In 2018 the United Nations World Tourism Organization tourism highlight report shared there were 1.32 billion travelers. That’s b for billion. That is a lot of people moving all over the world. That is a lot of guests coming and going to and from to their destinations. That is a lot of people coming through the front door of a hotel and being welcomed as a guest.
When I was working in the Victoria Dining Room at the Chateau Lake Louise between 1994 – 1998 depending on the type of meal, buffet or pre-set menu or a-la-carte I could have easily been serving over a hundred guests each meal time. The dining room itself used to sit up to five hundred guests at one time and I’m sure on any given night the dining room was full each night for at least four to five months of the summer season. That is a lot of people to serve coffee and orange to in the mornings and a lot of glasses of house wine at dinner.
Each table I stepped up to had either, two, four, six or eight people at the table. Each person with their own personalities, attributes, and shortcomings. I thought I would share part of a chapter from my memoir, Behind The Kitchen Doors ~ The Summers when I worked for a luxury hotel in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. I witnessed many couples and sometimes I was their pawn in their own chess game.
When I first started at the Lake, I didn’t understand the size of the F&B world at the resort. There were four dining rooms for a 505-room resort. Multiply by two or four for the number of people in each room, and that’s potentially up to
2,020 guests to feed, plus visitors from the village, or travellers
who drove from Banff to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Then
there were the bus tours that only stopped in for lunch. It seemed
like I was serving hundreds of visitors a day. For an only child
and self-proclaimed introvert, that’s a lot of different personalities
to bear witness to at times, but the creative me loved every minute
of it. I was gaining personalities for future stories I would
“Charlie, it says grilled vegetables in a butter herb sauce. You
can’t have that much butter. Miss, he can’t have that much butter.
Can he have the butter sauce on the side? He has high blood pressure.
He can’t have all that butter.” The woman spoke to her
husband and me with an annoying tone that seemed to get higher
every time she said butter. It made my skin crawl.
“Nancy, it’s fine. I’m sure they don’t use that much butter. The
food has to have flavor for Christ’s sake.” Now the man was
clearly annoyed with his wife’s constant pestering him about what he ate.
Sis: I know I am.
“Fine, do what you want. Don’t cry to me at midnight when
you have heartburn.” This woman was the master of passive-aggressiveness.
“Don’t change anything on the menu, miss.” The man spoke
softly but with a sense of confidence. Was this their relationship?
Bickering back and forth about food?
Years later, when I eventually met my husband, I told him
about these couples, and we promised each other we would never
point out what we could or couldn’t eat. I didn’t want to sound like
this nasty, bitter woman. She might have been thinking she was
helping her husband with his blood pressure, but she perhaps
didn’t know how she sounded to the rest of the world.
Sis: And you know what?
Marion Ann: She probably doesn’t give a shit.
Sis: You got that right.
The woman didn’t speak to her husband for the rest of the
dinner. They both said, “Thank you,” when I placed the entrées in
front of them. The NY striploin with grilled vegetables looked and
smelled delicious. Normally when I placed this entrée down, it
didn’t matter who was at the table, someone would comment,
“That looks fantastic!”
The man nodded and smiled, and his wife glared at the entrée
as if it were going to kill them both. When I did the first quality
check, they looked up at me and smiled. The man said, “Really
good, thank you.”
The woman just gave me a smirk. Ouch! She was cold-hearted.
She was making her way to be an evil villainess for a possible thriller I could write. Maybe she married men and this was her motive — kill off rich men with food by irritating them so she could travel to luxury resorts all over the world. My imagination started to create the scene.
Sis: She purposely annoys them to eat what they want.
Marion Ann: Then, over months of high cholesterol foods,
the man has a massive heart attack and dies.
Sis: No one’s the wiser, because the cause of death will be natural.
Marion Ann: Then she will grieve for a few months but, on the side, will be looking for another man to fill the void.
Sis: That’s good.
Marion Ann: Thank you, Nancy.
When I brought the dessert menu, I was expecting the husband
to cave into the silent treatment and not order anything.
“Well, we paid for it, so I’ll have a couple of scoops of vanilla
ice cream.” The man smiled because I knew he knew this pissed his wife off.
What did Nancy do?
“I’ll have the tiramisu, and I would like extra whipped cream,
miss.” She was matter-of-fact with the demand for more whipped
cream. She was good at pushing his emotional buttons.
I wanted to laugh out loud.
“Certainly, I can do that. Extra whipped cream. Sir, would you
like anything on your ice cream? We have milk chocolate sauce I
could drizzle over the top, or maybe some whipped cream?”
Normally I didn’t offer the extras because of two things. One, it took
time which meant I would be away from my other tables. They’d feel
I was away from them for too long, meaning not a great tip. And two,
chef didn’t like us altering anything on the menu, even plain vanilla
ice cream. I didn’t need a nasty chef yelling at me for providing above and beyond service. But I did because I liked to push the envelope,
and my job was to make the guests’ experience memorable. If a
little chocolate sauce helped to get a better tip, screw the chef.
Sis: Crazy chef.
“That sounds nice. I’ll have just a little chocolate sauce if
you’re getting extra whipped cream for my wife’s tiramisu.”
Marion Ann: Ouch.
Sis: This is getting good.
“I don’t need the whipped cream, miss. I’m sure the dessert has
enough cream. Don’t bother with the extras.” The woman needed
to have a win, and she was willing to sacrifice her extras so she
could have the last word.
“It’s no trouble at all. I’ll be back with your desserts shortly.
Can I bring you coffee, tea, or a specialty coffee?” I was intentionally
playing a part in their polite dinner squabble. If they were
going to drag me in from the start, why not have some fun
They both said, “Coffee with milk, no sugar.” It was the one
thing they agreed on.
To read more stories from my first few summers working at the luxury hotel, please read HERE. Thank you.
Until Tomorrow, Keep on Typing…