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Setting the Stage

By MP Wilkerson

The Gadsden GAB is a monthly publication that’s written by BG residents, for BG residents. Every two weeks, we’ll feature an article from the GAB on the Bishop Gadsden website. To read more, you can read the entire February edition here.

The mark of a fine restaurant is excellent service and Bishop Gadsden’s fine dining restaurant Winningham Court is no exception. Not only is the food delicious, the service is smooth and professional. “Proper food service should be like a well-oiled machine, all the parts meshing quietly and efficiently”, explained Tyler Pierson, Service Manager for Culinary Services, the department that manages Winningham Court. To achieve this high standard of service, the Culinary Services Department has taken educating their servers a step further. They have created a two-week training course that the servers must attend before they can start to work in the dining room. “The servers, who are mostly high school and college students, have little or no fine dining experience, and for some, it is their first job,” Tyler added. “Beyond what they see on TV or in the movies, they have no idea of this kind of service, so we have to build from the ground up.” Good service is much more involved than knowing on which side to serve a dish and on which side to remove it. The servers need to know things such as how to use the computer system, how to listen to the guests so they can address their needs, how to take orders, how to work with the kitchen staff, how to handle timing, ordering, delivering, and serving the courses, and how to clear the table and present the bill. Servers also need to know how to set a formal table and where the wine and water glasses go and how the kitchen works. For example, when an order is ready in the kitchen, an expeditor, who is the link between the kitchen and the servers, puts it on the tray in a certain way. The dish at the top of the tray is for the guest sitting at the top of the table nearest the conservatory by the dining room, and the other plates follow around. On top of all this, servers need to know the special restaurant language. For example, “86” means the kitchen is out of the item. The training course begins with a check that the uniform fits properly, (e.g., the pants length is appropriate) to ensure that the servers look neat and professional. Then Day One begins with an overview of the training packet they have received. The trainees’ skill level is assessed and they are taught basics such as how to properly pick up water glasses and operate the computer system. They are also paired with one of the most experienced members of the staff, and at the end of the shift they sit down together to reinforce what was learned that day. Each day, a little more information is added. According to Tyler, the hardest thing to learn is timing, such as knowing when to put in the order for the different courses and how to space out the courses. The other difficult area involves wine service and the pairings of the wines with the various dishes. By the third day, the trainees actually work side by side with an experienced server and at the end of five days they are assessed as to what additional training they need. At this point, they may need extra time to learn and understand the menu and to be able to answer the myriad questions guests may have. They also need to be able to pronounce the names of dishes and ingredients correctly. “There is no pleasure in putting someone out there who is not ready,” said Tyler. “For many of the servers, this is their first job and we want to be a role model of how they should be treated in the workplace.” These are a great group of kids”, he added, and he is very proud of their professionalism. And because the servers have worked in fine dining at Bishop Gadsden, they now have a foundation they would not have had otherwise and they can honestly say they know fine dining when they are looking for a job in the future. Jim Epper, Vice President of Culinary Services, is also enthusiastic about the servers. “Our high school students play a vital role in the success of our fine dining program. Some of them start in high school and continue to work with us until they graduate from college. For most, it is their first job and for teens that are able to balance work, and extracurricular and social life, working at Bishop Gadsden can be a positive experience. These students develop interpersonal and professional skills they can carry through life.”