Following on from my previous post about David Hackworth and Peter Hackworth and my time at 'Scaramouche' Restaurant in Brisbane, I'll relate a story.
I have many to tell about my time at 'Scaramouche'...and all, I think, are fairly interesting and fun. I worked at 'Scaramouche' on tables, (and one time in the kitchen...but that's another story for another day!) starting off by going into help one day. I had taken four days or five days off from my regular day job, which was in the fashion industry, to give a hand...just polishing glasses, writing up the blackboard menu...stuff like that but as the day progressed, I became so involved I didn't want to leave and I ended staying on into the evening, greeting and seating guests...and doing the odd bit of waitressing. No stoppin' this kid! Peter asked me if I'd like to do a couple of nights a week and I jumped at her offer, starting off doing Friday and Saturday nights. By the end of my time at the restaurant I was doing five nights a week and all through my service there I maintained the main section. The restaurant was divided up into three sections at the beginning. My section grew! It ended up extending from a back room opposite the kitchen, through the main area, up unto the 'stage' section! We did three turn-overs a night! First one commenced at 6pm. Second one around 8pm and the third around 9pm. I still had my full-time day job, as well.
One particular incident comes to mind. It was Saturday night. All week the kitchen staff had been taking the bookings we discovered, the hard way...and they had failed to enter most of the bookings in the book, so we were absolutely over-booked! Around 7-7.30pm that particular Saturday evening, prospective diners were queued up at the door, extending from the restaurant, which was on the corner of Turbot Street and Coronation Drive (for you who know that area of Brisbane), up along Turbot Street, around the corner into George Street. The Majestic Hotel was on the corner and the queue was past the Majestic Hotel. I don't know if the hotel is still there. So you imagine the crowd of hungry diners waiting to be seated inside the restaurant! The early diners were still leisurely enjoying their meals, totally unaware of the mayhem which was about to explode...or implode! The guy on the door wasn't handling the situation very well, and no one could blame him. Peter started to hyper-ventilate almost...she was in a panic, not knowing what to do being faced with the possibility of a riot on her doorstep! I walked outside and that's when I saw the length of the queue. I came back inside the restaurant, took Peter aside and said, "Look! There's no point panicking...as that's not going to solve a thing...it will only make the situation worse. My suggestion is that you and I grab ourselves a bottle of wine and head upstairs for a bit and let them work it all out themselves!" To which Peter let out a huge breath of air and replied, "What a great idea! Let's go!"
This we did. The two of us sat on the stairs, at the top of the staircase and drank our wine! By the time, we came back down, everyone was seated, bar a party of six! They, fortunately for us, were in a good, partying mood. When Peter and I approached them, I explained to the group that they would only have to wait a little bit longer before we would seat them. They replied, "That's okay as long as we can have a drink while we are waiting!" At that time, 'Scaramouche' wasn't licensed but the party had bottles of wine under their arms.
We said..."Great! Not a problem! Come with us!" Peter and I led the happy revellers up the stairs to the store room! Once there, I opened their wine. They asked us to join them and we did! So there we were with the jovial group sitting on bags of flour, sugar and large buckets of mayonnaise or whatever, having our own private party! Shortly thereafter, their table was ready and all was well!
There was not an unhappy diner in the restaurant that night and I think Peter was eternally grateful for my suggestion.
Years later, I was up in North Queensland taking on a new job as chef. The guy whom I was replacing worked with me on my first night. We were exchanging stories about cooking, restaurants etc., as one does, and for some reason or other, I began telling him this story. As I got towards the end of my tale, he had a grin like the Cheshire Cat out of 'Alice in Wonderland' on his face. He said, "I remember that night! It was the talk of the trade in the city!" Apparently, the word had passed around and our magical trick was now a well-known legend in the Brisbane restaurant trade! Small world! And it is a lesson to be learned that when relating a story to make sure you don't embellish it. Just tell it as it was because you will always get caught out if you spin a yarn that's not true!
A lot of the restaurant folk used to come to 'Scaramouche' after they'd finished working in their restaurants to have a drink with us. We seemed to be always closing much later than the others at that time. It used to be a lot of fun sitting around a couple of tables in front of the 'stage' area exchanging stories as we enjoyed a few drinks.