general manager Kirk Kelewae tells me, the training is “about giving precision to their instincts.” (Kelewae started as a kitchen server six years ago.
Photo: Konstantin Sergeyev As you’d probably guess, management of the front of the house is as detail-oriented as anything that happens in the kitchen.
It’s not surprising, but it is thorough: The training manual is 97 pages long.
Even as chefs have become the undisputed stars of restaurants, the minor uproar over Charles Masson’s recent departure from La Grenouille is a reminder that this wasn’t always the case.
For a long time, dinner at a nice restaurant meant crisp linens and unabashed pampering.
At p.m., in the back office of Eleven Madison Park, maître d’ Justin Roller is Googling the names of every guest who will come in that night.
It’s a well-known tactic of the restaurant, an effort to be as familiar as possible with the diners.
It covers both the correct way to serve coffee and where wine glasses get set depending on whether a customer orders a bottle or pairings. Nail polish must be in approved shades (“Bridal colors” are generally allowed).
The dining-room pillows must be fluffed and creased in a very, very specific manner.
“Here,” he says, “it takes ten months to learn how to pour water.” The result of all this training, though, is that the restaurant has a 60-strong army of people prepared to disarm customers with their graciousness and care.
As the service staff sees it, the dining room consists of four stations, broken into groups of seven or eight tables.
Guidara invited me to come in for a few hours before service one day last week.