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The newly renovated Tasting Room at Eve: No place for rookies.

The first week I worked at Restaurant Eve, I felt like I was losing motor skills at the end of a double shift. I’m generally clumsy anyway, and I hadn’t yet mastered the stops and starts of maneuvering a busy dining room, in which guests meander and gawk while the staff hustles from the kitchen to the table. I hadn’t learned to shimmy around corners and look both ways.

In the kitchen, it was lights out — as in ovens were off, orders had been fulfilled. The cooks on the line were busy scrubbing down their stations. Bursting through the doorway, I stopped too late and plowed into a stainless steel table on which a vat of water had been placed. It teetered precariously for what seemed like an eternity, and finally doused me with a soapy tsunami. My suit was wet. Water filled my shoes. I could wring out the ends of my hair.

It was one of many spastic moments.

There’s a clear line dividing the natives and the immigrants of the restaurant world. Those who have grown up in the business have an athleticism and grace, whether it’s holding a knife, greeting a guest, or pouring coffee from a French press, no spills. They don’t wrestle with a full bag of linen as if they were carrying a corpse. They can stick a cake tester in meat and press it to their lip to know the cut is still rare.

Todd Thrasher is one of the natives in the restaurant world who embodies that grace. He knows the restaurant is a place “where he puts troubles aside” to focus on taking care of guests, on coddling them, as he says.

In snippets of conversation during busy shifts, Thrasher often explains how he came by his philosophy. He’ll tell stories of growing up, when his mother took him to Steak and Egg and what a treat that used to be — and why it changed when he noticed ketchup tops encrusted with dried tomato snot.

A restaurant is a place where those details can be managed, where with a little foresight, a table setting can be adjusted to make it perfect. In a four-star restaurant, attention is given to every detail, be it wine pairings, making cocktails, or placing dishes in front of guests open handed.

Though I haven’t spilled on a customer, dropped a tray of glasses, or created an epic disaster, I see in retrospect how at times I didn’t  manage details and how it led to a domino effect in which my JV service required others to step in and provide the polish.

Sometimes I see managing a station in the dining room like managing relationships. It requires being attentive to others — coddling and listening and letting go of your own ego. Whether in a relationship or at the dining room table, such attention makes a huge difference in the quality of one’s experience.

Or perhaps I’m being idealistic. If life were as easy to manage as patrons in a dining room, we’d all be lucky.