Intrepid Optimist is the place where I can share my stories; fact, fiction and thoughts from the past and present. It’s Written by myself for people who believe adventure knows no age
World wide, turn on any TV channel these days and I guarantee you will see one or another of your favourite TV chefs in ego action, preaching, teaching, advising and now and again even cheating. You will see and hear about their one to five star establishments, which part of the ocean or river their fish was netted, how their beef was fed and delicately massaged and from which corner of their herb gardens the broad leaf parsley came from.
I am not knocking them. Far from it I enjoy some of these gastro TV shows. I find them helpful and informative and I have been known to attempt a recipe, first viewed on the box at 6pm and served it up to my own guests at 8pm, albeit maybe not as successful as the creations of Hesto Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsey or Jaime Oliver.
What niggles me is the lack of time and praise given to the key people who look after the customers in these the ultimate establishments – the waiters. So I have come up with my own modest appraisal of waiters. I will not include the USA, where the waiter – servers or even waitstaff as they are sometimes called over there – will rush up to your table and introduce themselves by their Christian names and interrupt throughout the meal with, “Is everything to your liking sir?”
A good European waiter will be more professional but still friendly. He knows when to appear at your table and not a minute before. He will not be pushing you into another bottle of wine or offering exorbitantly priced bottles of 20000 year old, glacier water from New Zealand. He is there to welcome, serve and assist you in your choice of food and wine, should assistance be required.
In Germany, where I live, waiters are normally inexperienced personnel, students or Eastern Europeans or from the Mediterranean countries, where their Latin warmth has little in common with service and I shall not add further comment to the seemingly rehearsed rudeness of French restaurant staff. The Austrian waiters as a whole are of top standard but it is the professionalism of service to be found in the restaurants of Belgium, particularly in Brussels that I tip my hat to.
I have yet to have had a bad meal in Brussels. Add to this fortunate experience the impeccable table service to be found in this city’s many restaurants and I consider myself a lucky man. To me, it appears that the waiters, take pride in their work and are equally proud of their profession.
Their proficiency is obvious even as I enter the restaurant. I feel as though my custom is indeed welcome. Time is given for me to scrutinize the menu before the waiter suggests the specials of the day, taking care to explain local dishes, of which some are almost untranslatable. Their command of three languages, French, Walloon, and English being a requisite is amazing enough but I have also overheard customers being addressed in Spanish and Italian.
It is a pity that good service in the catering industry (the noun industry well describes what is happening to gastronomy) is becoming a rare commodity but thankfully it still exists in Belgium.
Louise Jensen - Writer - www.louisejensen.co.uk
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