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Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Culinary no-no #296

Culinary no-no's



Take a look.


What is wrong with that young lady?

A) She’s too thin.

B) She’s too fat.

C) She can’t possibly be very bright.

D) Obviously she’s a tramp.

E) She’s being exploited by a large, evil corporation.

F) Her mother doesn’t know what she’s doing.

G) Her mother does know what she’s doing and doesn’t care.

H) She attended schools that were grossly under-funded.

I) She probably smokes.

J) In high school, she was voted “Most likely to conceive.”

K) She has broken up at least two marriages.

L) She's abnormal. Most women aren't like that.

M) All of the above.

N) None of the above, but there’s something else.

I’ve never understood the bitter scowling, the outright indignation over Hooter girls. Good grief, you see far, far less at Bradford Beach.

However, this week’s blog is not about the morals of the Hooters chain.

Stay with me, folks. You know how Culinary works. The build-up. There’s a build-up.

I’m reminded of a trip dear wife, Jennifer and I made to Tennessee.

In Memphis, in the lobby of the famous Peabody Hotel where the ducks ceremoniously walk to and from the fountain daily, cocktails are served nightly. After a lovely dinner, Jennifer and I decided on a nightcap. I’m not sure what Jennifer ordered, but I remember everything else implicitly.

Our waitress was a pretty, young blonde southern belle, mid 20’s at the most.  She was all smiles as she approached. We engaged in the customary chit chat. As she placed our napkins down ever so gently, our server spoke with a Southern accent and half with the obligatory introduction. Her voice seemed as if in slow motion, something out of a movie.

“Good evening. My name is Ashley.”

It was too good to pass up. I immediately responded.

“Oh, Ashley. As in Judd?”

“Oh, ahh wish.”

Cue the giggles.

I order an after dinner liqueur straight up.

Ashley sauntered away and Jennifer gazed at me with that look that one gets when they’re caught stealing from the cookie jar.

Before I could get the royal teasing from the missus, Ashley sauntered back. She had a question for yours truly.

‘Y’all say yuh wanted that on the rockssssssssssss?”

“No, straight up”

“My goodness. Ahmm so glad I stopped back.”

Me too, I thought without saying out loud.

Jennifer did eventually tease. She’s not the type to get angry over something like this. She did say Ashley was flirting. I countered that she was merely working for a bigger tip. If Ashley was, a la a Hooters girl, possibly aiming for a larger gratuity, she was probably going about it the wrong way.
So would this gal...

This veteran of the restaurant business has it down pat and has for a long, long time.

That's Bonnie who's been working at Maria's Pizza on Milwaukee's south side since the 60's. Maria's is legendary. The late Maria was Bonnie's mom. Maria's favorite color was red. For as long as there's been a Maria's, Bonnie has worn red while on the job. Knowing Bonnie as our family does, I know she's not forcing it for a big tip. Friendly service just comes naturally to Bonnie. But if she was in the market to open up wallets, she'd be doing better than the gals at Hooters, Ashley down south, or just about any waitress you see today.


Isn't it obvious?

The Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research has published a study on this very issue:

“Recent research conducted with humans demonstrated that red, relative to other achromatic or chromatic colors, led men to view women presented on a photograph as more attractive. The effect of color on behavior was tested in a tipping context. Eleven waitresses in five restaurants were instructed to wear the same tee shirt with different colors (black, white, red, blue, green, or yellow). The effect of color on tipping according to patron’s gender was measured. It was found that waitresses wearing red received more tips but only with male patrons. Waitresses color had no effect on female patrons’ tipping behavior.”

In my view, it shouldn't matter how they're dressed, skimpy or not, red, yellow, green or black, wait staff have a tough thankless job and should not only be tipped properly, but treated with respect.

Way back in Culinary no-no #18, I wrote:

I’ve never been a waiter, and judging from the impolite and condescending attitude of many customers, I don’t think I’d ever want to be.

Many diners I’ve observed seem to have never heard of the words, “Please,” or “Thank you.”

Some customers are downright bullies.

I recall seeing a table of patrons at a casual restaurant complain to the owner when the waitress didn’t come to the table quickly enough in their opinion. Their complaint didn’t have merit in my opinion. Even so, the manager fired the waitress on the spot.

On another occasion, I saw a middle-aged woman dining alone, dressed in fur coat and jeans. She apparently picked up a bottle of A-1 sauce and spilled some on her fur that she had not taken off. The woman was furious. She summoned for her waitress and launched into a verbal assault, claiming she should have advised her that the cap on the A-1 bottle was loose, that the restaurant would have to buy her a new coat, and that the waitress should be terminated. Despite the scene the woman created, she didn’t get a new fur coat and the waitress kept her job.

Being a waiter/waitress isn’t easy.

The Consumer Health Interactive reports, “Many people enjoy waiting tables for the good tips and lively human drama. But the job also serves up high stress, exhaustion, and a fat menu of kitchen hazards.”

Page Bierma writes that besides stress, servers face a plateful of problems:

Sexual harassment

Repetitive stress injury including carpal tunnel syndrome

Slippery floors that can lead to accidents


Varicose veins

Backaches and sore muscle

Secondhand smoke



Heavy lifting

Poor sanitation

You can read Page Bierma’s entire column, “Waiting for a Living.”

So the job is difficult. It’s also thankless. You’ve got complaints about waiters and waitresses? They’re not always thrilled with you.

The late restaurant critic of the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, Dennis Getto wrote the following in 1996:

Servers have plenty to beef about
They give customers some tips on boorish behaviors to avoid

Journal Sentinel restaurant critic
Published: February 11, 1996

We've given restaurant gripes a lot of coverage over the last month.
It all started Jan. 14, when I wrote a column about practices that aggravated me, such as being ignored or not being served water.

Then readers responded with their complaints: mishandled drinking glasses and coffee cups, and vacuum cleaners running under the table while they were finishing lunch. There's a third take on the restaurant world, and it comes from the workers who have to deal with the public daily - the waiters, waitresses and managers whose job it is to keep diners satisfied and coming back.
I hadn't realized how tough the business can be until I heard from workers who read my original gripe column. They weren't as numerous as the diners who sounded off, but they made some good points.

Doris Janke, who will mark her 20th year as a waitress at what is now Bakers Square in West Allis this November, took me to task for criticizing waiters and waitresses who ask, "Do you need change?" (I took it to mean they were automatically asking for a tip.) Janke set me straight by explaining that the question really means, "What kind of change do you want?"

"People often hand me a $20 bill," she said. "I can't guess whether they want singles or $5 bills." So she asks the customers, and saves herself an extra trip back to the cash register.

Janke said that some servers handle silverware or glasses improperly but countered that with some of the unsanitary actions of customers. "People leave dirty diapers wrapped up in napkins or blow their nose on a napkin and then leave it on the table for the waitress or the busboy to handle."
At Bakers Square, she said, dispensers in the kitchen hold anti-bacterial hand lotion, and she and the other waitresses use it frequently.

As for water not being served automatically, waitress Skaidrite E. Huttl reminded me that the practice got some of its momentum from Milwaukee's Cryptosporidium crisis.

When the bacteria hit, she wrote, many folks stopped drinking their water and, subsequently, some places quit serving it. "But anyone who wishes may have a glass of water."

As a waitress in private clubs, Huttl also reported that she's surprised how many folks don't know their etiquette, such as what piece of silverware to use for a given course. It always helps to know that the shorter fork is for salad and the round spoon is for soup.

George K. Jones, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., has worked in many well-known restaurants in town, including the English Room, Grenadier's and Mader's. Now managing a private club, he offered some suggestions for diners who want to ensure good service:

"Please make reservations," Jones said. "It allows the restaurant to staff properly . . . And if you aren't coming, please call. And don't make a reservation for 6 p.m. and then sit at the bar for an hour and ask to be seated at 7 p.m."

"Tell your servers of any time constraints when you're seated," Jones said. Some diners will wait until 20 minutes before curtain time to tell the waiter or waitress that they have to leave for a show.
Pay attention when servers are telling you about the special. In some cases, Jones said, a server will have to repeat the soup of the day to a party eight times.

"If there's something wrong, let us know right away," Jones said. That way, the problem can be fixed. Too many people wait a week and then send a letter when they should have brought up the problem right away.

"The thing that restaurants want to do is satisfy their customers," Jones said. "We can't do that unless you tell us something is wrong."

--Dennis Getto, Milwaukee Journal, February 11, 1996

So, for many reasons, do not disrespect your server.


Update: It was bound to happen

First Michelle Obama lectured what you should eat. Now she's telling you how to shop.

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