The Waiters

Two Decades Later, a Short Film with a Restaurant Punchline Still Brings the Funny

The other night, I had dinner at Carbone, one of the biggest openings of the season in New York City. I loved the food at this Mario Carbone-Rich Torrisi paean to Italian-American restaurants, in the former home of Rocco’s on Thompson Street. Early in the experience, while sitting with the skyscraper-sized menu (wish I had a photo) listening to the litany of specials from the tuxedoed waiter, I was reminded of a short film that ends with a deadpan, endless riff on the exact same type of recitation, complete with two (unseen) diners holding similarly gargantuan menus.

The film, The Waiters, isn’t about restaurants — it’s an extended play on its title, an absurdsit, at times David Lynch-like look at various “waiters” that ends with the restaurant variety (that bit begins at the 5:10 mark).  Enjoy:

I first saw this movie about 20 years back, when I organized a short-film series at Cascabel restaurant, in the space that is now home to Michael White’s Osteria Morini.  The film was made at NYU, written by Thomas Lennon, who went on to a successful career as a comedic writer and actor, and directed by Ken Webb. Though I hadn’t seen or thought of it in ages, it came right back to me at dinner. Guess it was there in my memory all along, just – er – waiting to be triggered.

Andrew

PS If you worked in a major American restaurant in the 1970s or 1980s (kitchen or front of house), I'd love to hear from you and possibly interview you for my forthcoming oral history of that era. Please reach me at andrew@toqueland.com.

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About the Author

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ANDREW FRIEDMAN has collaborated on more than 25 cookbooks and other projects with some of America’s finest and most well-known chefs including Michael White, Paul Liebrandt, Alfred Portale, and former White House Chef Walter Scheib. He co-edited the popular anthology Don’t Try This at Home and is a two-time winner of the IACP Award for Best Chef or Restaurant Cookbook. Andrew is an editor at large for TENNIS Magazine and the coauthor of American tennis star James Blake’s New York Times bestselling memoir Breaking Back. In 2009, he published his first nonfiction book, Knives at Dawn: America’s Quest for Culinary Glory at the Bocuse d’Or, the World’s Most Prestigious Cooking Competition. He is currently working on a cookbook with chefs Walker Stern and Joseph Ogrodnek of Brooklyn's Battersby restaurant, and is writing an oral history of the American chefs of the 1970s and 1980s, to be published by Ecco Press in 2015.