'World's worst waitress' Larissa Dubecki dishes dirt on rude Aussie diners in memoir

Ms Dubecki spills the beans on the hothouse, madcap restaurant world – the rat-infested kitchens, the chefs on speed, the illicit couplings in the cool room between services

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The Independent Online

Was it the man who clicked his fingers at Larissa Dubecki once too often? The woman who took a call just as she was reciting the day’s specials? The three-year-old boy who groped her behind, egged on by his drunk father?

Whatever, or whoever, finally prompted Ms Dubecki to hang up her napkin, the former waitress is now exacting her revenge, spilling the beans – and dishing the dirt – on Australian diners in a colourful memoir entitled Prick With a Fork.

Ms Dubecki, who spent 12 years toiling in Melbourne cafes and restaurants, admits waiting tables was not her vocation. There was that time she nearly killed a half-naked stripper with a steak knife. The night she tipped red wine over a woman in a crisp white shirt. As for the occasion when she served up a cockroach baked into a capricciosa pizza – let’s just say the restaurant closed a few weeks later.

She was, she claims, “the world’s worst waitress”, and she certainly got sacked plenty of times. But she also observed the hothouse, madcap restaurant world at close quarters – the rat-infested kitchens, the chefs on speed, the illicit couplings in the cool room between services. And, having turned the tables on her former employers to become a leading food writer and critic, she documents it all, sparing no gory details.

 

A “small but significant number” of diners are tricky or obnoxious, Ms Dubecki tells The Independent. And Australians have some peculiar habits. “They treat bread as an entree, which is kind of hilarious. And they’re mobile-phone obsessed. They turn up to a restaurant and stick their phones in the middle of the table, which is really annoying for a waiter trying to manoeuvre plates and drinks  around them.”

Worst of all, particularly for the waiting staff, Australians are hopeless tippers. Many of the places Ms Dubecki worked were near the bottom of the food chain – she nicknames one “Il Crappo Italiano” – and “if somebody left 50 cents in the saucer, it would be amazing”.

Even in the more salubrious establishments which she now frequents as a critic, only about half of the tables tip, and only 5 to 10 per cent. “We just don’t have that tipping culture,” she says. “We’re pretty stingy when it comes to tips.” 

Perhaps that’s why the people she used to work with, from chefs to fellow waiters to washer-uppers, revelled in getting their own back.

Once, she recalls, someone ordered a medium-rare steak, then sent it back to the kitchen, claiming it was still rare. The chef “threw it on the floor before throwing it back on the grill”.

She says: “At one place I worked in, there was this regular customer who was really demanding and rude. He was a friend of the owner, so he expected to get everything for free, and he never tipped. One night the bartender had had enough, and before making this person’s espresso he went around the back and urinated in the cup. He knew that, as a Sicilian, he would down it in one.”

Ms Dubecki favoured more subtle tactics. “Accidentally” kicking a chair while walking past. Repeatedly “forgetting” a drinks order. Or – particularly popular during business lunches – pretending a credit card had been rejected, and loudly announcing that in front of the person’s colleagues or clients.

And the cockroach in the pizza? When an irate diner pointed it out to her, Ms Dubecki initially took it for an olive, she says. Then she “noticed the legs sticking feebly out of the congealed mire”.

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