As it happened, I was able to right the tray at the last instant, and the glass didn't spill. My heart was beating faster, but as I walked to the front of the restaurant, I wasn't really scared, or panicked, at all. I was calm.
And that feeling, I suddenly realized, is the reason I had taken the job in the first place. It was the feeling of being prepared, of being in control.
"So," I said to Lauren Glazer, "the thing that one takes away from this environment is not the details of what to do when you spill soup on someone-"Glazer nodded. "It's the confidence that you can spill soup on someone and they still leave thinking they had the best night-ever. You can fall down, pick yourself up, and go on your way."
And you can feel better about yourself for how you handled the situation. Because in the end, you don't need your colleagues. You don't need Danny Meyer's Tenets for Happy Living. You don't even need your mother. You need the one thing none of them can give you.
"After saying I was never going to sing again, I recently performed for the first time in years," said Glazer. "And it was wonderful because I didn't do it for the applause; I didn't do it to please my mother. I did it for myself. And maybe if I had not come to Union Square Cafe, I wouldn't have known I could do that."
And that is the unspoken truth behind enlightened hospitality-it feeds the givers as much as the givees. Truly good service means that you're not merely serving your colleagues, your guests, your community, your suppliers, and your restaurant. You are also serving yourself.Union Square Cafe, 21 E. 16th Street, New York, 212-243-4020