Monday, August 13, 2012

A Stage in a Newport Restaurant...


The View Outside Of A 
Newport Restaurant


After courageously visiting NYC for a stage, I figured why not go up North to the New England area? I completed my externship at a golf club in Charlestown, Rhode Island. While I was helping the club with a wine dinner this past weekend, I decided to venture 45 minutes up route one to a splendid harbor side town, formally known as Newport, Rhode Island to shadow at a restaurant.

Picture hundreds of sailboats, glistening salt water, an ocean breeze, colorful boutiques and scents of lobster and “chow-da” in the air. Just imagine friendly locals biking around tourists on the sidewalk. Every Rhode Islander you run into carries that humble, infamous “Boston” accent. To me, Rhode Island is a state of a mystical, yet simple island life, East coast style.  

I parked at the local deck and walked my way down the sandy sidewalk of “America’s Cup” into the center of Newport. Even though I drank some cold Rhody milk-coffee (an actual beverage sold at Dave’s Coffee, located in Charlestown), my stomach was craving some fried calamari and a New Castle. I couldn’t help but think how nice it’d be to live in Newport.

The food scene itself is astonishing because of the seafood craze. Brewed culture is also becoming more popular within local pubs popping pairing fried seafood with ale.

My only hope was that this stage would be a success and I’d get to witness what it was really like, Front-of-House style, to be in a Newport restaurant at the peak of lunch hour.

Boy, was I in for a slammed shift. Again, I will leave the restaurant unnamed for the sake of their personal privacy. The managers were super friendly and welcoming, very laid-back in style. I wasn’t surprised about their nonchalant attitudes; every Rhode Islander I had ever met was this way. To me, it’s not a turn-off at all. Calm, relatable, easygoing managers make for a fun, relaxing experience. Don’t’ get me wrong, they were perfectly professional and disciplined as well.

 My stage began with a tour of the restaurant, shaking hands with different bartenders, servers and cooks in the kitchen. Then, I witnessed the pre-briefing fifteen minutes before lunch service. New menu items were introduced and tasted, reflections of the night before were discussed and the Chef actually came out to convince every server to sell as many lobsters as possible. The one who sold the most would get a free bottle of wine (a great incentive if you ask me). The only part of the meeting that I was a bit flustered with was that they didn’t even introduce me to the staff. Therefore, for the rest of the day, I had to be repetitive to each member and tell them why I was there. Nonetheless, everybody seemed friendly enough and not at all intimidated or bewildered by my presence.

Between the raw bar, mimosas, bloody marries and fried fish sandwiches, customers were coming in and out of the restaurant craving cocktails and seafood. Many requested to sit by the water on a deck that was surrounded by yachts and sailboats (such a sight to see). It was difficult accommodating each guest to that request since indoor seating was also available. This part of the dining room certainly was deserted, but the restaurant tried to open it up by keeping the fans on, sliding the windows for a view and convincing diners that no matter where they sat, they could feel as if they were in an outdoor setting (which was certainly true).

After seating a few guests at tables (felt good to be a host again), I walked around the hardwood floors with the manager in the dining room. He showed me the Aloha POS dining system and we observed service, picking napkins off the floor, removing silverware here and there, greetings guests, checking on busboys, clarifying items with Chef, etc. Overall, my four hours in Newport were delightful and I left the restaurant starving for a lobster roll and an ocean view.

 The Newport scene was surely different than NYC in ways that I mentioned above. It’s difficult to pick and choose which environment is best suited for you. In Rhode Island, everyone knows each other (a friend of mine that cooked with me at the golf club told me to say hi to Chef, and he recognized his name immediately).Personally, I always make the decision based on where I am in life and what I am in dire need for. In a year or so, if I need that island inspired summer to relax on my days off, I’d go to Newport. In order to learn though and be challenged, NYC is definitely the place to grow strong.  No matter what restaurant you go to, just remember that qualities of service are universal and can be shared and taught in any setting.


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