The city is especially magical at night – entertainment is more exciting, food feels more decadent, drink more intoxicating, it’s time to enjoy reward for hard work – which of course means that for a great many – evening time is time to go to work.
And more waiting. (top photo)
This one reminded me of a classic restaurant worker emotional game – how to pace yourself for the rush, so you don’t freak out. You don’t ever actually get a choice about whether to do this – somehow keeping up with however many show up, is exactly what the job is all about – but I can remember back when I was doing prep and salads, having the chefs send me out to check the line, and mutter darkly when I reported many waiting.
These hard working fellows can at least judge their still outstanding trade by simply turning and noting the number waiting before them, for the next available table.
I especially love their dumb-question barrier – probably thought intended (by some naive outsiders) to prevent blowing contamination from the street. ;o)
She comes alive at night
This is one of my favourite bits of cute statuary in the city – and I don’t mind a bit that she’s trying to sell me a huge bowl of excellent soup – her enthusiasm is winning, to an extent that overwhelms even my commercial cynicism (a high bar, though more vulnerable to cute, than brute force or crude reasoning)
Ready for the rush
Caught this fellow a little earlier in the evening – just before the dinner rush – but I love the way the whole place is shined up and laid out perfectly – indeed, even in the most modest restaurants I worked, the start of day is their regular reference reset.
Floors freshly mopped, counters shiny, silver and glass polished (and/or wax cups and lids stacked high and neat – Bunn-o-matic primed).
Everything tickety boo. “Should we unlock the doors now?”
The dumpling makers
That’s always a question for the kitchen, really – only a crazy manager would try to force the issue. “Is your whole team ready to switch over from preparation mode to hard-core production mode, all night long?”
Their “yes” opens the doors for good reason – because once they switch over, there really is no time to run to the basement for a fifty pound bag of spuds and start cleaning them – that was supposed to be done by four!
I loved this trio of dumpling makers – one working the pasta steadily, and her two colleagues shaping the final product by hand, with the fluency and elegant easy perfection of many years practise.
Delicious hey noodles
This one struck me as more a comic-book frame than anything else – but a rather juicy one. Scratchboard subject!
Also a nice reminder about the tricky context in which almost every restaurant exists – tons of competition – above, below, next door – you can’t hold on to customers unless you deliver.
Makes the longstanding independents and the plucky upstarts both, worthy of considerable respect. Their fantastic hard working teams – up all night to give us fun and pleasure – even more so.
Having worked in a few different restaurants, I can’t eat anywhere to this day, without seeing the experience as much from their perspective as my own. That’s why I always make a point of thanking (and properly tipping) not only the server, but also poking my head in the kitchen and thanking them sincerely. And you know what? They don’t hear that nearly enough.
Not only that, but I’m quite amazed by how many restaurants Catherine and I used to go to many years ago, where they still remember me, and welcome me back like an old friend.
They even set a steaming cup of black coffee before me, without having to ask!
Surely not for my inevitable tensegrity creamer structures – but my respect.