Saturday, November 22, 2008

Advanced Placement Table For One

This is a juicy insider tutorial for the solo diner.

When I lived in downtown Oakland, I would treat myself to a lavish dinner for one at least once a week.
Armed with my industry knowledge from being a double digit year foodie, I constantly exercised the practice that I now pass on to the masses. It should be noted that in any other professional arena, I should be a able to charge for this.

First of all, if you are dining alone, make sure you sit at the bar. Nobody wants to be, or look at, the creepy person on a dining room floor peering over their risotto at all the other happy couples. Now-not any seat at the bar will do. Solo diners need to position themselves as close to (preferably next to) the service bar.
This area is usually marked by tall brass handles, the obligatory bar mat, and ever present the cocktail condiment caddie. This is where all the servers will go to retrieve any ordered beverages from the dining room floor that need to be prepared by the bartender. This area is the water cooler of the restaurant office and offers nothing less than the ha has and gaffas that have become synonymous with gossip posts in any working environment.

Lets step back for a moment: It is crucial that you are armed with props that allow you to co-mingle with the staff as one of their own, without being noticed. Like any wild animal being observed in their natural environment, foodies will silence themselves immediately and pull up shop if the foreigner feigns the slightest interest. So it becomes crucial that you look like your not really listening at all.
Do not assume the establishment will have a television for you to fake watching. Come prepared with a magazine or book, and be prepared to not read a word.

Side Note: If you frequent this establishment, take the time to learn table numbers. This will provide endless visual aides for the tid-bits of industry gossip you are about to devour.

Let The Games Begin!

Two servers patiently waiting for their gin and tonics to be made: "Did you see the rack on the girl on table 22..I would wear that like a hat". server 2, "I got a biggun on table 57. She ordered a 24 ounce bone in rib eye, extra peppercorn sauce, side of mac and cheese, creamed spinach, baked potato and a diet coke. Who the hell is she kidding with diet?" server 1, "how much do you think the guy with the comb-over on 62 is paying for his date with that whore?". enter bartender with made drinks, "Dude on seat 12 has the worst breath ever-seriously smells like hes been eating shit sandwiches, and the fucker just ordered extra garlic on his calamari. gonna be a long night." server 1, "did you hear that Alex and Chris hooked up last night?" server 2, "shes the town bike man-everybodys had a ride." Exit servers bar left armed with their cocktails.

Devilishly you smile not just because you went unnoticed and could make out every word, but you realize this whole phenomenon will repeat itself endlessly throughout the night and you haven't even been served your salad.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jennas a Little Black Rain Cloud

I have a server on staff named Jenna. She is one of the most delightful people I know. Never short of a smile, never profane, always polite..Every bit the lady that parents hope their kids will become, however; being the eternal optimist does not exclude you from the type of day Jenna had at the restaurant last night. As a famous author once wrote-"things fall apart"

At first glance and from a distance-one would only see Jennas pressed uniform accompanied by her delightfully multi colored headband and think "everything is coming up Jenna". This was not the case.

After an unauthorized gerrymandering of her table section resulting in a far inferior assignment, things just started to go awry. First she knocks the printer off the table into the window and narrowly escapes shattering said glass. Clumsiness happens in the restaurant business when one is idle, and she is idle because an endless supply of patrons are being escorted to her section only to request of the hostess before they sit, "may we sit somewhere else?". Jenna has no tables.

In an effort to supply some sort of distraction, I bring her a sample of the sauce we will be using for the fish that evening. A lovely and well balanced concoction of carrot, coconut, and curry. Upon one sip Jenna is clearly dismayed as she exclaims "this is the grossest stuff I have ever tasted and now it has taken over my mouth". Jenna will be selling no fish tonight.
She excuses herself for a pilgrimage to the guest restroom for some much needed mouthwash relief. There is no more mouthwash. UUUGGHH!
I let her know that there is a small remaining portion in my office and she quickly disappears, she needs that taste out of her mouth and NOW!
She returns glassy eyed and laughing/crying. Jenna has missed her mouth with the hurried shot of Listerine and poured it down her shirt.
Quickly another distraction is needed to alleviate dwelling in the moment, and the phone ringing provides the perfect simple task for Jenna to execute.
She saunters to the phone and picks it up.."Good evening and thank you for calling First Prespeterian Church"......silence...."I mean The Steakhouse". oh Jenna.

At this point I need to dig deep to give her a reason to smile. A compliment that will make her feel good about her terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
"At least you have a magnificent Technicolor headband today" , I say.
"It gives me a headache".

Theres just no winning this one.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

According To Joe-part 1

My brother Joe is Terrific! Not unlike so many of us in the Tullis clan, he sees things a little differently.

Joe is currently in possession of a Japanese fighting fish. A fish that he doesn't particularly want.
Further more; he named this fish Sandy. Not the ideal moniker for a tough sounding species like "Japanese fighting fish".

Here's the deal. Joe will probably own this fish for the duration of the average fish life span because he is unable to perform an type of euthanasia. He pines over pet ownership on an hourly basis and can be heard muttering "I don't even want this fish" or "dammit, I have to clean Sandy's bowl".

Why does Joe even have a fish, and what could have transpired to lead to such an unwanted partnership, one may ask.

Well according to Joe-They should never put a pet shop next door to a bar.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Breakdown of Tobyisms

In the fast paced world of food and beverage, I have come to rely on a smattering of "go-to" lines that I use on a regular basis. The guests of course see them as fresh and new and constructed just for them...,my staff however knows that they from a seemingly endless arsenal of cataloged Tobyisms and have (more often than not) taken to rolling their eyes in acceptance.

I.E.-when a familiar patron appears in the restaurant you may hear me greet them with "I thought it felt hotter in here" (insert eye rolling). Or a greeting with a question, "Is it as hard as it looks?" (reply with "what?") , "Looking that good." (insert eye rolling) or table side-"How is everything prepared tonight?" (reply-GREAT!), "Wonderful, in that case it is all MY doing, that's why I ask first you see, because if it was bad it was somebody elses doing and I would act accordingly".

But my favorite isms are reserved for the staff themselves, and while they hear them time and time again they never seem to tire.

I.E.-"pardon me hun, but the grownups are talking" or "I know your job is difficult, let me just call my friend who is busy trying to cure cancer and let him know your both on the same page".

But the number one is a rehearsed soliloquy that is all mine and still makes me giggle when in deploy it.

On a busy night I pick the busiest server. You know the one that has no time to stop and chat let alone revere in Tobyisms. I stop them mid stride-
"I need to see you in my office when this madness cools down"
They come to an abrupt halt. I might as well have said "you need to see the principal". reply-"Why, what did I do?"
soliloquy-"At this particular time, we feel that you and the restaurant are going in separate directions, (hand gesture of separation). We have no doubt that you have a bright future ahead of you, it's just not in food and beverage".

Please note that this person has done nothing wrong and on the contrary is handling themselves very well. Why then?
Quickly the server realizes that I have provided and opportunity for them to stop...catch their breath and thoughts...and coupled it all with a ridiculous joke. They are now able to see over the tall weeds a little clearer...and like I said-I get a kick out of being ridiculous.

What do I hope to accomplish with this grammar school mentality? I just want to point out that we need to stop, laugh, and stop taking our 4 hours of mad paced work too seriously. As they say-This too shall pass.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Prop 8 Madness

As quick as I am to point out how bipartisan sites like blogspot are no place to air political grievances-This kind of oppression will not stand!

Passing prop 8 is absolutely no different than a whites only water fountain.

The goose that gets my gander is why any heterosexual (for or against gay marriage) gives two wooden nickles what Chuck and Larry do at home. It is none of antibody's damned business.

If there were an audio clip associated with anybody that voted for, I believe it might be "Oh look at those two people over there who are in love. They look way too happy. I'm going to have to put an end to that."

We should all be so lucky to find the special someone with whom you want commit your life to. Who gives a shit who that person is.

The passing of proposition 8 is an abomination!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Want Your Stories

Hello Friends- I am continuing my long-term project, and I need your help. Inspired by the holidays, and driven by my families tradition of sharing stories around the dinner table after a feast, I am still searching for your stories (I know you have them).
MY VISION: A book of short "EVENT" stories that can be shared at dinner tables and enjoyed personally whenever and wherever.
WHAT IS AN "EVENT": I want stories relating to (all)holidays, birthdays, graduations, funerals, reunions and any other times people get together and things happen that are note worthy, EX:Uncle Harry throwing up on the turkey, the surprise guest at your birthday that you haven't seen in years,the first Christmas following the death of a love done, or the first Easter egg hunt by a toddler, etc.
CRITERIA: All I ask is that these stories are short,true and involve specific events (Holidays, Birthdays, etc.). These stories can be funny, sad, inspiring, or just plain reflections that have affected you. Please also feel free to include your full name, and place city/state of residence. (All contributers will receive a free copy of the book)
MY GOAL: To collect enough stories to put into a book called "Told Around The Table, You throw the Party and I'll Bring the Ham"(copyright) for people to read aloud from at their own gatherings.
HOW: I have set up a special e-mail account for submissions. ,please submit your stories here and I promise to read them all. You may also contact me with any questions through this e-mail address (
We all produce very unique experiences in our lives, but none so seemingly share worthy than when we gather in groups, and when we share with others we not only keep those special memories alive through reflection, but we are gifted the rare opportunity to invite all others into our homes.
My hope is that a small collection of individual experiences will further unite all of us in a larger way.
Thank you for participating and please tell all of those close to you, and forward this content to as many as you like, I welcome all entries.
Your Friend: Toby Tullis

Is Inner Angst Seasonal?

More often than not I am a professional mask wearer. "Shiny happy people holding hands"...My job as a restaurant manager requires it. That is not to say that inside I am the live in a shanty in the woods, manifesto writing, beard growing mess that is the flip side of Michael Stipe lyrics....I'm not-I am quite happy internally...Less so when somebody complains that their medium well steak is overcooked, but hey, what can you do. However; lately I feel like tearing my flesh open at the sternum and yelling at nobody in particular.."ARE YOU SERIOUS? REALLY?". I wonder if the onset of colder weather that directly relates to the surge in dining populations may be acting as an investing factor. We want, nay, we require more people spending their depleting wealth in restaurants such as mine, and should relish the opportunity to stay in business, regardless of how clueless 20% of diners may act. I remind myself that unlike many other occupations, my cubicle comes with a fully stocked bar, and much like sex and pizza-even when it's bad, it's still pretty good., but still sometimes (not unlike so many of us) I just feel like screaming......Maybe I'm just cold.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mexico-Asi Asi

With a fair amount of complimentary alcohol and a minimal amount of sand in my crevices, I return from a four day excursion to the lovely Cabo San Lucas ("lovely" optional).

Here's the thing-without the safe haven of an all inclusive resort (inset Dreams Los Cabos) all you are is in a third world country.

Yes the weather is hot, humid, and welcome while in the process of escaping the bitter chill of our California fall, and yes the water is deeply blue and gorgeous, but I challenge anybody to have both of those aspects a part of their daily surroundings and make them anything less than attractive to the traveler check wielding tourist that arrives ready to make everything from hand made bracelets to a peso look intriguing, wild, and exciting.

Yes-there was a trip long brushing of our particular Gulf Coast from the truly exciting Hurricane Norbert (who in the hell names a Hurricane Norbert?), and yes-that could very well be an attribute of the Mexican Water taste in my mouth about the whole experience. Something about not being able to jet ski, zip line, rent scooters, or hell, even go in the ocean, does put somewhat of a damper on a trip. But just as all readers may start to take pity on this authors feeble and miserable trip to a tropical paradise...enter all inclusive resort, Dreams Los Cabos. four restaurants and six bars with no prices does help the process along. Like a spoon full of sugar, or a bactine cured band-aid.....things are going to be fine.

So bottom line- Is Mexico just Mexico wherever you go....Yes. Can some places doctor it up so that it looks more attractive....Yes. Does the doctoring usually require a heavy dose of American culture.....Apparently. Just remember what they say, a pig wearing lipstick is still just a pig.

My friend summed it up best when she said "It was a nice four days, but for that kind of money you can do so many other nice things!"

Sammy Hagar, you can keep it, Mexico simple esta asi asi por me dinero!

Monday, September 29, 2008

You Do or You Don't

For some time now I have been unable to pin point my frustration with the masses. On a macroeconomic level there is just far too many semantics to pin point an underlying explanation.

Then a flash-A HA! and all at once a theory on life strikes me without warning....(I Know, Toby...a theory....weird!)

The world is completely divided into two groups. There is no room for gray matter here. You either "get it" or "you don't".

People that know that lousy service still deserves a 15% tip get it. People that use a coupon for a free meal and tip 10% on the cost of their beer-don't.

People that plan and include their teenage kids on their social activities to bond with them get it. People that buy their teenage kids a keg so that "at least they know where they are"-don't.

People that order coffee for the end of their meal get it. People that order hot tea, don't.

The pressing question at hand, now that our vision has become so dramatically unobstructed, is when does it happen. We are not all born getting it, so then when? In a flash at a silent unspoken time, when shopping for shampoo or channel surfing on your bed, eyes thrust form their sockets, you sit straight up and exclaim to nobody in particular.."Holy Shit...I Get It!".

I suppose this could be a simple explanation to an unarguable point, and then again I suppose there could be some other explanation, but the point is-you do or you don't, and I know because.....I Get It!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sunday Diners-a message from behind the scenes

The typical Sunday Diner seems to follow a pattern that should be brought to light, solely to serve as an instruction manual for the lay person, or a "what -not-to-do" outline for those tempted to eat out on Sundays.
"Honey, we got a coupon for a deal at the local watering hole that we have never been too, and we need to take advantage of it soon, so we can get busy not going back ever again."
"Sounds good Hun-don't make a reservation for our family of 12. We will just show up".
With flip flops, tank tops, and wailing babies blazing, the demanding begins.
"Hot tea, water for the table...and is bread free? good, we'll have that...and we have a coupon".
Bless the servers heart for abstaining from the tempting eye roll, and instead replacing with a gracious grin, all the while muttering through clinched teeth, "I'm never going to make rent this month".
2 1/2 hours, 75 bread baskets, and a bill for $28.50 later, the wildly appropriate (and very well deserved) tip of $1.75 is applied to the bill and the Appalachian family disappears leaving only the broken crayons and miles of crushed Cheerio crumbs in the carpet (provided of course by thoughtful aunt Bell and her never depleted pantry from 1942), never to return again......until wait......."Honey, we got a coupon for a deal..bla, bla, bla.".

Friends don't let friends be Sunday Diners!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Most Days

Most days I would just like to be the person that runs into me on a semi-regular basis, not so much the guy who creates the path on a minute to minute basis, but more the..."Hey Tob, what have you been up to lately. Haven't seen you in a couple weeks".
This way I could eliminate the mundane, "watching paint dry", aspect from life and just get the highlight reel. "Oh hey Tob, not much, let's see. I'm going to Mexico in October. I am working as a restaurant manager, and I love it! Other than that just same ol-same ol', hey lets go golf next week."
We should all be so lucky!