by OCI Restaurant Management Instructor Tom Bethel

I tell my students, “You have to bring your ‘A’ game every single day because people are counting on you. Don’t tell me you’re tired, you’re hungover, or your in-laws are in town. In my experience in Portland, I’ve dealt with political candidates, secret service, professional athletes, and movie stars. You always have to be prepared.”

My advice for waiting on someone famous:

1. Have their table ready the moment they walk in.
“When they walk in the door, they keep walking – no stopping. It’s good to have someone in front of them. Often they’ll come in the back door, if possible.”

2. Have a quiet, out of the way table, preferably not facing the restaurant.
“Feng shui, in this instance, is not important.”

3. Intercept autograph seekers?
“That’s a case by case deal. You want to keep other guests from disturbing them during the meal. When they’re coming and going, they are probably fair game, unless your restaurant has a policy.”

4. Treat them like a regular person, of course being polite and gracious.
“In my experience, they want to be treated like everyone else. It’s the people around the celebrities that want the special treatment…”

Noteworthy experiences in various chapters of my career as a server and manager in the industry:

@ Lawry’s Westside Broiler, Los Angeles, mid-80’s
• Meeting and serving Muhammad Ali

@ Spago, Los Angeles, late 80’s

• Waiting on Jodie Foster the night she won an Oscar
• Walking Gene Kelly to the car in the rain with an umbrella
• Trampled by paparazzi walking Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell to their car
• Jesse Jackson Fundraiser
• Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty – “They came in together through the back door one night and just hung out in back talking to the waiters because there was a party going on in the main dining room. They were really cool.”
• Serving Don Rickles, Larry King, Bob Newhart, Tom Poston and Suzanne Pleshette – “They were all exchanging on-liners and laughing when I walked to the table. As soon as he saw me standing there, Mr. Rickles stopped everybody and asked me my name, then started the ordering process, which I really appreciated.”
• Lucille Ball at her last public appearance in ’89
• Johnny Carson – “A teenage kid approached table and Wolfgang Puck told me to stop him, Mr. Carson told me to tell the kid to come back, Mr. Carson had his entrée in front of him and stood up and introduced himself to the kid and asked him about himself.”
• Neil Young – “He came in when we weren’t open and I waited on him in an empty restaurant.”
• The entire Lakers “showtime” team
• Also served: Sydney Poitier, Michael Caine, Roger Moore, Arnold Schwarzenneger, Harry Caray

@ Higgins, Portland, ’97 – ‘10
• Meeting and serving Julia Child and Graham Kerr
• Tommy Lee Jones during the filming of “The Hunted”
• Dealing with Secret Service as General Manager when John Kerry and Howard Dean were on the campaign trail – “Senator Kerry was very kind and friendly to everyone. He insisted on saying hello to everyone before leaving, even though it was almost midnight and they’d been up since the crack of dawn.”
• Every Oregon Governor and Senator in the last 15 years
• Emily Deschanel, from the TV show “Bones” – “She was very nice to my daughters.”
• Also served: Robert DeNiro, Harrison Ford, Phil Jackson