When chefs become waiters

The relationship between kitchen staff and front-of-house is always one up for debate. So when Tim Allen, of Launceston Place restaurant in London’s South Kensington, decided to don his suit and tie as a waiter instead of his usual white toque as head chef, it was bound to cause a frenzy of interest for those who have worked in a restaurant or often find themselves wondering whose job is harder: those who cook the food or those who serve it.

Gillian Orr, who carried out the interview with Tim for UK newspaper The Independent noted that while it often seems as though the kitchen sits at the top of the hierarchy, for Tim Allen, this is just not true.

“In the kitchen you’re not in the public eye. It’s a completely different set of circumstances to be in but you’ve got to work as a team. One thing that is difficult is that we’re downstairs and they’re upstairs; it’s amazing what a carrier that creates mentally. Communication is key, but if someone comes down for a bit of a chit-chat when we’re busy then it’s like, ‘what are you doing here?’

The experiment is an interesting one, taking place at a time when the treatment of waiting staff is being hotly debated. 2013 marked the year of the very first National Waiters Day – a day dedicated to highlighting the importance of being nice to your waiter – on 23 June 2013 while Rachel Cooke recently wrote ‘never trust anyone who is rude to a waiter’ in The Observer earlier on 15 June 2013.

All of this draws attention to how front-of-house are often dismissed or treated rather rudely by diners and by those in the kitchen.

When asked if he ever looses his cool with his staff, Tim replied “Yeah, of course I do. I’m a chef. I don’t know any who don’t. But it’s the little things that piss me off. Just stupid things like delivering the amuse bouche to the wrong table. Or if the two first tables of the evening are sat right next to each other, stuff like that. It’s just schoolboy errors.”

The experiment ended with Tim confirming that the job of a waiter or waitress is just as, if not more, rewarding than that of a sous chef or head chef in the kitchen: “When I cook the food you don’t get to see people enjoy it. It’s nice being able to do that. That’s the reward you get working on the floor; that you’ve made someone’s evening a bit special. The waiting staff aren’t robots here to put plates down on tables. They’re here to give a bit of themselves to the guests as well. I think that’s the trick. Less formality, more personality.”

Next time we’re eating out we’ll be sure to mind our Ps and Qs around the waiter or waitress. A good tip probably wouldn’t go amiss either, but that’s subject for debate another time…