For thousands of service staff all over the city, Valentine’s Day was not the romantic, rose petal-strewn, relaxed candle lit evening that we read about in press releases, it was a hard day of set up and a long busy night making sure all of you had a wonderful experience with your significant other.

For service management, the planning for Valentine’s Day began months ago, writing and costing menus, proofing copy for advertising, dining room maps and reservation procedures for a night that is very different from any other service of the year. We call it “Deuced to Death”.  A table for two is called a deuce in the industry, so on a normal evening of two hundred covers we might have only 35 tables to service, a large party or two some eight tops, a six and lots of fours and only a dozen deuces.  But Saint Valentine prepares very different plans for February 14th.

I’ll explain: if a medium size restaurant is going to do 100 people for dinner and each person is going to have an appetiser, a main course and dessert, that’s 300 plates.  All these plates have between 3 and 9 components each, all with different holding temperatures and cooking times, and the kitchen and service staff have to expedite those plates all with in a few hours, but not when we want to send them, we have to do it when YOU want them.

A chef or expediter has to keep control of this mayhem in a kitchen that is usually too small (the acreage in the dining room generates revenue in the form of bums in seats, so the kitchen is as small as possible in most restaurant designs). Too hot, he or she has probably been there for too many hours and those hundreds of plates, being prepared by others with different build times and temperatures have to be synchronized to arrive at the right time every time so that every guest has to be happy.

This only gets more complicated when you have a room full of deuces: .there are more chits (the paper your table order is on), more decisions, the possibility for more mistakes and more calls for pick up on more courses.

Not fun, you might say? Chefs love it, in fact we thrive on this stress. While the general perception is that servers are mostly about the money, Chefs, those of us that chose our profession, actually welcome the stress and the constantly-changing tasks.  I am not sure if the industry makes us nuts or if you have to be nuts to get into it, but we wouldn’t be happy at a desk or even performing the same tasks day in and day out.

So Happy Valentines Day, I hope you enjoyed whatever you did and wherever you went.  Just remember the money you put down in trade for the mints or chocolates on your bill buys not only your dinner, it buys our time and passion. We work so you can love!

Thanks for reading,
Chef Simon