4 min read

29. Apparently, Celebrities Are VIPs

During my restaurant days, I naively treated a celebrity with respect and as a normal person, which apparently was wrong to my managers.
29. Apparently, Celebrities Are VIPs
Photo by Thomas Schweighofer / Unsplash

I grew up working blue-collar jobs in my family bakery. I was raised to fill idle moments at work with useful tasks and never to just stand there. The assumption was that there was always something to do, see What Is It Like Growing Up in a Family Business? Essentially, when I helped at my parents’ business, I was always working continuously, with few breaks, except perhaps for a pain au chocolat ❤️.

I started helping at the bakery around 9 years old. I served customers, cleaned, and carried wood and bags of flour and other small jobs. By that time, I already had embraced the strong work ethic of my parents: there is always something to do. When I was hired as a restaurant host at a fancy Vancouver restaurant, the Belgard Kitchen, that work paradigm got me into trouble. I was around 22 at the time.

My problem was that I did not understand my job, and frankly after I understood it, I was glad I was gently fired from it. A host’s job is to stay by the door, greet customers, help them to their tables and look pretty. While I took it as my goal to do all of the above (I even dressed nicely for the part), I could not bear standing at the door for sometimes 20 minutes at a time without doing anything. I soon started helping the servers. I loaded and unloaded the dishwashers, cleaned the wine glasses, broomed and dusted the restaurant, and brought full plates to the tables. Essentially, I did what I was educated to do: never be idle at work because there is always something to do. Unfortunately, I sometimes missed customers entering the place. I would rush back, smile and welcome them, but management did not appreciate that.

A couple of months later, near the end of my employment, an exceedingly famous guy I recognized immediately came in with a party of three. He was very polite and cordial. He wanted a table, but it was a Friday night and we were extremely busy. We had an unlicensed bar going on in the back for people to wait, and he was happy to go there. He seemed to be having a good time with his friends.

Management was apparently not impressed that I had sent Elijah Woods and his friends to wait there. They asked me whether I knew who it was – to which I responded an excited yes, it's Frodo, I love The Lord of the Rings! I was a bit naive and assumed that everyone would treat Elijah like a regular person. I treated him how I would have wanted to be treated if I were in his shoes.

He didn't seem like an arrogant guy at all, and from my first impression of him, I thought he would appreciate being treated like a normal human being. I was very excited to be helping him and never meant to be rude. But apparently, he was a VIP, and according to management, VIP deserved to go before others who were already marked down on our waitlist. I still believe I made the right decision, but ethics in restaurants apparently differ.

My coworker immediately went to fetch him to place his party in the very centre of the room, in full view of all the patrons. The restaurant had an upper level above the kitchen, where people there could just stare down at Elijah. Knowing how famous he is, I was planning to place him in one of the quiet and secluded booths, but management had now put him on display.

My job demanded that I scan the room very often to keep track of open and occupied tables. I locked eyes a couple of times with Elijah. I imagine he was used to being treated like a product, but I still wonder to this day if he might have been puzzled to be respectfully treated like a normal person.

A few weeks later I was let go. The Elija Woods episode probably catalyzed the decision. My managers were polite about it, telling me that I was a hard worker but that I was not fit to be a host. I was happy to leave behind the restaurant world. I profoundly disagreed with their expectations. I would never again consider taking on a job where the main demands are to look pretty and be polite. That is neither intellectually stimulating nor physically challenging and seems like a waste of time.

Eventually, this experience motivated me to return to university and finish my degree, which led me to have an intellectually stimulating career in software engineering! So long restaurant world, you were a useful experience, but I will stick to being a customer from now on!