Whale of a Tale shows the insights of a restaurant's front of house and their experiences with whales over the years. Wayne DeMello shares anecdotes from his years as a server at Alain Ducasse's celebrated miX restaurant at THEhotel.
Wayne DeMello [Photo: Matthew Kang]
How long have you been a server at miX? It will be seven years in June of this year. I came to the restaurant just a year and a half after it opened. Before miX, I worked at StripSteak and before that at Picasso.
What are some of the strangest requests you've had to fulfill?
Honestly I feel like no request has been too strange. We try to please customers as much as possible. We've had plenty of people ask us for black napkins (which still have lint, by the way) and even chopsticks, despite the fact that we're not an Asian restaurant. Sometimes diners ask to make modifications and we try to fulfill that whenever possible, especially when there's an allergy involved. But in the end, we encourage guests not to make any modifications to dishes because that's the way the chef intended the dish to be enjoyed.
What outlandish things do whales tend to order?
Sometimes we have people buy $10,000 bottles of wine, such as a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee Conti, and that makes your whole night. Sometimes whales try to order things that aren't even on the menu. I have to ask the chef if it's even feasible to make these dishes, and if it's not, then we have to tell them that we cannot make the dish.
What are some of the special ways you treat high-end diners?
We always treat everyone like a VIP. If someone does a $200 tasting, or just gets a few appetizers, we work to please them regardless.
How have some high-end diners acted in response to your service?
Well, we have this one customer, I can't say who, but he always tips $2,000 for the table. If it's a table of two or a table of five, every time he comes in he tips that much. I'm always appreciative, but I don't expect that often. Some customers are very fair, some are very generous and some are not. Younger servers don't get that and tend get upset when a table doesn't tip well. I'm pleased no matter what because I know at the end of the month it averages out if you treat everyone with respect.
Which celebrities or notable whales have you served, that you can mention?
I think the most memorable person I served was Chuck Norris. He was at a table of 10, and I could tell that many of his dining companions were martial artists. They were very cocky, but the only one I recognized was Norris. He was completely different than what I expected — he was very appreciative and humble. I was so impressed by his demeanor. I also had the privilege of serving Michael Jackson just a few months before his passing. I've served so many celebrities, like Stallone and Michelle Pfieffer, but I was most impressed by Jennifer Aniston. I was expecting someone difficult but she was a real sweetheart. After being offered the wine list, she kindly asked for a simple glass of pinot grigio.
What's your favorite aspect of being a server at a restaurant like miX?
I would say that I'm very proud to work for chef Alain Ducasse. Working here is the whole package — it's a beautiful restaurant and has great food to back it up. My coworkers are fun and know how to take care of business. Management and chefs are great as well. Of all the places I have worked, I think I will have the fondest memories of being a server here.
·All Coverage of miX [~ELV~]
·All Whale Week 2013 Coverage [~ELV~]