The last of the old-school career waiters, 73-year-old André Malibert has been in the front line of the resto trenches for six decades. From a humble start peeling potatoes for the frites in his family's auberge in Lourdes, he moved to Toronto in 1958, found work at the legendary Westbury Hotel - considered the best restaurant in town circa 63 - and eventually became maitre d' at Winston's and the Prince Hotel. Forced to retire at 65 but not ready to quit the business he loves, he brought his considerable skills to Marc Zeger 's Pony , where's he's charmed customers ever since.
"If they have been trained properly, some of them are very good," says Malibert in an accent as thick as the melting Gruyère in a bowl of French onion soup, when asked his opinion of the kids working the floor today. "You have to like people. We sell happiness: good food, good wine. Smile and be professional."
When it comes to dealing with the public, Krista Raspor , the Rosebud 's newly appointed manager, has mastered the fine art of knowing when customers need attention and when to leave them alone. The 26-year-old's remarkable career trajectory - from waiting tables at Dark City on the Danforth to gigs at Rain and Centro, two of Toronto's fussiest rooms - provokes one question: did she ever receive any formal guidance?
"No!" says Raspor, sounding surprised. "I always thought it was really hardcore to be in fine dining - people yelling at you all the time and having to be so perfect. And it is. But I was never really trained. I guess I just observe well."
Now that she's crossed over to the other side, she regularly interviews would-be waiters. Does she have any thoughts on becoming the consummate server?
"It's like anything in life," she laughs. "If you want to do it, do it. But do it right."