Café Society's bar manager Tifaney Boldt has seen pretty much everything in the restaurant business. From her beginnings at age 16 at a pizza place, where she headed up the kitchen for six years, to a decidedly different — and more upscale — server position at the now-defunct Washington Street Bistro in Collierville. She adapted quickly from pie-maker to order-taker, and eventually became the restaurant's floor manager, "under the leadership of a wonderful mentor." From mozzarella maven to bar manager, she's got some great stories, and some helpful tips about how, and how not, to get the best service in a restaurant.
What is it about the restaurant business that appeals to you so much? It can get rather hectic, with late hours, right?
There's just something about it that feels right. When I'm in a restaurant I'm very comfortable. The key is that you really, really have to like people, and I do. I love meeting folks and hearing their stories. If you're not a people-person, this is not the gig for you.
The learning curve from kitchen to upscale dining seems like it would be huge.
It was! I had to learn table training, where they teach you everything from folding napkins to settings and which side to serve from. Then there's the pouring service training, where you learn about wines and guiding people through pairing them with their meals. It was different, and I liked it, but when I got behind the bar one night, I knew that's where I really wanted to be.
Talk about a learning curve! There must be hundreds of drinks and cocktails to learn how to make. How'd you do it?
By this time I was downtown at LoLo's Table, alternating from the floor to the bar, and it's really a "learn-as-you-go" process. I spent a lot of nights at home in front of the computer at epicure.com and other cocktail recipe websites, studying.
Hmm. You know the last two places you mentioned are now closed. Are you sure it wasn't you? Are you the kiss of death?
NO! (laughing). For the record, both places closed after I left, so I'm sure I had nothing to do with it. Besides, after LoLo's I spent a year and a half at the Majestic Grille, and they're doing just fine. So there!
So how'd you end up here, at Cafe Society?
I moved from downtown to Midtown, and wanted to work closer to where I live. I'd heard that Cullen [Kent, chef and owner] was great to work for, and he has been. He lets me get creative, making up signature drinks and testing them out on the regulars. Plus our clientele is fantastic. Nice people, lots of regulars, and plenty of creative freedom.
Is it true you can tell something about someone's personality by what they order?
Well . . . spill it.
No, that's going to be a bartender secret. You'll just have to use your imagination, but I can tell you that I don't expect a younger woman to come in and order Dewar's. That's what the guy who comes and sits beside her to try to make friends orders.
So what's the key to getting really great service at either a dining table or a bar?
Attitude! Be nice! And of course, if you tip well on that first drink, you're going to be on the bartender's radar.
What's the worst thing a customer can do?
Never, ever snap your fingers and scream "HEY!" or heaven forbid, throw something. I've heard of other bartenders getting napkins, matchbooks, etc. thrown at them to get their attention, but it's never happened to me.
Is that because you are such a great bartender or because you work in nice restaurants?
A bit of both. Thankfully! M