When Michelle Jackson, wife of Chef Ryan Jackson, asked me to work the floor on a busy Friday night at the School House Restaurant in Sanger, it was an easy "Yes".
I've worked the floor at restaurants before.
Working in the the front-of-the-house at a restaurant gives a diner an entirely different perspective on food, the restaurant experience, and the passage of time.
However, witnessing "The Pass" at a restaurant, the area where food passes from the kitchen to the dining area, lives in a yet undefined Einstein space-time reality. The Pass is a different world and perceived at a different time than the rest of the restaurant.
As I poured wine that evening, I stood next to The Pass and Chef Ryan every chance I got. I love the action, the commentary, the sense of place.
Patrons in the main dining room simply see food coming to them in the hands of their server, never the various combinations of "how" their order actual gets to them. The server sees the pass often as a gridlock, with their tables never quite coming out fast enough. The kitchen just sees order after order, hopefully uninfluenced by the servers as to what order is taken first or grouped with others.
Finally, there is the individual running The Pass. Sometimes it's the Executive Chef, sometimes it's a restaurant manager, sometimes a Sous Chef, sometimes an owner/partner. It's not an easy job. The Pass has to recognize each dish on the menu, checking for consistency. The Pass must understand the flow of the restaurant and how quickly customers are eating, ordering, arriving, and departing. The Pass must understand the temperament of the servers, who panics, who pads times, who is in control. The Pass must find a formula outside of Einstein's space-time that brings every element of the restaurant together to say, "Table 48 is ready to be served."
It's obvious that a successful restaurant needs to be busy. The Pass helps control the fine line between busy and chaos. Having consistently well-prepared food is why customers go out to eat. But a steak left to long in the window can turn a great steak into a cold steak. Once again The Pass has to make hundreds of judgement calls a night; sometimes 7 nights a week. The Pass puts together skills from both the front and back of house, like no other position in the restaurant.
Many thanks to Ryan and Michelle Jackson and everyone who has supported Mastro Scheidt wines at the School House Restaurant.
And here's to the industry people that run The Pass!