Here in Florida, none of us can plan to eat in a restaurant until at least May 8, since the governor closed them because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It won’t replace the experience of dining in, but Paul Hartford, author of “Waiter to the Rich and Shameless: Confessions of a Five-Star Beverly Hills Server,” has graciously shared an excerpt from his book about his time working in a famous Beverly Hills restaurant (referred to in the book as “The Cricket Room”). It’s available now through Tuesday on Kindle for $0.99.
Excerpt from “Waiter to the Rich and Shameless: Confessions of a Five-Star Beverly Hills Server”
“What’s your taste, Mr. Depp?” said Vincent the sommelier.
“Well, I normally go for French wines, La Mission, Haut Brion, but even a really well-made Margaux might be okay.”
“Let me suggest two wines that will absolutely knock your socks off. They are both the biggest cult names coming out of Napa right now.”
Oh my fucking God, how inappropriately casual. A sommelier is supposed to be very professional and aloof, not a sports buddy.
“Sure,” said Depp.
As I turned around to go to the kitchen, I saw Vino leaning in and pointing at the menu and I heard Depp saying, “I’ve heard of them but I’ve never really tried them.”
Next thing I knew, Vino was decanting a 1997 Screaming Eagle, a highly regarded Napa Cabernet, rated at 100 points by Robert Parker. Depp asked me to bring glasses to his crew as well.
A bit later, Vino asked Depp if he would like to have him open the 1991 Harlan Estate so he could decant it for a while, and Depp concurred. Unfortunately, Johnny was not too fond of the Screaming Eagle and his exact words were: “It’s not desirable to my palate.” So he only finished one glass and his crew drank the rest.
Later on he admitted to liking the Harlan Estate a lot better, though “It’s still not really what I like in a wine but I do like it a whole lot better than the Eagle. Probably because it has some age on it, you know?” he explained to Vino. The guy seemed to know his wines, probably from living in France.
By then the “Pirate” movies must have grossed around $3 billion worldwide, so hopefully the studios were picking up the tab because the Eagle was priced at almost $7,000 and the Harlan near $4,000 per bottle. That’s a lot of cash to drop on wine you don’t like.
I told Vino later before Depp left, “Hey, man,” eyeing Johnny’s feet, “His socks are still on. WTF?”
About service professionals in the time of coronavirus
Paul’s book was, to me, a fascinating look at the profession of serving as well as the celebrity world.
I suppose not all people who serve in the restaurant industry can tell Beverly Hills stories, but they all have stories, and most of them work extraordinarily hard.
They have all been on my mind amid the closures brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. I asked Paul to comment on this situation, and this is what he said:
Servers are one of the hardest-hit segments of our economy during this social distancing mandate, and virtual tip jars are a fantastic adaptation to help out-of-work servers weather the storm. I also think it’s a great idea to buy gift certificates from your favorite restaurants to be used later (that’s one of the ideas mentioned here). This wouldn’t help servers directly but could keep their places of employment afloat.
I have been giving $5 a day to a randomly selected server via the DC Virtual Tip Jar since I found out about it on March 17 (except for March 23, when I gave $3.23 to each person named Mia on the list in memory of Mia Sofia). I chose this because a) it was the first virtual tip jar I found out about and b) because Washington, D.C., has been so good to me for fun, advocacy and work (my employer is headquartered there). I think the list had about 1200 people on it on 3/17 and now, less than two weeks later, it has 4,820! My $5 a day won’t do much, but hopefully it at least brings a ray of sunshine to these people.
Wrapping it up
Now that we’ve been entertained by mental images of Johnny Depp sipping wine, let’s recap:
If you want to help a suddenly unemployed server out, find a virtual tip jar and drop in a contribution. You can find the DC Virtual Tip Jar here; one for Baton Rouge, La., here; one for Gainesville, Fla., here; one for Portland, Ore., here, one for Tallahassee, Fla., (and other cities) that provides randomized results for you to give to here, and one that benefits RedEye employees in Tallahassee here. Unstoppable Software has created a master list of virtual tip jars it’s aware of here.
If you’d like to buy a gift card from a favorite restaurant that you can use later, it will help the restaurant out and you’ll have something to look forward to when all of this is over! You’re all resource full people, so I trust you can figure out how to buy a gift card from a favorite restaurant. For my Tallahassee friends, check out this “Open for Takeout” map created by our Office of Economic Vitality. It’ll give you a head start.
Stay safe, friends.