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Minn. writer Batt pays tribute to waiting tables

Left, image of book cover for "The Last Supper", right, photo of the author.
Author's website
Matthew Batt, author of "The Last Supper Club."

Matthew Batt’s new book “The Last Supper Club” takes us behind the scenes of restaurants and waiting tables.

ST. PAUL — Matthew Batt is a professor and writer from St. Paul. In 2015, he took a yearlong sabbatical from teaching, and to make ends meet financially, he took a few jobs waiting tables — something he’d done all through college.

Batt discovered that despite the hard work and despite his job teaching, he still loved the work of waiting tables. He ended up working at three different restaurants during his sabbatical, but strangely, all three closed while he worked there.

In a What We’re Reading interview, Batt said it felt like he was an albatross leaving behind a trail of closed restaurants. And he decided to write about it. His new book is The Last Supper Club: A Waiter’s Requiem. It’s part memoir and part tribute to restaurants and the world of waiting tables.

In the interview, Batt read an excerpt from his book that explains why the restaurant experience can be so special:

“(Restaurants) cook so you don't have to. They make you feel at home even though you aren't. Maybe even more at home than you feel at home, because here your mom or uncle or grandma or whoever isn't in the kitchen. The kids aren't in the basement. Your dad isn't glued to the game on the tube. You're all at the table. There's a word for this, of course: Communion.”

Having waited tables for several years, Batt reflected why customers who go out to eat are unhappy when the experience or the food isn’t predictable or what they’re used to.

“I feel like where people get a little out of sorts is when they expect something very specific from a restaurant and it doesn't end up being what they get,” he said. “I guess my question is: Why should it be exactly what you expect? Shouldn't it be something like a surprise or an adventure?”

One of the restaurants Batt worked at during his sabbatical was the Brewer’s Table at the Surly Brewing Co. in Minneapolis. It was a brand new fine-dining restaurant pairing high-end foods with beer that opened in 2015 (and spoiler alert: closed in 2017).

After a couple of years of inconsistent business, the Brewer’s Table started receiving rave reviews and was named one of Food & Wine’s best restaurants in America. Surprisingly, a month later, the owners decided to close the restaurant.

Batt speculated, “I'm sure it was all business and all money when it came down to it. Fact of it is, fine dining in America is on the decline.”

Learn more about writer Matthew Batt on his website.

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What We're Reading is made possible in part by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.

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Tammy works at Bemidji State University's library, and she hosts "What We're Reading," a show about books and authors.