Tipping in Restaurants

I stumbled upon a blog post by a waitress with regular contributions to Slashfood over the past few days. After perusing the comments on that entry, I was inspired to read the entirety of Hanna’s “What Can I Get You Folks?” series along with most of the comments, and as a result I’ve been left extremely disillusioned with restaurant servers.

The vast majority of industry commenters, and the author herself, express a level of entitlement to a minimum 20% tip that I find absolutely disgusting. While I acknowledge that a vast number of states in the US are permitted to pay their employees below minimum wage (often as low as $2-and-change per hour) and subsequently do literally live off of the tips they receive, there are plenty of states that are required to pay at least minimum wage and those servers still seem to feel they deserve a 20% tip for simply showing up and doing their job. A quick calculation puts their earned income then above my most well-paid job in the States–a job that required of me a level of responsibility holding me accountable for government records and the possibility of testifying in Federal Court. While waiting tables is admittedly no easy feat, it certainly doesn’t impose anywhere near that degree of accountability, and it deeply peeves me that a waiter or waitress would feel entitled to that standard of salary based on tips.

When I worked in a bakery, I would say the level of physical and mental demand of the job was very similar to that of a waitperson, and I made just a bit over minimum wage with no tipping–it was flat out not permitted by our owner to have a tip jar on the counter. Even if it was allowed, I would never have expected tips because my job was to provide a service, and that is exactly what a waiter or waitress’s job at a restaurant is to do. The fact that so many apparently feel entitled to at least 20%–even in the cases where they are already paid the same wage as any other “unskilled” labor–is absolutely abhorrent.

It is an entirely different attitude to view tips as exactly what they are: a gratuity given as a token of appreciation and thanks for a level of service that goes beyond what is expected of the employees at an establishment. There were occasional times when I was handed a dollar bill or other relatively small amount (compared to this expected 20%) as thanks for carrying a heavy cake out to a customer’s car at the bakery; this task was not part of my job, and the customer chose to acknowledge their thanks for my added service with a tip. I always viewed that as a truly genuine gesture, and I never had a problem with helping a customer out by offering the same service of carrying products without receipt of a tip. I did my job because that was expected of me, and I would go beyond the expectation because I enjoyed my work and helping people. I expressly did not show up for work because I expected customers to pay me extra for providing them with the service I was there to provide and more specifically felt entitled to a particular percentage of their total purchase.

Tips should not be an expectation. They are not something a customer service provider is entitled to receive. Waiters and waitresses do not have a right to 20% of my bill simply for showing up for work and doing the job they are paid to do. While I will happily entertain the idea of a 15% tip as a starting point in states like NY where waitstaff are not paid minimum wage (something completely inhuman and worthy of discussion in its own right), that is a baseline for simply doing one’s job there. After being enlightened to the attitude it seems most servers possess, I’m completely disinclined to ever consider leaving a 20% tip anywhere. I’m now also inclined to start at a 0% baseline in states like Oregon and California where the servers are in fact paid at least minimum wage. They can earn a tip by doing more than what is expected of them at their job.

It’s particularly astounding because it is quite clear when one is hired what the wage will be. These people are fully informed and choose to take the job at the rate of pay that is offered. They then expect to be paid more. At what other job is this considered reasonable behavior? Where else can one have the luxury of feeling entitled to more than their offered salary? Nowhere.

Tips are not an entitlement. They are a gift. It would be nice to see these servers treat them as such.

The Drought Has Ceased

I’m officially naming this summer as The Summer Without Internet. Because that’s what it wound up being. Well, aside from lots of working at the bakery, some fun times with friends, a couple of BBQs here and there, and other such summery goodness, of course. But now I can add “cessation of my lack of connection to the world” to the list of events these past couple of months, thank the powers that be.

Understandably, I have so much to catch up on–e-mail, research I’ve been putting off, organizing, finances… So I can’t be bringing this site up to speed just yet, but expect some massive updating soon followed by the regularity I’ve been attempting to accomplish for ages.

It feels so good to be back!

Guilty Pleasure Sundays #1–On, Er, Monday

Well. I wound up working a double shift yesterday, so I actually wasn’t home at all to post for my first Guilty Pleasure Sundays, but I definitely did get to indulge in something absolutely guilt-ridden and pleasurable, oh my…

Fudge-Topped Brownie
One of the girls I work with over-heated a customer’s brownie yesterday, and the fudge topping go a little melty, so we treated ourselves to a little gooey brownie delectableness in the back room after she prepared a properly-warmed piece for the customer. Oh my gosh, was that brownie amazing.

I’m generally not much of a brownie person, but I’m generally not much of a many-things-my-bakery-makes person, and each of those things I’ve had so far has turned me into a I-like-x-but-only-from-my-bakery person. (Okay, that phrase and the hyphens have just reached their tolerance limit. ;P)

Our brownies are fudgey, as all good brownies are. I like cake. I like fudge. Brownies should be somewhere in between, but since they don’t get frosted like cake does, they must lean towards the fudgey side to be edible. The brownies we make have thick, chewy toothsomeness like fudge, but they still crumble a little with the slightest bit of cakey texture. The melted fudge on top of this supposed brownie failure really took it over-the-top, though. All of the incredibly deep and rich chocolate flavor combined with something to chew and liquidy love was obscenely delicious.

I have SO added a warmed La Bonne Boulangerie brownie coupled with icy-cold vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream to my list of “Foods Melody Must Eat in Order to Make Her Life Complete.”

Fooding Project Concept

I don’t want to wind up spending my summer working at the bakery the same way I spent the summer a couple of years ago working at Blockbuster: putting in 30 or so hours at a place where I’m, in all honesty, not-so-well-versed in the product. While I most definitely enjoy seeing movies, the combination of not having much time outside work to make full use of my rental privilege of 5 free movies each week and the lack of someone to spend movie-watching time with made for a decidedly film-free few months of employment at an entertainment giant.

In order to encourage me to sample more of our options at the bakery, I’m declaring a new project that doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to myself. This idea will serve a multi-fold purpose: I’ll become knowledgeable about the tasty treats at my bakery, I’ll have something new to write about at least once each week, and I’ll encourage other people to be equally inquisitive with boulangerie-centered foodstuffs!

Guilty Pleasure Sundays will see it’s first entry on June 11, wherein I will describe at least one baked good sold by La Bonne Boulangerie that I have eaten that day. If I can possibly manage to try everything (that I’d actually like to try–and I’m not allergic to) by the end of the summer, I’ll consider it both a success and an invitation to switch it up to treats from other local eateries. 🙂

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a couple of reviews of things I’ve already tasted…

Banana Nut Muffin
Our muffins are the standard, generously-sized hunk of quickbread baked by most American bakeries. Where they deviate from the formula is with their yogurt-enriched batter base. The result is an incredibly flavorful and moist muffin, with a slight tanginess to balance out any breadiness and the sweetness. I think it also has the effect of enhancing the flavors of the particular muffins–even though this muffin only has a swirl of fresh banana purée in it instead of all throughout, the taste of banana permeates the entire muffin with rich, real fruit flavor.

One peeve of mine when it comes to any baked good featuring some sort of “add-in” is a too-generous hand with the addition. Nothing can ruin a banana nut muffin faster than the presence of too many walnuts. The name of the food is banana nut–not nut banana. ;P Since nuts in general tend to be very flavorful and can easily overpower any dish, the line between “enough” and “too much” is very fine. Somehow our baker has perfected the art of balance with our muffins because the every-few-bites presence of a perfect walnut was enough to have a pleasant nutty flavor in the muffin and an intermittent hunk to delight my teeth with something to chew down on without being the least bit stronger than the banana flavor.

Overall, I’m not exaggerating nor am I patronizing when I say that this was hands-down the best banana nut muffin I’ve ever had. Between the surprisingly intense moistness and the wonderfully natural and fresh flavors, it’ll be extremely hard to top.

Low-Fat/Grilled Veggie Wrap
Yes, you read that name correctly; my bakery actually sells wraps. We also have (all homemade of course!) soups, salads, fruit bowls, focaccia and croissant sandwiches, yogurt parfaits, dips, fresh mozzarella, and other market-type goodies. La Bonne is actually both an authentic European-style bakery and a café. 🙂

Of all the sandwiches we offer–and there’s actually quite a few!–the veggie wrap was of course the first to catch my eye and hold it long enough for me to drop the $6.99 to take it home. After popping open the package to discover a hulk of a halved wrap inside, I actually think that while it sounds a little overpriced for a simple sandwich, the amount of food is truly rather impressive. At this point I’ve already had this sandwich twice, and being famished the first time after not eating a bite all day, I did actually eat the entire thing at once, but the second time I bought it, I found it was absolutely plenty for two meals for me.

What inspired me to have this wrap twice within a two-week timeframe despite having the option of trying many other different sandwiches is the mind-blowingly-delicious quality of the veggies. Seriously, whomever devised the recipe for the marinade our owners use deserves an award and already has my undying love. On top of being infused with fabulous flavors, the veggies were perfectly grilled–the zucchini and summer squash weren’t at all too mushy, the asparagus was pleasantly crisp, and the red peppers had incredibly sweet, charred flavor.

Even something as seemingly insignificant as the wrap itself clearly receives the same level of intense attention as the vegetables. Thanks to its immenseness, the sandwich is as I said, a substantial portion. It also holds up incredibly well: even cold, it doesn’t crack, tear, or break but rather maintains a level of chewiness that is really quite enjoyable and nicely conducive to wrap-consumption without wrap-disassemblage.

All in all, I’m willing to bet this sandwich will be gracing my table again sometime soon and many times after. It’s flavorful, satisfying, and definitely well worth the expense!

Ferry Honks Mark My Days Now

Since I got in so late on move-in day, I figure I should only really count today as Day Four of living on my own in Port Jeff. I cannot even begin to describe how absolutely incredible it is to be able to leave my house and cut across a parking lot to get to work in the morning instead of figuring on a 45-minute commute by car, or a half-hour car ride followed by a 40-minute bus ride, or even just a 10-minute cab/car ride (when I was still on campus). This 2-minute walking commute is so my thing.

Speaking of work, I love our grilled veggie wraps. I desperately need to know how they marinate the veggies because it is Sublime. Plus, it’s so stuffed with charred-veggie-goodness that half is absolutely more than enough, and I’ve got dinner or lunch waiting for me in the fridge for tomorrow already. Ohhh, you tasty zucchini, summer squash, red peppers, and crisp asparagus, how you satisfy my appetite!

Of course, a little petit four treat afterwards certainly helps. 😉

Starting Anew

I’ve decided to make this no longer limited to food blogging. I think that just became an excuse not to do anything with the site when I didn’t have anything food-related to talk about. So with my new life starting out on my own in a house in Port Jefferson, NY with a job at the bakery across the street, I figured I could relaunch the site as a general weblog–with the inclusion of food-related posts along the way, of course. 😉

All of the previous entries will remain up, and since the next two weeks are going to be filled with sorting through my things here at my parent’s house, preparing to move in to my new place June 1st, and working halfway across the Island all the while, have a look at my Flickr account while you impatiently await my next update here. There are plenty of photos there I never had the chance to reference in any posts–including a cake I baked this morning, so feel free to comment your heart out there. :]