My First F-Up is a series in which we ask Eater Young Guns to recall their first — or most notable — on-the-job failure.
Young Gun Amelia Ekus (’17) is now an area manager for a New York City hospitality company. Before she began to ascend the ranks of New York’s corporate dining scene — including a gig as the Twitter cafe’s general manager — Ekus got her start at Holy Smokes BBQ and Whole Hog House, her dad’s now-defunct restaurant in Hatfield, Massachusetts. Here’s her account of her first memorable failure:
“The restaurant was in a converted church — the kitchen was downstairs, and the dining room was upstairs. I was 14 when I started there, working as a busser. After a server cut her hand on a falling root beer bottle, I had to take over her whole station. It was intense — on a Friday night, we’d do 300 covers. I just got thrown into it.
“We had a prime rib special on the menu, and I was proud of myself because I’d sold the last two to this four top. We were having a great time — service was going well and the music was great. I went downstairs to pick up the tray, which was twice my size. I went to take it upstairs, and as I’m carrying it, I feel it start to tip backwards, and then it just goes. I was standing at the top of the stairs, and you heard “ka-chunk, ka-chunk” all the way down. This beautiful, perfectly cooked prime ribs went down probably 15 stairs. The plates broke. It was as bad as it could be, and they were the last two prime ribs, so we had no more.
“So I had to go over to the table to apologize. They were super nice about it, but I felt awful and was extremely apologetic. Fortunately, everyone on staff was supportive — their first concern was that I was okay, because it sounded like a human had fallen down the stairs. I think my dad probably wanted to be upset but couldn’t be; he was understanding, and we were lucky because the service crew there was one of the best I’ve ever worked with. I think everyone just felt bad for me. One of the guys even offered to help me carry a tray with cans on it after service so I could practice. I still have this memory of carrying around all of these No. 10 tomato cans.
“I’ve only dropped one tray since then: I was working an event and had a tray full of sparkling and still water bottles. I offered someone a bottle and they said, no thanks, then changed their mind and grabbed it off the tray. If you’re not prepared, you can’t adjust your hand, so everything crashed. It’s a literal balancing act. But twice in 15 years isn’t too bad.”