"When Christo’s wife, Jean-Claude, asked me to wrap the cookies to go, I couldn’t hold my laughter."Photo: Melissa Hom
Actor Ian Tomaschik is a server at Tribeca standby Chanterelle, where he must also act as his own bartender, expediter, and runner, which means making his patrons’ cappuccinos, stocking bread and silverware, even shelving clean glasses while also plating and clearing a six-course tasting menu. “In the beginning,” he says, “I didn’t think I could pull it off.” Still, he saw the restaurant through its temporary closure and downturn in business after the terrorist attacks of 2001 and has now been there almost six years. We asked him to reflect on his time there.
Your menu changes every three or four weeks. How do you stay on top of it?
We’re encouraged to eat. We call those pounds you gain when you start working the “Chanterelle 10.”
How often is David Waltuck still in the kitchen?
He’s there during prepping every day. Not on Sundays too much. Monday he’s pretty much alone. He takes requests for staff meal.
What are your favorite staff meals?
He makes latkes for Hanukkah with homemade apple sauce. Last night we had an amazing lamb stew over rice.
Karen, his wife, is the manager. How do they get along?
They’re very easygoing. It’s funny to watch Karen tell David that he has to put clean chef’s whites on, fix his hair, and go out to the dining room.
Do people get finicky about the prix fixe menu?
I had a guy present me with a laminated card with all the food he was allergic to. I took it into the kitchen, and they thought it was a joke: “Where’s Allen Funt? Where’s the camera?”
David is meticulous about saucing. Do people tinker with the flavoring?
We had a table Sunday night that wanted two salt shakers. Before they tasted everything, they put salt on it. When we crumbed the table, all we could hear was salt scraping.
Have you served any celebs?
The other day Christo and his wife, Jean-Claude. When she asked me to wrap the cookies to go, I couldn’t hold my laughter. Once I saw the name Barry Williams on the reservation list. I was like, I can’t believe I’m waiting on Greg Brady.
There’s no music in your dining room. Overhear anything interesting?
A couple days ago we had an older couple at a table. The whole dining room overheard the older guy say, “It’s okay if I have cheese; I took a laxative two days ago.”
Other memorable customers?
We had a group of businessmen. One of the guys’ secretaries called and said, “He doesn’t drink and doesn’t want his business partners to know.” The first round they opened Champagne, so we gave him ginger ale. When the red wine was ordered, we had to run out and get organic grape juice. But how were we going to get the grape juice into his glass? He “accidentally” put sparkling water into his wine glass, so we could take it into the kitchen and fill it with grape juice. I guess he was a pro at this.