Saturday, October 26, 2013

I've Got (No) Personality

They say that a great personality makes a great server.  Somehow I've managed making it 15 years in the service industry, making a living, while continuing to build my comedy career, and still not have a personality.

I take customer's orders correctly.  Recommend wines, alcohol.  Make tables laugh.  I have settled arguments, and helped with celebrations.  I've waited on people who were visiting from all over this great country, and interpreted hand signals from international guests from places like Asia, all with decorum and best of all--without killing anybody!

I work at two establishments right now.  One has been my "bread and butter" for a couple of years, and the other place is newer and that means it's an opportunity to make better money.  Well, just because it's new doesn't always make it better.  I recently discovered that my lack of shifts at the newer place was not a matter of my work ethic, or experience, but rather because the two owners think that I don't have any personality.

Hang on, let me say that again... that I (Joey Rockenstein) don't have any personality.

Me.  The guy who came up with the brand THE BITTER BISTRO.  Me, the guy who performed the BLACK POPE joke, and was called a racist on Youtube.  Me, the guy who played "Zach" the douche manager on the beloved web series, GOOD TIMES.

That is a pretty harsh comment to say about someone.  And the fact of the matter is that maybe it's not that I don't have any personality, but that the two of them are contagious, and their lack of personalities has rubbed off on me.

But who am I to judge?    

Until next time... Server's don't pay their rent with compliments.

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro


Monday, October 21, 2013

I Fart Therefore I Am

It's truly is the little things about this job that really bring an innocent smile to my face.  Like crop dusting (farting) at work.  The best happened one night, during my last shift, while managing a small bar called Cafe Muse.

Cafe Muse was a beer and wine bar located on the corner of Olympic Blvd. and Sawtelle Ave. in West Los Angeles.  The place was owned by a Persian family, and the clientele was primarily Asian.  So you can see that I fit right in with the place.

When I first started working there, I noticed that there was a lot of underage drinking going on.  I told all the servers and my boss, Alan, to card people no matter how old they looked.  It's better to risk feeling embarrassed about asking for an I.D., then to get caught by the Alcoholic Beverage Control, get fined, and jeopardize the business losing their beer and wine license.  Sure enough, on a night I was gone, ABC sent in some undercover agents, one of the servers didn't ask for an I.D., and he ended up serving a minor.

I'm back at work and Alan tells me what happened, but I got a sense that he was kind of blaming me for them getting busted.  At least they still could sell beer and wine.  The only thing that Alan did differently was finally hire a door guy to check I.D.'s before they came in.  Which, when I think about it now, it's a restaurant.  Anybody, any age can come through the door.  If they're underage, they just can't order booze.

Cut to a couple of weeks later.  It was a busy night.  I had done last call and was trying to close up while also trying to get customers to finish their drinks and get the hell out.  The door guy proved that he was worth the money by doing nothing but stand at the door.  Hence, the "door guy."  (Lou, I said "hence.")

Out of nowhere, Alan emerges.  He must have transformed from being a bat.  He comes behind the bar and scolds me for people still drinking past 2am.

"I'm trying to close up.  I can't go up to every table on my own," I said.

"I've been watching you for the past 15 minutes.  I can't have people drinking past 2.  The cops have been on my ass!" He yelled.

First of all, I'm creeped out that he was watching me.  Second, why the hell didn't he help me and the other servers?!!  But it didn't end there.

"It's not my fault the cops have been on you," I said.

"I can't have this.  You're fired," Alan stated.

Suddenly, it was as if I had been holding an AK-47 assault rifle in-between my butt cheeks, and it was jammed for awhile, but finally freed it up by hearing those words.  I couldn't control the blasts the were coming from my ass.  After I had heard "you're fired," I unloaded countless rounds of farts.  And my favorite part, I didn't move away from Alan, nor did he step away from me during my hail of flatulence.  He was somehow completely oblivious.


"I'm going to need your keys," he said.

I handed him the keys to the place.  "Here you go."  All while still uncontrollably farting.

I've never smiled so much while being fired.

Like I said, it's the little things.

Until next time... Server's don't pay their rent with compliments.

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Yelp is Ruining America

I write a lot of posts about my disdain for Yelp, but I have never really given a full explanation of why I feel compelled to call out these people who write these dissertations and have the nerve to call them reviews.  In short, Yelp represents everything that is wrong with society, and has given people the opportunity to be mean while hiding behind a keyboard.  I hate Yelp.

I believe that Yelp actually started out as a useful resource.  It gave people the address and number of businesses, with a quick explanation of what they are about, and a casual review by patrons who either liked or disliked their experience at the place.  But that quickly dissolved as Yelp welcomed people to create profiles and openly bash and berate businesses, and rewarded these so-called "reviewers" with an "elite" status on the their Yelp profile.  Which is basically nothing more than a fancy badge to put on your profile page, and you're invited to the "Elite Yelp Squad" events that are held in your city.  Which means that if you are a nasty person and are looking to hang out with people with common interests as your nasty self; there's a place for you.  But of course, nobody would show up at these events, because they fear talking to people face-to-face.

But of course, my interest lies more with the Yelp reviews of the service industry.  Wouldn't it be just as useful to write "the food was good, but not great," or, "the service probably would have been faster had they not been so busy," or whatever.  As opposed to,

"Firstly, for a slow Monday night, our service was lack luster, but that was just par for the course.  We started with the oysters with red pepper stuffing.  It tasted fine, however, the stuffing was way too much for the oysters and I ended up eating the last few sans stuffing so I could actually taste the shellfish.  The salmon was good.  A tad over cooked for my taste, but the flavors matched well with the barley and it was a good portion. Nothing too impressive.  Finally, dessert consisted of a trio of creme brulee...not bad, not fantastic...which describes my entire evening."

Maybe it's just me, but the details in this review are not needed.  And believe it or not, that was one of the shorter examples I could find on Yelp.  Also, they have boxes at the bottom of the reviews for you to click if you thought the review was "useful" "funny" or "cool."  So even Yelp acknowledges the stupidity of these reviews.  But interestingly enough, Yelp may have screwed the pooch because they have been brought up on many class action lawsuits, and have been accused of extortion on many accounts.  Yelp Being Sued.  But I will be nice and throw them a bone and say, allegedly accused.

Also, these "Yelpers" have even specifically named servers and bartenders in their moronic essays.  Would good does that do?  Other than jeopardize that individuals job, which they probably were already reprimanded for, and now they have been slandered.  All because you--the Yelper--feel like you know everything about service and cuisine ever since you started watching shows like "Kitchen Nightmares," and "Top Chef."

I know I've said this before, and it's not in our culture, but if you are that unhappy with your food or service, you should say something to the server or the manager.  You are paying for it for Pete's sake.  Get what you want!

It's sad, because long gone are the days of Vidal Sassoon's mantra, "and they'll tell two friends... and they'll tell two friends... and so on."  Word of mouth is no more.  And if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all has changed to if you can't say something nice, just write about it on Yelp.  Aw, the humanity!!!

Until next time... Server's don't pay their rent with compliments.

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro


Sunday, October 6, 2013

My So Called (Mentally Challenged) Persian Girlfriend

I swear by everything holy that the following is the truth.  This story is from when I managed a beer and wine bar called, Cafe Muse. I know that I'm probably going to take some heat from people thinking that I'm being mean, or not compassionate, and to those people I say, "get bent!"  I say it now and I will say it again, I WAS THE VICTIM!

It was at Cafe Muse that I had my very first stalker.  It was too hard to pronounce her Persian name, so everybody told me to call her Donna.  Donna was a very nice woman who had a mental handicap.  Now, I’m probably am going to offend some of you with this, but just so you can get a clear picture of what I was dealing with during these shifts, she had a very hard time talking, and back in the day before it got confusing with all this political correctness, she would have been called retarded.

Donna came in one afternoon and ate with one of her relatives.  I don’t have a problem with anybody with any kind of condition.  As I have one myself, I was very patient with her while she was ordering and such.  But like I said, she had a hard time pronouncing words, so I gave her the time that she needed.

“Can I get a l-la-latte?” she asked.

“Of course,” I replied.  And I made her a l-la-latte.

Apparently, I must make a really damn good latte because Donna kept showing up at the beginning of my shifts and ask for one.  I just made them for her and sent her on her way.  Soon enough, I was catching wind from the guys who worked in the kitchen that something else was up.

“She likes you,” the cook Jose de Luis told me that afternoon.

“No, she likes lattes,” I defended.

“I’m telling you.  She did this before with the white boy who was here before you.  She likes white guys.  That guy had to quit.”

“Great!  I’m going to be stalked by a mentally handicapped person,” I joked.
So I went upstairs to talk to my boss about this and he confirmed what I was told.  Alan, my boss, went and got his brother-in-law and they both met with me in his office.  It was like some kind of weird, Persian sit down.

“From now on, don’t say hello, or anything.  Just make her latte and walk away,” they told me.

“So you want me to be mean to your relative?” I said.

“Just don’t say anything, and she won’t bother you.”

So I did what they told me.  Donna would come in the restaurant, I wouldn’t say anything, make her latte, and walked to the back.  The only kicker was that once I got to the back of the restaurant, all the cooks were peering through the window, pointing at me, driving me fucking nuts.  Which is what most restaurant cooks like to do.  Make inappropriate comments, and take their time making the food.

Oddly enough, it worked.  Donna stopped coming by, the tension eased up, and it got back to normal… so I thought.  After about a month, Donna shows up.  I make her drink, but instead of taking it to go, she decides to sit at the bar and drink it.  I can only stand in the back of the restaurant for so long re-folding napkins, and acting like I’ve got stuff to do.  She waves me over, and I’ve got to be honest, I was curious to hear what she had to say.

She hands me a folded piece of paper and leaves.  Most of the time, when a guy is handed a folded up piece of paper from a girl, he is excited about it.  I was frozen with fear.  I could already hear the guys in the back of the restaurant laughing at me.  I opened up the paper to see what looked like a phone number, with the following note:

“JORY,” which must be the Persian way to say, (Joey.)  “Call me and you can come over.”

I have basically been propositioned by a woman, in her mid-forties, who is mentally challenged.  In hindsight, I really wish that I had kept the piece of paper.  And before I go on, let me remind you guys again, I AM THE VICTIM here!  Who the hell is going to believe me on this?  But I took the paper to my boss and the rest of the Persian mafia.  They finally admitted that she had done this to the guy who had the job before me.
“Do I need to get my attorney involved?” I asked.  I always liked to throw that line out.

“No.  Donna will not bother you anymore.  And if she comes in again, just ignore her and don’t make her drink,” they told me.

So the same happened as before.  Donna disappeared for awhile.  Which seemed strange because it seemed like she had some kind of full time job in the offices, but I couldn’t tell you what the hell she did.  But somehow, it was a position that didn’t require her to be around for some of the time.  She must have had some clause in her contract that gives her time off when she's stalking her new favorite white boy.

But like the saying goes, all good things come to an end.  Because Donna reappeared.  It was as if she thought that nobody would notice if she went back to her old habits.  So there she was, at the end of the bar, with the same black mug that she brought in everytime to get her damn latte.

“J-J-Jory.  Can I g-get a l-la-latte?” she quivered.

But I knew where this would lead.  As nice of a person as I am, I had to put my head down, grab some random papers off the bar, and walk towards the back.  She had seen me do this before, but never without making her latte.  You could hear the pain coursing through her body.  She called my name again… nothing.

As I stood in the back I could see her turn and walk towards the front door, but before she got outside, she turned back to me while standing in the doorway.  She must have channeled her inner Glenn Close from “Fatal Attraction,” because in one quick motion, she raised her mug up above her head and slammed it down on the ground.


Broken mug pieces shattered everywhere as she turned a hobbled off to wait for her ride.  I never saw Donna again.  It’s safe to say that if it were up to her, she probably would have killed me if she possessed the capabilities, so that nobody else could have me.  But let this be a lesson:  Never manage a place owned by Persians.  And don't date anyone you work with.  Although I never dated Donna, I still look back on her as my so called (mentally-challenged) Persian girlfriend.  

Until next time... Server's don't pay their rent with compliments.

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

5 Ways to Know You've Been #servingtoolong

As I write this I shudder to think that I have worked in the service industry for 15 years.  (Maybe more.)  But you would never ask a woman her age, and the same goes for anyone who works in the service industry.  There's no promotion.  There's rarely any benefits.  So there sure as hell is no way that I have made a living for as long as I have waiting on people.  Have I?  UHG!  What can I say... time flies when you are wishing people would go eat somewhere else.

But alas, here I am.  Sure of myself as an excellent host of whatever section I might be assigned to for the evening.  Confident behind any bar.  And able to describe any varietal of wine even though I probably have never tasted it before.

"How would you compare the Artesia Pinot Noir with the Opus Cab Sauv?" asked a lady one evening.

Me, having absolutely no clue.  "Well, the Artesia Pinot has a hint of pepper, with a finish of dark berries and vanilla.  The Opus is a full-bodied Cabernet, slightly acidic, with a long, silky finish."

"What about the Jordan Cabernet?" she asked.

"Not as silky or acidic."

But I can do this because I have braved the waters of the service industry for so long.  And I have noticed that I not only think like a server when I am clocked in, but also when I am not on the clock and trying to lead a normal life.

Which brings me to,

5 ways to know that you've been #servingtoolong

5.  When dining out in a restaurant with friends or family, you start stacking the dirty plates in neat piles so they can be cleared easily.

4.  You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because you realize you forgot to bring table 33 the other glass of wine that they ordered.

3.  You know exactly when you are going to be written up by a manager.  Even before they realize that they are going to write you up.

2.  When you get home from a trip to the grocery store, you put the newer items in the back of the fridge, and the older ones towards the front.  Basically, you rotate your own stock and mark it on your par sheet.

And lastly...

1.  When moving through a crowded room, you say "BEHIND!" when trying to pass someone, (or "PASA/ al TRAS.")  And when going around a corner, you yell out, "CORNER!" 

I know I am not alone on this...

Until next time... Server's don't pay their rent with compliments.

"Bitter.  Party of 1?  Your table is ready."

The Bitter Bistro