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Book Review by Robin Widmar

“Waiter Rant”

Boy, oh boy! If ever a book will make you mind your p’s and q’s in a restaurant, it’s this one. We’ve all heard stories about waiters spitting into a boorish customer’s drink. Well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Waiters may not make a lot of money, they may not be politically connected, but “The Waiter” said it’s a big mistake to think your server is powerless.Waiters can destroy business deals, blackball lousy tippers, make sure abusive customers will only get a table at McDonalds on Mother’s Day or ruin a marriage with a casual comment to an unsuspecting spouse. But, “Waiter Rant” is more than a compilation of revengeful antics against arrogant customers. It’s the inside scoop on white-tablecloth restaurants in New York City, bound together with author Steve Dublanica’s philosophic musings as he searches for his purpose in life.For the last four years Dublanica has been ranting on his Web log, “,” writing anonymously under the screen name “The Waiter.” Using a pseudonym has its advantages, Dublanica admits in the preface of “Waiter Rant.” It allowed him to write freely about all aspects of the restaurant business: absentee owners, corrupt managers, filthy restrooms, kitchens staffed by illegal immigrants and the nonhuman creatures that are enjoying a meal with you. The restaurants and most of the people in the book also have fictitious names.Dublanica subtitled his book, “Thanks for the tip – confessions of a cynical waiter.” Cynical he may be, but this collection of factual incidents is insightful, reflective and, best of all, funny. Dublanica was 31 years old, down on his luck with bills to pay and no prospects of employment, when he balked at his younger brother’s offer to get him a “brief gig” at a busy restaurant. “Me? A waiter? I always thought that was a gig for bad actors, cokeheads and teenagers,” he said. But Dublanica’s life has been full of twists and turns.Fresh out of high school, he entered a college seminary course with plans to become a priest by age 25, a bishop by 30 and a cardinal before 40. He even had a papal name picked out for himself. Then a thing called biology derailed his calling. He couldn’t resist the “long-legged buxom beauties in tight T-shirts” also roaming the campus. After discovering the priesthood wasn’t for him, he used his major in psychology to find work at a drug rehabilitation center. Unfortunately, a few years later, the facility was featured on “Prime Time Live.” As Diane Sawyer revealed allegations of insurance fraud, which included holding patients long after they were cured in order to generate money, Dublanica watched his job evaporate before his eyes. He spent the next seven years moving from one mental health job to another until he realized psychology wasn’t his calling either. Waiting tables was never part of his career plan, but it provided cash to pay the rent, and more importantly, the incentive to find his real purpose in life.He quickly discovers that being a waiter requires more than taking orders and delivering food to the table in a timely manner. “Today, waiters are expected to be food-allergy specialists, sommeliers, cell-phone rule enforcers, eye candy, confessors, entertainers, mixologists, emergency medical technicians, bouncers, receptionists, joke tellers, therapists, linguists, punching bags, psychics, protocol specialists, and amateur chefs.” All the while, contending with a multitude of customers – addicted to food-network shows – who believe they are now culinary experts.Enduring long hours where the paycheck is dependent on the generosity of customers was bad enough. Add to that a manager who insists on bribes from employees so they can get the best shift, owners who spy on their employees, customers who don’t like being cutoff after their third martini and loudmouths who insist on having the best table. Lucky for us, Dublanica relieved his stress by blogging about his experiences instead of going postal. However, while millions of other bloggers do the same thing, few have Dublanica’s writing ability. In 2006, he won the “Best Writing in a Weblog” Bloggie Award. HarperCollins Publishers noticed his easy flowing prose, wit and talent as a writer, which led to his new career as a published author.Read how he distracts a table of pretty women, as he skillfully plucks a roach off the restaurant wall. Find out what happens when the computer crashes in your favorite restaurant. Speaking of computers, did you know upscale restaurants track customers’ tipping habits, while also grading their “restaurant behavior?” The man who couldn’t get a reservation on Mother’s Day didn’t know about that either. A good waiter learns how to escort drunks from the restaurant, can convince customers the “special” is far better than the meal they originally had in mind and knows it’s best to never tick off the kitchen staff. Dublanica sometimes delivers his restaurant tales in an arrogant tone, which shouldn’t be surprising; after all, this is a New York City waiter. But he becomes a pussycat when he’s describing some of the personal relationships that developed during his tenure as a waiter.At the back of the book, Dublanica lists “40 Tips on How to Be a Good Customer.” The tips are both helpful and amusing. Here’s a sampling: Tip 3: “Never say, ‘I’m friends with the owner.’ Restaurant owners don’t have any friends. This marks you as a clueless poseur the moment you walk in the door.” Tip 5: “Leave your children at home if at all possible.” Tip 16: “When ordering wine, don’t sniff the cork!” Just feel the cork to make sure it’s intact. Thanks, Dublanica æ I never knew what to do with that thing.While this is not the first blog that has been turned into a book, it may be the best-written one. My only criticism of “Waiter Rant” is that it becomes slightly repetitive towards the end of the book. I don’t blame the author – a good editor would have caught that problem, and that one correction would have made this good read truly phenomenal. Perhaps HarperCollins needs to remember that while blogging has created writing opportunities for millions of people, it certainly hasn’t eliminated the need for good editors. However, don’t let this slight flaw stop you from reading “Waiter Rant.”Who knew “The Waiter” was actually meant to be a writer? As waiters around the world cheer and readers chuckle, “Waiter Rant” proves Dublanica has finally found his true calling.Note: Next month, I’ll review “The Turnaround” by George Pelecanos. Read the book then read my review. Send your comments to

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