Photo: Charles Haynes, Flickr.
I'd never been in a restaurant kitchen until I cleared tables at The Lord Fox, a fabulously patrician eatery that still serves beef Wellington and crab-stuffed avocados. I recall having two concurrent revelations that day: Servers don't get a lunch break, and most diners leave food on their plates. To the disgust of my schoolmates who'd also landed the restaurant work gig, I nibbled on leftover steak sandwiches, ate the bacon out of BLTs and finished off any remaining French fries before rinsing the dishes.
Now that I'm a server, I still eat off cleared plates – and so do all of my coworkers. I'm not sure diners realize the dishrooms of many restaurants look like buffets by the end of service: We loathe to waste food, especially the fancy stuff.
There's a pretty precise code that governs whether your food ends up in the trash or your server's belly. We won't touch anything from a table where someone was sneezing, coughing or just generally odd: Who knows what sort of germs someone with crumbs in his moustache or an offensive slogan on his t-shirt is carrying? And, in another nod to hygiene, menu items in which a diner stabbed his fork repeatedly – such as creamy pastas or mounds of mashed potatoes – are probably headed straight to the scrape bin. (That said, some of my more voracious colleagues make a blanket exception for hot crab dip.)
But leftover mussels still in their protective casing? Absolutely. The untouched end of a filet? Sure. The better part of a crab cake? Heck, yes.
As servers, we can't often afford to feast on the steak and lobster our customers enjoy. But the leftovers are all ours.
|Yes -- that's gross!||3699 (20.7%)|
|No -- I'm not eating it, so why not?||14143 (79.3%)|