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Also known as the Chef de Rang, the captain is the position between headwaiter and the rest of the wait staff. The captain reports to the Maitre d’ or a headwaiter, depending on the restaurant, and may take on some of the front-of-the-house responsibilities of the Maitre d’. A restaurant captain is responsible for supervising restaurant functions: communication between kitchen and wait staff, restaurant appearance, safety, restaurant responsibility and cleanliness.
The captain may be in charge of only a section of a restaurant, especially in larger establishments. He looks after the wait staff, makes sure orders are correct and timely. The captain greets patrons and sometimes performs the duties of a host, such as seating tables, taking reservations and presenting diners with menus.
Mise en Place
“Mise en Place” is a French term that literally translates to “putting in place.” This is one of the captain’s main responsibilities; to make sure that the restaurant space and kitchen are set up to achieve swift service and acceptable food. The captain may perform duties such as polishing silverware and wine glasses, arranging the tables and coordinating timing between kitchen and wait staff. A captain should be highly organized and able to multitask.
The captain of a restaurant is expected to communicate with the executive chef and to be knowledgeable about the menu and specials. She announces specials to patrons, explains dishes and ingredients and takes orders. The captain is expected to serve beverages and make recommendations on pairings or menu choices.
Many times, a captain is expected to perform the duties of sommelier, or will assist a sommelier (wine steward). This includes making wine recommendations, handling and serving wine, decanting bottles and recommending wine and food pairings according to the chef’s menu.
A restaurant that offers gueridon service, or tableside preparation, may ask that the captain perform these duties. These may include but are not limited to meat carving, fish service, cheese trolleys and flambes.
Jenny Molberg is a Texas native who has worked as an assistant editor at a literary magazine and her poems have been published in several nationally recognized journals. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.