A witty and humble tribute to the sometimes profane, sometimes profound world of waiting tables
During a year on sabbatical from his university position, Matthew Batt realized he needed money—fast—and it just so happened that one of the biggest breweries in the Midwest was launching a restaurant and looking to hire. So it was that the forty-something tenured professor found himself waiting tables at a high-end restaurant situated in a Minneapolis brewery. And loving it.
Telling the story of Batt’s early work in restaurants, from a red sauce joint possibly run by the mob to an ill-conceived fusion concept eatery, The Last Supper Club then details his experiences at the fine dining restaurant, a job that continued well past his sabbatical—that lasted, in fact, right up to the restaurant’s sudden and unceremonious closing three years later, shortly after it was named one of the best restaurants in the country by Food & Wine.
Batt’s memoir conveys the challenge—and the satisfaction—of meeting the demands of a frenzied kitchen and an equally expectant crowd. Through training mishaps, disastrous encounters with confused diners, struggles to keep pace with far more experienced coworkers, mandatory memorizations of laundry lists of obscure ingredients, and the stress of balancing responsibilities at home and at work, The Last Supper Club reveals the ups and downs of a waiter’s workday and offers an insightful perspective on what makes a job good, bad, or great. For Batt, this job turns out to be considerably more fun, and possibly more rewarding, than his academic career, and his insider’s view of waiting tables extols the significance of our food and the places where we gather to enjoy it—or serve it.
Told with sharp humor, humility, and a keen sense of what matters, The Last Supper Club is an ode to life in a high-pressure restaurant, the relationships that get you to the night’s close, and finding yourself through—or perhaps because of—the chaos of it all.
Matthew Batt is author of the memoir Sugarhouse. His fiction and nonfiction have been featured in the New York Times, Outside Magazine, the Huffington Post, Tin House, and elsewhere. The recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the McKnight Foundation, and the Aspen Writers’ Institute, he teaches creative writing and English at the University of St. Thomas and lives in St. Paul with his family.
"Deliciously funny, vividly peopled, wise, and big-hearted, The Last Supper Club is a book you will devour in one sitting and wish you could go back for seconds. The memoir takes a behind-the-scenes look at the adrenaline-fueled world of restaurant life, reverently revealing all the care and thought that goes into a meal before the plate is ever lowered before you. If Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter had a love child, it would be this superb book!"—Adrienne Brodeur, author of Wild Game: My Mother, Her Secret, and Me
"This book should come with a trigger warning for those of us who’ve ever waited tables. Matthew Batt describes restaurant work with such ferocious, sweat-inducing clarity that I feel like I’m right back there, in the weeds. Like any great dish, The Last Supper Club has so many layers and flavors: it’s a waiter’s memoir, it’s a vital history of a remarkable restaurant, it’s an incisive meditation on the nature of work, and it’s a heartfelt story of someone who went searching for a paycheck but found something else entirely—family, and purpose, and joy."—Nathan Hill, author of The Nix and Wellness
"In his gloriously food-obsessed and mournful memoir The Last Supper Club, Matthew Batt channels the thrill of a seamless service, the tension of having no place to hide failure, and the implicit critique of academic jobs that require a second income. His ode to the chaos and thrill of the restaurant business is a hilarious, elegiac look at the all-too-brief gratification of being exactly where you want to be."—Michelle Wildgen, author of Wine People
"Matthew Batt gets the details of high-end restaurant life exactly right in this personal story of becoming a server: the balance between home life and work life; the pressure inherent in the business; the symbiotic but fraught relationship between front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house. I love restaurant stories, and this one I didn’t want to put down. It’s a keeper."—Michael Ruhlman, author of The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection
"Matthew Batt's elegiac The Last Supper Club is a tender yet clear-eyed portrait of a fiercely dedicated community of restaurant lifers and the dreams they build, nurture, and—often too briefly—inhabit. The most beautiful stuff in this book taps into the almost primal wonder and magic so many of us associate with our first experiences eating in restaurants and being waited on by complete strangers. This book understands the lingering spell of that experience better than anything else I've read, and Batt is almost Proustian in mining his early memories of food and restaurants. He also understands that alchemy is the one true, worthy goal of any dreamer who opens a restaurant—or throws themselves with real passion into working in one."—Brad Zellar, author of Till the Wheels Fall Off
"There’s an impressive level of detail here, offering insight into the nitty-gritty of restaurant labor for those who’ve never worked in hospitality, while still feeling intimately familiar to those who have done their time in the service industry."—Eater
"In this splendidly written book, Batt demonstrates a gift for capturing the essence of his coworkers."—Booklist
"Catnip for anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant."—The Washington Post