Young and Hungry

All About Eve, Part I: Surrounded by Food and Still Constantly Hungry

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This is my fridge.

As a  food lover and sometimes food writer, I have not bought groceries from a Harris Teeter or Whole Foods, let alone a farmers market, since late July. This empty shell reflects the sorry state of my kitchen.

How did I get here? Having found myself at a work-life crossroads, I decided to take a break from my teaching career to follow my passion for food, restaurants, and cooking by embedding myself in the four-star world of Restaurant Eve.

For the past six weeks as a server, I've been memorizing mother sauces. Sampling veloutes. Learning about aigre-doux, nage, and elixer. I've been admiring tarte tatin. Sneaking bites of mission fig or ciabatta bread and sampling habañero sauces on the side. I've been wishing I could sharpen my own knives with a stone, like the chefs on the line.

I am also learning more about wine without tasting it. And I'm being trained on how to "coddle the guests," as mixologist and General Manager Todd Thrasher requires of the people who work for Meshelle and Cathal Armstrong's Eat Good Food Group.

I've also met a crew of extremely hard working people who are so passionate about food they've dedicated their lives to it, for 60 hours or more a week. There's Justin, a server making his own cheese in his spare time. There's Jeremy, the chef de cuisine, who moved to the area after working at Per Se. There's Amanda, a server whose knowledge of food and farmers and trends is encyclopedic. There's the unflappable Leonard, who just passed the first sommelier exam along with Guy, a server who got hitched on a Sunday, his day off. There's Chrissy, the manager whose library of food books might not fit in an 800-square-foot apartment.

And of course, there's Thrasher and the Armstrongs. You may have heard about them. They are everywhere in food news.

On a personal level: Since my working hours have changed from days to nights, I've found it a little isolating, since it's challenging to keep in touch with friends. Dating seems next to impossible. I can't get used to not waking up at 7 a.m., yet I'm going to sleep at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. I drink an eighth of the booze I used to. I'm always standing.

And I wolf down beautiful staff meals. Instead of luxuriating over food as I had the privilege of doing in my past life, eating has become a furtive act. It's fuel. It's nourishment. Food has become a work of art, as evidenced by guys on the line who stack and assemble, dress, and garnish. I fantasize about my old relationship with dishes and drinks. I am constantly hungry. It is humbling.

Maybe someday I'll visit the farmers market with the intention of cooking. Or maybe I'll hit up a Whole Foods to stock my fridge. In the meantime — with the blessing of the Armstrongs, who have granted me permission to write with candor — I'm learning about food in a new way and passing some observations along.

  • J. Holmes

    Why does this column exist? It's not interesting, well written, or illuminating. Being a server sucks. You think?

    Man, I was just about to quit my job to become a server until I read this column!

  • Melissa

    Except it doesnt' suck.

  • http://eatmoredrinkmore.com EatMore DrinkMore

    Gonna disagree with J. Holmes. I think it is a great column, and I am excited for future columns about working at Restaurant Eve.

  • Keith B

    It's pretty rare that a restaurant gives their blessing for an employee to be totally honest and open on a blog about their experiences. All the other "insider" blogs (excluding management astroturfing) are run with great discretion and near-total anonymity (which we know Tim's not a fan of...). I look forward to reading more of this feature.

  • http://arugulafiles.typepad.com/ mary

    I, for one, can't wait to hear more.

  • Courtney

    Yay! Keep writing - I want to hear more.

  • Alex

    Melissa is a fantastic writer, just let her get going. Looking forward to this!

  • Nathan

    Do what you gotta do! Keep writing, listen to your heart.

  • Meshe

    J Holmes....Giving service is far different from the act of servitude. 'Professional' waiters
    in a professional environment are free from the humdrum - Every day is an adventure in live theatre. We feel sad for those who:  sit in traffic, pretend to know fine wine and haven't a clue how beautiful food is actually made. Professional servers, (when they finally become professional;) eat well, drink well, throw and attend the hottest parties, never have to hear the screaming a.m alarm, (The perks go on and on) and are treated like kings by likeminded restaurants. Don't be afraid to quit the day job- just be sure you can handle the lifestyle.

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  • http://twitter.com/monkeyrotica monkeyrotica

    I like the column and I love Eve. I just want to hear more behind-the-scenes gossip and bitchiness, like who's sleeping with who; what happens when the sous chef burns the roux; or what happens when a d-bag customer eats an entire steak, complains it wasn't cooked properly, and wants it comped. I know for a fact this happens because I was seated next to said d-bag.

  • http://metrocurean.com Metrocurean

    Is that lard I see on the top shelf? Can't wait to read more, melissa!

  • MichelleP

    Great article and I look forward to a non-restaurant persons take on all things restaurant. You truly must love this lifestyle, food and all things associated to be your best in this field. I commend your bravery in undertaking this task! As they say..."If it was easy everyone would do it!" Vive le restaurant!!

  • Stefanie Gans

    commenting in praise of ms. mccart. cannot wait to read more about her new life.

  • chrissy

    and to continue with perks...awesome regulars who mail you food books...just because! Ahh this apartment is getting smaller! Love it!

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