What is it that really defines exceptional service in a restaurant? The attitude? Knowledge of the food? Respect? In a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle (thanks to Bruce at Sauté Wednesday for the pointer) I was introduced to the woman behind the service at what some call the best restaurant in the world, The French Laundry. The article talks about how Laura Cunningham went from assistant manager to what can only be described as Maestro at the Napa restaurant which is known both in the kitchen and in the front of the house for its precise perfection.
From teaching the waitstaff the ballroom dance steps to the minuet, to small but important rules like never clasp your hands behind your back, Laura has created a level of service that is even earning its own name: “California Style.” Dance is an interesting metaphor, and the complex dances of the Victorian ballroom even more appropriate for the choreography of an elegant dining room. The best dancers manage to be incredibly precise without losing nuance and descending into stiffness.
Its a fascinating article for anyone who appreciates the finer points of restaurant service and the immense effort behind it.