Front and Center is Eater's week-long series dedicated to highlighting excellent Front of House staff. This entry is by local food writer Phaedra Cook, whose work can be found on her blog, Houston Food Adventures, on My Table magazine's Side Dish, and at Eating Our Words.
When I dine in a restaurant, I have a professional relationship with those waiting on me. It's pretty much a business deal. I'm there to buy something; they're there to provide it. Hopefully, I am a good customer and he or she is a good server, so it is a joyful transaction.
The first time I met Michael Fulmer was at a social event of some kind; probably a Houston Chowhounds function. We've had some wonderful chats since then about the hospitality industry, food and what great service means. I credit Michael for teaching me the importance of professionalism in the hospitality industry, and what it can be at its finest.
He's a different Michael Fulmer in his job as a server at Vic & Anthony's. Don't get me wrong; even when Michael is working, he's still a warm and gracious guy, but he's the consummate professional. When I walk into Vic & Anthony's, I become a valued guest because that's how he treats everyone who visits.
Michael is aware of nuances of service that I never even noticed before. These have become little touches that I miss when I dine at other places; the careful placement of a coffee cup so the handle is turned towards me, the logical arrangement of dishes on the table and how no request is treated as anything but reasonable.
In fact, if I have some kind of request, Michael probably believes he should have already thought of it. Regrettably, he's not a mind reader, although he's so good at anticipating diners' needs that maybe I need to rethink that assumption.
Yet he never seeks attention and will credit success to everything but his own efforts. He'll give glowing credit to the food, the chef? anything but himself. He'll probably be embarrassed by this article and dismiss it as well, but the truth is that he deserves some recognition. I'd like to see more people in the restaurant industry aspire to his service standards.
Go see what I mean for yourself. Make a reservation at Vic & Anthony's and request "Fulmer" (as most people call him). Consider it educational; a lesson in dining and most importantly, in service.