Monday, August 31, 2015

Review of Waiter to the Rich and Shameless...

I used to wait tables in a fairly nice restaurant.  When I first started the job, I was completely clueless.  It took several months before I was a really competent server.  I never enjoyed the job much and was happy when I could leave it in my past.

By contrast, author Paul (Pauli) Hartford was a professional server in Beverly Hills for years.  In his book,
Waiter to the Rich and Shameless: Confessions of a Five-Star Beverly Hills Server, he writes about what it's like to work in "The Cricket Room", where he regularly waits on rich and famous people.  

Hartford didn't always want to be a server.  His big dream was to be a rock star.  He was in bands, wrote music, and moved to Los Angeles in a bid to make his musical dreams come true.  Alas, like many people who dream of turning their artistic talents into fame and fortune, he found that he had to take a day job to pay the bills.  So he cut his hair and cleaned himself up, then applied for the job at the venerable Beverly Hills restaurant where hamburgers cost $38.  

At first, Paul works as the daytime bartender.  The money is decent and the bar is his domain.  He serves drinks to big stars and people hoping to see stars.  Eventually, he becomes a waiter so he can make more money.  He goes from running his own show behind the bar to working as part of a team. In the meantime, he rubs elbows with the likes of Johnny Depp, Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Katy Perry and Russell Crowe.

This book is about what it's like to be a server, but it's also somewhat a coming of age story.  Hartford reminds readers that most people who wait tables think of the job as temporary, a way to make some decent money while working to achieve a different dream.  He also writes of waiter burnout, which is a big occupational risk.  With about ten years in the service industry, most of which he spends in The Cricket Room, Hartford is able to write effectively about his subject.  He also adds some funny stories about celebrities as well as his co-workers.

For the most part, I enjoyed reading Waiter to the Rich and Shameless.  I like books about celebrity sightings.  Yes, I know I should be concerned with more important things, but there is some value in reading about the stars.  For instance, I noticed that Hartford went from someone who was dazzled by his celebrity guests.  After awhile, he got used to them and was no longer impressed by them.  By the time he finishes his ten year stint, he seems to find celebrities appalling.  

Toward the end of the book, Hartford writes of Charlie Sheen coming into the restaurant and ordering two glasses of 57 year old scotch at $2800 a pour.  During dinner, he downgrades to two glasses of 30 year old scotch at $1000 a pour.  His bill is $7400 and he tips Hartford $1700.  Sheen has a date, a lovely woman who doesn't seem to mean much to him.  Hartford notes that Sheen only spent a couple of hundred dollars on her.  That's about when Hartford starts thinking life is too short for such a shallow existence.

On the other hand, Hartford notes that it's hard to give up the lucrative lifestyle of serving Hollywood stars.  When he's serving celebrities, Hartford has the money to eat out, travel, and enjoy the finer things in life.  He soon comes to realize that the money means less to him than doing what he wants to do with his life.  By the end of the book, Hartford has married and wants to spend holidays and weekends with his wife.  He wants to have more time and inspiration for his music.  And the money, while plentiful, just isn't enough anymore.

I could really relate to Hartford's plight.  I made decent money when I worked in a restaurant and it afforded me the ability to pay my own bills.  It also made me physically sick (I was never so sick so often as I was when I worked full time as a waitress).  It drove me into psychotherapy, which was a good thing, as I needed it before I waited tables.  It also drove me to go to grad school, which was ultimately rewarding, but now I'm an overeducated housewife paying back five figures in student loans.

Anyway, I mostly enjoyed Hartford's book.  Sometimes, he comes off a bit shallow, especially when he writes about some of his customers, but I would sort of expect that, given where he was working and the people he was coming into contact with.  There's a fair amount of sex, drugs, rock n' roll, and dirty language in this book, too.  Of course, I am not offended by those things, but realize that others might be.  If you've ever waited tables or find celebrities fascinating, I recommend reading Hartford's book.


  1. Sometimes I wonder if my career decision is the right one. Maybe I'd make a better waiteress or receptionist. i'm not really worried about my stress level once I reach my ultimate goal of research physician, but the stuff I'm going to go through to get there has me questioning whether or not it's worth it in the end. It probably will be, but I'd be an idiot not to at least question it.

    1. If you want to avoid stress, waiting tables is not the way to go.


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