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Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Most of you are probably familiar with the distinctive maroon colored rectangular shaped paperback with ZAGAT in bold white capital letters. If you're looking for a guide to restaurants in your city, that's where many of us start. I was lucky enough to get the book last year as a gift from Esme, a very kind fellow food blogger and attorney.
Somehow I lucked out this year and received the new guide as a gift again. This morning I attended an awards breakfast and press conference celebrating the book launch and results of the survey. The top restaurants were given their awards and we were all treated to a very nice breakfast at Island Creek Oyster Bar. The meal was more than good and I'd love to go back and sample more.
Until receiving my invitation to this event, I hadn't known much about the origins of the guide. The Zagat's are a married couple, Nina and Tim. They met during law school at Yale and both practiced for many years. Tim apologized for being an attorney at the breakfast. Little did he know, there were other foodie attorneys right there with him.
One of the things that Tim mentioned several times was that the survey shows how disappointed diners are in the service. He said that there isn't enough training in that area. I really hope that restaurants pay attention to this.
Service is huge. It determines whether you feel welcomed or not. For me personally, if the food is amazing, but if I feel slighted, then it's unlikely that I'll return. I can cook myself or go somewhere else.
After the breakfast, I spoke to my mom about the issue of service. She mentioned to me that back in the 1940's, my great-grandfather worked as a waiter at the Union Oyster House and my step great-grandfather was a waiter at the Parker House. My mom said that they both had retired from working on the railroad where service was everything, so they were thoroughly trained in the art of serving. She said that was a very common path of employment for black men back then.
Our conversation reminded me of something said by Condoleeza Rice when my mom and I saw her speak at the JFK Museum. As I remember it, Rice said that when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Act passed, she and her family tested it out by going to a restaurant. The first time, people looked at them for a while, then went back to their meal. The next time they went out, she ordered a hamburger. It tasted weird. And when she bit into it, she realized that it was only onions in a bun.
These stories gave me some perspective as I thought about my dining experience today. Having the luxury to enjoy the dining experience and write about it is something that I definitely do not take for granted.
*Updated 4/24/2011* A post that I wrote a few years ago, which I randomly saw today, mentions the Diner's Bill of Rights as proposed by writer Leslie Brenner of the L.A. Times. It seems quite appropriate to link to it here. The #1 Dining Right is HOSPITALITY.
Disclaimer: Breakfast, the Zagat Boston Restaurants Survey book, and Zagat gift membership received courtesy of Zagat and Edelman.
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