What is it about secrets that make them so intriguing and worth sharing? Maybe it’s that revealing something provides a sense of freedom from what holds us back, or that the idea of being an insider appeals to the competitive side in each of us. There are countless reasons why secrets are so alluring. I recently discovered two books that reveal excellent secrets. Some are frivolous, some are powerful – but they all make for very enjoyable reads.
In Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter, author Phoebe Damrosch recounts the time she spent as part of the opening staff of renowned chef Thomas Keller’s New York adventure, Per Se. Stemming from an obsession with Chef Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook, she worked her way from backserver to becoming the first female captain in the restaurant’s history. Readers are privy to all of the behind-the-scenes happenings, from the meticulous training for the grand opening to fascinating customer interactions to the deliberate planning of the tasting menues to the highly anticipated visits by Frank Bruni. Mr. Bruni, the food critic at The New York TImes, was, quite literally, the man who held the fate of Per Se at his fingertips. (Read his four-star review).
Woven throughout Damrosch’s memoir are stories of her attempts at relationships with both men and food, which are entertaining and help to move the book along. In addition, she provides tips at the end of each chapter based on the secrets of the industry that encourage good dining-out behavior. The real gem is that the book truly delivers on what the title promises: whether or not you ever enjoy the tasting menu at one of Chef Keller’s restaurants, reading the book allows you to feel as though you had the experience of eating a meal at a four-star restaurant . . . but without the bill!
Beginning with 3,000 postcards, blank on one side and with simple instructions on the other, Warren put out a call for strangers to write a never-before-revealed secret on the back of the postcard and mail it to him, keeping their own identities hidden. Over the course of two years, he received over 2,500 pieces of anonymous, original artwork on postcards and the secrets to go along with them. Since then, he has received millions – and is still counting. (Learn more about Warren’s TED talk on secrets by watching the video below).
The secrets and the artwork are a testament to how talented, funny, charming, sad, joyous, and riveting human life can be. Reading them, you can’t help but be moved – perhaps enough to share a secret of your own!
(The photo of children sharing secret is courtesy of Flickr user horrigan.)