Waiter Confidential: Signs of a Tough Economy

Things are getting spooky around town.

Driving to work, I pass Chef Robert McGrath's never-opened REM project on Lincoln Drive. Having boarded it up along with the Pischke's property he took over in 2006, subsequent to the suicide of Chris Pischke, McGrath's suddenly disappeared from the food scene he's poster-boyed for more than a decade. Stopping by for a closer look around Christmas, I found a county inspector's notice tacked to REM's door, confirming that "the establishment has relocated or is no longer in operation."

Chef Michael DeMaria's circumstances seem eerily similar. With his longtime Citadel outpost abandoned and his long-awaited, lakeside launch in Tempe, "Trattoria M," torpedoed by the equally tragic ending of the Scott Coles story (Coles' company, Mortgages Limited, was a partner in the venture), DeMaria's another tenured toque whose fortunes have fallen to the frightening economy. (Though not entirely: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bella/2008/12/michael_demarias_heirloom_set.php.)

Then there's Tee Pee, the Sonoran-style speakeasy near 44th Street on Indian School that's played to packed houses day and night, for every one of the twenty-five years I've lived in Phoenix. Years ago, I begged a friend who tended bar there to get me in, too.

"As soon as someone dies, I'll let you know," he said, laughing.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a banner slung out in front of the place, advertising cheap happy hour drinks and chow.

To me, that's a real sign of the times.

If you're looking for work these days, good luck with the classifieds. This time of year, typically, both the Sunday and Wednesday editions of the daily paper boast several full columns of ad space soliciting resort, bar and restaurant help for the busy season. In last week's pages, though, I found just a few paltry inches of opportunities. Online publications were no better.

Of the measly few I did find, one that read "Cash Daily Shining Shoes (Sky Harbor)" spoke volumes. I guess if you're hoping to find a job in the hospitality trades these days, you might just have to be willing to stoop to a whole new level of professional spit and polish. -- Anonymous

Anonymous has seen it all in 25 years of waiting tables and tending bar at some of the Valley's most beloved restaurants.


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