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Tell me something.  Have you seen Downton Abbey?  You haven’t? GO SEE IT NOW!

I recently started watching the show for the first time last week.  Wow.  Amazing.  An absolutely FANTASTIC show.  I watched episode after episode, and needless to say, I was instantly hooked.  I could finally see why so many people raved about the show.  Especially those that I work with on a daily basis.  You see, awesome readers of this blog, the show strikes a chord with us who work in restaurants.  It pertains to something that we love to do on a daily basis:

Service

What kind of service do you say?  Well, the desire to serve people.  More specifically, to serve people in the realm of dining. It is something that I have been around for most of my life, having worked in restaurants since the age of 15.  I love everything about it, and wouldn’t change my career choice for the world.

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Here is Carson’s impersonation of me – decanting a bottle of wine.

When I first started watching Downton Abbey, I was struck by the accuracy of what service was like between the staff and the Crawley family in that time period.  It really portrays how intertwined the two sides of the house are with regards to how things run on a daily basis.  One needs the other to live on a daily basis.  It is the lively hood of the service staff.  They enjoy it, they live for it, and they wouldn’t do anything else – unless you wanted to be a secretary like Gwen!

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The art of service – free hand behind the back (like Mr. Lang) and bending at the waist (like Carson).

The more I watch Downton Abbey though, the more I realize that service isn’t much different now then it was back then. For us in the restaurant business, the difference is that we are serving our peers, instead of Lords, Earls, and Dukes.  Granted, there are those wealthy people who dine in our restaurant – and they would be the equivalent of the Crawley family, but for the most part, it is our peers that we serve.  Just like Carson, Mr. Bates, and Mrs. Hughes, we take pride in our work.  We not only do it for the people we serve, but for ourselves as well.

The striking similarity though between service now and back then during the times of the Downton staff, is the long hours. The preparation for serving people is long and arduous.  You just don’t show up to work and start waiting on people.  You get there hours before the first reservation to polish all the silverware, fold the linen, polish glassware, set the tables properly, clean the furnishings, and talk about those who are coming in to dine.  Not any different from the Downton staff.

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The Downton staff eats together, just like we do at work. It’s called “Staff Meal”.

But watching Downton Abbey, I can see the humility and grace that most of the staff has with the Crawley family.  If I was to compare myself to anyone on the staff, it would be Mr. Bates.  The man just oozes with grace, humility, and loyalty to Lord Crawley.  Not only that, he has an immense pride in himself, and doesn’t let anyone get him down.  I relate to him because I try to exude grace and humility with the people I serve on a daily basis.  Professionalism is something that has become a forgotten art in restaurants today.  A recent experience at Wildfire restaurant a few weeks ago showed me how professionalism within a service staff is something that is forgotten.  While the food I ate there was good and what I expected, the service was below par on all levels.  I felt myself shaking my head and being embarrassed for my guests with all the mishaps that took place during that evening.

When you get to this level of service, professionalism is embedded in you from your other experiences.  I’ll never forget something Charlie Trotter taught us while I worked there.  He constantly preached the value of self-image and how we portrayed ourselves outside of work.  We were representatives of his restaurant and his name, and we should conduct ourselves as such wherever we were at.  I personally think that should apply for any restaurant that is open for business.  The art of service goes beyond the people you serve.  It encompasses how you live your life in general – just like the staff at Downton.

Unless you are that evil Thomas.