The solitude of the waiter

Dining room issues secure an important stage. A preview with maître Beppe Palmieri

24-01-2014
Giuseppe Palmieri, maître and sommelier at Osteri

Giuseppe Palmieri, maître and sommelier at Osteria Francescana, Franceschetta 58 and Panino in Modena. He’s one of the speakers of the second edition of Identità di Sala, which will take place in Sala Blu 2 at MiCo in Milan on Sunday February 9th. The following day, Alessandro Pipero of Pipero al Rex, Marco Reitano of La Pergola and Giuseppe Palmieri will again be the protagonists in the Auditorium hall with an awaited lecture at 10.45 am

We parted in February 2013 after the first edition of Identità di Sala (Identità in the Dining Room) in Sala Blu, which represented the beginning of a journey that aims at giving back dignity and interest to maître and waiter, two professions that have never been less popular. The next edition of Identità Milano will represent the second chapter in this story, with an even stronger accent. After Sunday February 9th, the day dedicated to Identità di Sala in Sala Blu 2 (you can find details and speakers here) there will be an important moment, the following day, on Monday 10th at 10.45 when Alessandro Pipero, Marco Reitano and Giuseppe Palmieri will get on the stage of the Auditorium hall to illustrate - under stronger lights - the issues of the restaurant’s front office. We had a chat with Palmieri himself, the maître at Osteria Francescana in Modena, and in the frontline of this movement to redeem the dining room.

This year, you’ve got hold of a large audience.
This opportunity makes us very happy. Identità Golose is the only congress in the world that has been brave enough to point the spotlight at the dining room. Other congresses make producers and chefs speak, but without us, this exchange is incomplete because the dining room is the link of any discussion on the restaurant scene.

Identità di sala day will also see as a speaker Jeff Katz of Del Posto in New York, hundreds seats between lunch and dinner and veru high quality at the same time

Identità di sala day will also see as a speaker Jeff Katz of Del Posto in New York, hundreds seats between lunch and dinner and veru high quality at the same time

What will you talk about?
First of all, we will pay a homage to a beloved protagonist of the world of signature cuisine, the only professional who has overcome the dining-room-kitchen dichotomy, making them converge in the same person. A man who, thanks to his example, forces all of us to improve. Then we will try to better define this movement of convergence towards the chef. The latter, has often looked at us with scepticism and, let’s admit it, a little hauteur. Something that needs to disappear because we all need to row the boat in the same direction.

What do you mean?
We need to build a relationship based on respect, friendship and complicity. The future of the restaurant scene sees a chef or a patron-chef who’s working peacefully because the accounts are well managed. This, however, has to be done by the maître, who is a restaurateur only if he knows how to work as an entrepreneur, if he can look at his work in the long run. This is the opposite to what happens with those who choose “young and trainable” employees when all they have in mind is exploiting someone while underpaying him.

Even waiters, however, do not excel because of their hyper-activity.
Only a few have the courage to work a lot. We all need to look at the generation of our grandparents, who rolled up their sleeves and worked and saved all their lives.

Brothers Gian Pietro and Giorgio Damini will talk instead about dining room management of a multitasking shop/restaurant like their Damini e Affini in Arzignano (Vicenza) 

Brothers Gian Pietro and Giorgio Damini will talk instead about dining room management of a multitasking shop/restaurant like their Damini e Affini in Arzignano (Vicenza) 

Last year, we parted with Massimo Bottura’s alarm: ‘If we don’t do something for the dining room, we will have an army of unemployed chefs’. Has the situation changed?
No, the only thing I’ve seen growing is the dining room emergency. Day in and day out, I receive calls from my desperate colleagues who are looking for waiters. Who, as soon as they see that you need to work hard, take to their heels. Young generations still want to become chefs because this system is continuing to ignore the dining room and the cellar.

Is this the all time low?
Indeed. Once there was more awareness that it was the dining room that made a great restaurant. Think of the importance that someone like Guido Alciati had in Piedmont. Not considering Antonio Santini, today there are no shining examples. There’s Alessandro Pipero, who interprets the role in a brilliant way. He’s so good he overshadows as great a chef as Luciano Monosilio [also a speaker during Identità Milano 2014, Editor’s Note].

But then, if you work well in the dining room, you also give value to the work of the chef, isn’t it so?
Of course. And if you’re not capable, you humiliate him. Because even an exceptional cuisine as that prepared by Enrico Crippa or Paolo Lopriore can be disintegrated by the dining room staff if they don’t put their heart at it. The dining room is the most important showcase. If it is silent, even an extraordinary cuisine stops being extraordinary.


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The public side of a restaurant seen by its protagonists: maître, restaurant managers, waiters