January 31, 2017
Beth Sims at Uchiko
Sims was hired on as a sous-chef when Austin's iconic creative Japanese concept Uchiko first opened in 2010. After two years, she made the transition to front of house, where she serves and bartends with finesse. "She is genuine, humble and epitomizes our core values," says general manager Chris Whitman. "She makes our guests feel comfortable and willing to put their trust in her for an awesome experience."
Secret to success: "Sims' food knowledge is immense and her passion for cooking is evident in all her interactions," Whitman says.
Insider tip: "I always encourage guests to tell me things they like and things they don't like and send out one or two dishes that they wouldn't think to order."Austin's restaurant scene continues to power forward, expanding by leaps and bounds each year. And that growth wouldn't be possible without solid front-of-house servers, a commodity which is far too rare these days. The following 10 veteran servers specialize in the sort of expertise and hospitality that all restaurants should exude. So next time you go out to eat, seek out one of these familiar faces to ensure your dining experience goes off without a hitch.
Clinton Tedin at Dai Due
Tedin was Dai Due's first ever employee, working at the original supper club 10 years ago, long before the local, sustainable brick-and-mortar restaurant and butcher shop opened its doors in 2014. And, just in case you were wondering, he's never owned a cell phone.
Secret to success: "Watching Clinton interact with customers reminds me that some people truly and wholly enjoy service," says owner Jesse Griffiths. "He has a one-liner for every situation and uses them with precision. His empathy towards the customer makes them feel special, because, to Clinton, they are special and deserve all of his attention."
Insider tip: "Come in on a Tuesday night and sit at the bar," says Tedin, who bartends every Tuesday and waits tables the rest of the week. "Order a pork chop and a glass of the Lost Draw Gemutlichkeit. And if Abby [Love] has any pie on the menu, certainly order some, because — you can quote me on this — as a matter of general policy, I am pro-pie."
Donovan Calabaza at Perla's Seafood and Oyster Bar
Calabaza has worked at Perla's Seafood and Oyster Bar for eight years and finds great pleasure in making sure each guest's dining experience is extraordinary. He recalls serving Keanu Reeves fondly, saying "I was awed by his friendliness and patience toward fans that surged all around him the moment he finished his meal."
Secret to success: "I know a table is occupied by people who are cared and loved by someone, which in turn reminds me that everyone I come in contact with should have the best service imaginable."
Insider tip: "Two dishes certainly stand out in my mind: the grilled octopus and the crispy snapper," says Calabaza. "The effort and time that goes into both of these creations show the expertise and care that Perla's is known for. It also never hurts to add a dozen fresh oysters to the dining experience. You'd be surprised by the variety that we have coming in every day."
Daniel Bedard at TRIO
After working as a server on cruise ships, Bedard joined the Four Seasons team in 2005 and has been the most requested server since. The hotel's upscale American restaurant regularly receives comment cards and letters from guests singing his praises, and a few guests even bring him back gifts from their travels.
Secret to success: Bedard is known by fellow servers to go above and beyond the call of duty. For example, when he found out two gentlemen were celebrating Persian New Year, he looked up samples of menus served in Iran and printed out recipes for the kitchen, which made the feast a reality. The guests were completely floored by both his gesture and the authenticity of the meal, a hostess reported.
Insider tip: Do like the regulars do, and request Bedard as your server.
Abigail Perry at Bufalina
Perry's first hospitality job was at Wheatsville Co-op's deli at age 16. She's since worked at Ruby's BBQ, Spiderhouse, East Side Showroom and then Second Bar & Kitchen, where she was a server from opening until September 2015. She has been at Neapolitan pizza mecca Bufalina since then, wowing guests with her wine knowledge (she is a level one sommelier) and attention to detail. "The enthusiasm with which she tackles her job is infectious," says owner Steven Dilley. "Not only do our diners feel it, but our staff does as well."
Secret to success: "Being fluent in non-verbal communication," Perry explains. "Noticing when someone is uncomfortable, thirsty, needing or wanting to feel special, etc. — people tell you so much!"
Insider tip: "Ask your server to order for you," she says. "We love it, the whole staff usually collaborates on it and you get the best meal anyone in the house could end up with."
Monte Pope at Central Standard
Not only has Pope worked at the South Congress steakhouse Central Standard since its December 2015 opening, but he's also put in time at La Condesa, Sway, Café No Sé and is in training for a server position at Otoko — all restaurants within the New Waterloo family. On top of that, he reads a book a week.
Secret to success: "You have to be kind, and you have to care. When I train someone, these are the only two things I am looking for. If you care, you will learn. If you care, you will improve. You should sincerely care about the guests, your coworkers, the restaurant itself and yourself."
Insider tip: "Guests should know that there are a lot of servers who sincerely care about their dining experience and authentically want you to have a good time," says Pope. "We have an emotional investment in your meal, not just a monetary one. I literally see myself as living off the kindness of strangers."
Hugo Guitron at La Condesa
After working at Vivo, Hyde Park Bar & Grill and Julio's Cafe, Guitron found himself at La Condesa, where he's waited tables for the past four-and-a-half years. When he's not serving modern interior Mexican dishes, he can be found running, swimming, practicing yoga or cooking and studying philosophy and history.
Secret to success: Originally from Guadalajara, Guitron has a vast knowledge of Mexico (particularly Jalisco) but also understands the quirks and nuances of the United States. "He fuses the two together seamlessly, creating comfort with a library of flavors and products many approach with skepticism," says a coworker.
Insider tip: Guitron recommends the El Califa taquitos and the pasilla-glazed pork chop.
Eric Martin at Odd Duck
Martin began working at the then newly opened Odd Duck after moving to town from Wisconsin three years ago. He quickly moved from server assistant to one of the top servers at this seasonally focused, farm-forward restaurant. "Eric is a personality all his own," says general manager and partner Jason James. "He lives, breathes and drinks all things Odd Duck. His charismatic style draws in guests and allows them to have an experience they could only get by dining with him."
Secret to success: "Eric does not have a shy bone in his body," says James. "This helps him find a common level with pretty much every guest and get into their space as he guides them to a wonderful evening. His ultimate goal is to wow his guests and his knowledge of all our products is the tool he uses the most."
Insider tip: "Eat the fish heads!" says Martin. "They are amazing and full of meat. Step outside the box and you may find something new to love."
Mark Fradl at Swift's Attic
Fradl returned to the service industry after 12 years on the road as a professional comedian, and he's been serving the playful, globally inspired fare at Swift's Attic for the past three and a half years. One of his first serving experiences was at Trudy's, which he calls a "rite of passage for service industry in this town. It's something you have to go through, like measles or heartbreak. A lot like measles or heartbreak."
Secret to success: "Fradl is the type of server who notices if you're left handed and then sets your silverware accordingly," says partner C.K. Chin. "If he notices you remove the cilantro garnish from a dish during the first course, he'll ask if you want it removed from the second course. He has also been known to create custom mocktails for guests that don't want to imbibe but want to be part of the festivities."
Insider tip: Come on Monday for Big Ass Burger Night, where the kitchen serves what Fradl describes as "a different, insanely over-the-top, guaranteed-to-make-you-question-reality, possibly life-threatening burger" every week.
Jenna Paul at The Peached Tortilla
Though Paul has only been with Asian fusion spot The Peached Tortilla for a year (after moving to Austin from Ohio for its food scene), she's been in the industry for seven years. When she's not working, she spends her time practicing yoga, hiking the Greenbelt and studying for the sommelier exam.
Secret to success: "My secret to success is a smile, a good attitude and of course my team," she says.
Insider tip: "My favorite dish is the Malaysian laksa bowl," says Paul. "It’s a seafood curried ramen dish that has the perfect amount of spice. It’s definitely become my comfort food."