Monday, November 28, 2011

musings about FOH


"i don't think it is worth it!" declared a woman...over and over again....who decided to put back some of the fruit that she was going to purchase from one of the vendors at the farmers market. this is a vendor that i visit on a regular basis. fruit from this vendor is $3.90 a pound and the price point is very obviously displayed every 4 inches on their signage throughout their stand. when i observed this behavior, there was a part of me that immediately created a mental picture of me grabbing her very expensive yet knockoff quilted chanel purse and repeatedly hitting her burberry logo branded clad body over and over again for such incredible rudeness.

if you don't want to buy the fruit, don't buy it.

perhaps, if you knew a bit more about the fruit....you'd realize why their fruit is $3.90 a pound and why it is incredibly delicious. when i buy their fruit...i buy 3-4 pieces for personal consumption and enjoy every bite. i've been doing this for years and i'm doing it right now....as i eat an asian pear from this vendor for breakfast.

as i puttered around my place this morning, i made myself a cup of hot chocolate which was just water and valrhona (see top pic). just thinking. you know, just thinking about people. thinking about interactions with people. then when i reached for the asian pear, it reminded me of that instance at the market. i've been wanting to write about front of house (FOH) experience for a while now....so why not now? as i have a quiet contemplative moment...waiting for the various loads of laundry to finish up. there has also been more then enough time between my own FOH stints with hapa that my anonymity will still be present....even if i write about it.


i'm a cranky curmudgeonly person.

i don't hide this.

yet, the times that i've helped out doing some FOH work for hapa, i put that aside....because for me....it means more to me that the clients have a positive experience than being myself.

when i help out ...and end up doing FOH....it is important to me that the clients receive a friendly smile, observant supportive helpfulness, a positive connection....that underscores and respects the food. this friendliness is completely contrary to my personality. i'm usually only friendly...you know...if i actually like you. yet, why is it so important to me when i'm doing this? because i know exactly how much work the folks....often right behind me....in the BOH.... put into the food....and i know exactly who makes the food, the farmers the ingredients come from, and the number of lives that the overall business impacts.

the food in itself is a culmination of so many different people....a web of networks....that come together....to ensure that the food that is delivered on the counter or table has the best intentions.

for me, when i am working FOH ....it is different....because i actually care.

at my day job, i care about the quality of work i produce....and my team produces.....it MUST be of the highest quality possible....but i have zero emotional attachment to what execs decide to do with the information. i know and they know it is what they need....my role is providing the information, potential outcomes, strategies, and tactics....but it is really up to them to pull up their own pants and take responsibility for the decisions that come out of the work i do. that is why they get paid a boatload more money than i do. i love the intellectual puzzles and challenges of the work....but have a complete emotional detachment to decisions that are made because of it.


i fully realize that i pimp out my brain and get well compensated for it.

my experiences helping out doing FOH stints here and here are incredibly different. not only do i actually care, but it has also provided me with a different perspective.

i don't see FOH folks the same way anymore.

anytime i hear about a sense of entitlement of a certain percentage for a FOH tip, i just roll my eyes these days. like any team in any kind of industry, there are those that are great at what they do, those that are average, and those that just really suck. if you suck, you shouldn't get rewarded for being subpar....you need to either step up your game or do something else. at the same time, i realize that the places i've become a "regular" at....it is because of specific food offerings and the skill of certain FOH. skilled FOH are integral to creating the atmosphere that underscores the vision for the experience...as well as the food. when i am regular at certain places, i know when someone is just having an "off day" and definitely don't penalize them for it.....and i also know which FOH at these same places are just consistently and always awful....and try to ensure that i'm not seated in their sections.

i also fully realize that some clients are on the full spectrum as well....some are super friendly, some just want their food, some are shy/awkward but are seeking connections with their food, and some are supreme assholes...on purpose....like that person at the farmers market that decided to publicly deride the fruit. there have been times when i've observed supreme asshole behavior from clients at places i've visited...and actually made a conscious decision to "break through" that barrier between client/FOH....to just acknowledge that as a human being......certain actions on the part of the client were inappropriate and uncalled for. normally, the FOH folks are supremely surprised when i've done this...yet, i never received the impression that it wasn't welcomed.

oddly enough, i think folks often forget that the FOH folks are human beings....or they deliberately don't want to remember. i find that this reveals quite a bit about their character or lack thereof.

yet, sometimes, i think this goes both ways.

there are times when i've been a client...watching...observing....certain suck-o-rama FOH folks forget that their clients are human beings as well. i've seen certain FOH pigeon hole and categorize people....and provide them with service that has truly been appalling....methinks that they forget that in such an affluent area like san francisco...that there are many folks that save up to eat out and are hopeful of having a lovely dining experience because they don't get it very often. instead of gently guiding these clients through the dining experience...these FOH become supercilious pretentious pricks. the times i've seen this...it makes me both angry and sad.

while i didn't receive that treatment....it makes me angry enough that i don't return to those places.

i suppose we all have our pet peeves....and this is obviously one of mine. a rather ginormous one.

unsurprisingly, i've never seen anything remotely like this with hapa (even before folks knew who i was)...which is not surprising since i think richie would make any FOH person become quite familiar with his serious knife skills if they were that type of person or decided to show that sort of unacceptable behavior....he's has high expectations for every aspect of his business.
also unsurprisingly, i adore some of the FOH folks that do the hapa ramen popups.

i think my stints helping out FOH on occasion has also led to a greater appreciation for those that decide to do it day....after day....having the patience dealing with the sheer amount of people that come through. i'm not exactly certain what it is...but there is something about food that brings out the best.....most joyful.....almost glowing happiness from people....and it also brings out some of the most appalling behavior.

i know that i couldn't do it. the only reason why i do it occasionally now is because....as i have stated before...i believe in what hapa is doing and want to support them. there is a different doing something because you "have to" and doing something because you...or in this case.... "i".... believe in what the folks are doing.

big difference.

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