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Carrie Jennings of Spotlight Live Doesn't Mind If You're Horrible at Karaoke

When we karaoke, we don’t really like to see ourselves on a screen — it usually means the Japanese guy at the front desk is replaying closed-circuit footage and telling us why he needs to keep our security deposit. But Spotlight Live, the restaurant that projects your performances onto Times Square, is a decidedly more civilized place, as we learned when we tried, rather unsuccessfully, to get Carrie Jennings to reveal the horrors of working amid amateur renditions of Vanilla Ice. According to Jennings, who moved here from Florida six months ago with a degree in musical theater, her job is about as sweet as a big ball of cotton candy.

Jonathan White of the Tasting Room Loves His Weeds

Jonathan White was a server at Perry Street before he started work at the Tasting Room last year, when the Haute Barnyard fixture moved to its larger location. “The main reason,” White says of his job change, “was to get into that relaxed environment where you have more autonomy and you can interact with the guests” — to the point, apparently, where they feel comfortable telling him he looks like Fidel Castro (he’s also gotten Lenin, Chekhov, and Shakespeare). We asked White (who is actually a writer) to give us just a little taste of his day job.

Nicoye Banks of A Voce Chops It Up With Denzel Washington

New Orleans native Nicoye Banks has been a captain at A Voce ever since its buzzy opening last year (he was at the Tribeca Grand before that). In addition, he’s acted in movies such as Invincible and the upcoming Colin Farrell and Ed Norton drama Pride and Glory. Though he’s not one to “do the Hollywood thing” on the job, he’s had opportunity not only to serve but also to sit down with heroes like Denzel Washington and Laurence Fishburne, and his acting background has proven more than handy in selling duck meatballs to just about everyone who walks in.

Michael Harr of the Box Serves Scarlett Johansson, Experiences a ‘Brush of Excitement’

When Michael Harr applied for a job at the Box, his only previous waiting experience was at a summer camp — he figures he was hired mostly for his look, cultivated in part because he’s a musician in the Scallywag Sideshow. “They had a woman doing costumes,” he remembers. “While [the other employees] were on line getting measured, she came up to me and said, ‘You can just wear whatever is in your wardrobe.’” We asked Michael about the inner workings of the city’s most popular yet enigmatic dinner cabaret — not surprisingly, he kept his answers very close to his vintage vest.

Kyle Dureau Wants Shake Shack to Be Open 24/7 As Much As You Do

Forty-three-year-old Kyle Dureau was working at Terrace 5 at MoMA when he was transferred to that other Danny Meyer outdoor eatery, the Shake Shack, three years ago. He still divides his time between the Shack — where he mans the cashier, makes custards, and flips the city’s most coveted burgers — and Blue Smoke, but the Shack will probably become his year-round home if certain rumors of expansion prove true. We got him to spill the beans (the 'shrooms?) on those and other Shack secrets.

Don't Put Ketchup on Your Steak, Pleads Carly Skinner of Davidburke & Donatella

Carly Skinner was a server at Houston’s before she came to Upper East Side foodie fixture davidburke & donatella. The change was not a small one. “I had to learn a new food vocabulary,” she says. “I was working with servers who had been at places like Le Cirque for twenty years.” Nine months later, she’s now a captain at the restaurant and training to be a sommelier. We asked her to enlighten us about fussy diners, angry lobsters, and smelly smokers.

Lynnea Scalora of Enid’s and the Annex Can Tell Her Hipsters Apart

Lynnea Scalora, who happens to be our third Ask a Waiter in a row who is in a band (she’s a bassist for White Hills and a performance artist in the show Ego Sensation) started working at Enid’s a year and a half ago when her previous employer, Oznot’s Dish, closed with three days' notice. She’s also a bartender at Lower East Side nightspot the Annex. “When you’re bartending, people know they have to be good to get the alcohol from you,” she told us when we asked whether she preferred waiting tables or slinging drinks. “When you’re a server, you’re someone’s slave.” Not that she’s leaving Enid’s anytime soon. “It’s nicer because the customers are more relaxed.” Or are they? We asked her about overcaffeinated brunchers, bridge-and-tunnel invaders, and the tavern’s notoriously rowdy softball team.

Pure Food and Wine's David Moltz Hangs With Gisele, Chases Raw Foodists for Tips

David Moltz just celebrated his first anniversary as a server at raw-food mecca (and popular anniversary spot!) Pure Food and Wine. He isn’t going anywhere — at least not until his band Salt and Samovar takes off — and why would he? He’s had the opportunity to serve everyone from raw foodists such as Woody Harrelson to fellow omnivores such as Bill Clinton (“I couldn’t believe it when he walked in,” says Moltz. “He rolls with a crazy entourage.”) We asked him to spill the beans (not cooked, of course) on fussy vegheads, surprisingly friendly models, and the “hump couch” in one of the city’s most coveted gardens (now open for spring).

Lovers, Allow Pravda’s Rania Haditirto to Show You to Table 69

Nathan Frye, our first Ask a Waiter, sat out Balthazar’s tenth-anniversary last night, but it was a grand ole time — much Champagne was spilled and a total stranger tried to crawl onto our table. Of course, Balthazar wasn’t the first of Keith McNally’s restaurants to turn ten — last year Pravda had an equally boisterous birthday celebration. To be fair we thought we’d get the straight propaganda from Rania Haditirto, bass player for the rock band the Kelly Affair, who has been a server at the vodka den for half of its life span.

That Number Melissa Barnes of Lotus Just Gave You? Probably Fake

For the past year School of Visual Arts student Melissa Barnes has been a server at Lotus. The fashion and design major hasn’t met Jessica Stam there — she says the former hot spot has become “a tourist attraction, basically”—but the club has done something for her budding fashion career. “During Fashion Week Lotus has a bar in the tents,” she says, “So the bartenders that work there make friends with the security people. This year the security guys let us go into some of the shows.” So how does one sneak past the velvet rope at her place of employment? “It’s not hard to get in at all,” Melissa confesses.

Car Plows Into Hop Kee; Neroni Keeps Spinning

A car plows into the venerable Hop Kee restaurant in Chinatown. The restaurant is damaged, and one person is hurt. [Downtown Express] Izakaya invasion! The city now boasts everything from simple sake joints with food to full-blown small-plate restaurants. [NYDN] The official Times take on the Neroni Affair includes this classic quote, in defense of the Desperate Chef: “If Marco didn’t want anyone signing checks, including Jason, he should have put the checkbook in the safe.” [NYT]

Dagny Mendelsohn of Employees Only Defends Her Customers From Flying Fruit

Dagny Mendelsohn has been a manager and maître d’ at Employees Only since the restaurant and cocktail spot’s buzzy opening two years ago. Before that she worked at Pastis and Schiller’s. Though she says her old boss, Keith McNally, has never come in, she has had the pleasure of hosting Daniel Boulud (“He went down to use the bathroom in the kitchen and ended up talking to the chef for an hour”) as well as connecting lotharios who were stood up by dates — one such couple came back to the restaurant to celebrate their first anniversary. We asked Dagny how she controls traffic at the hidden hot spot.

Ian Tomaschik of Chanterelle Will Serve You Fake Wine If Your Secretary Asks

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.

May Harrington of the Grand Central Oyster Bar Remembers 35-Cent Bivalves and Andy Warhol

Mary Harrington, known to regulars as May, was a server at legendary chain restaurant Schraft’s when she received an invitation to work at the Oyster Bar in 1978. “I was kind of terrified,” Harrington says. “Those days it was crazy busy.” Harrington didn’t emigrate from Ireland to be a server; she planned to become a nurse. “Now here I am,” she says, “nursing oysters.” We asked her what has kept her on the job all these years, and she shucked open a small trove of salty stories.

Eve Dunlop of Lovely Day Insists Her Customers Aren’t Hipsters

Laura Dunlop worked at a pizza-and-pasta mill before coming to Lovely Day, the diminutive Nolita standby for cheap, fanciful Thai. In the two years she’s been there, the 40-seat canteen has evolved from an under-the-radar hangout for local boutique owners and artists to a genuine destination. “It’s a little sad,” she says. “Because we don’t get to spend as much time with each table.” We asked her about the place’s bohemian following, her method of dealing with obnoxious customers, and rumors of full-frontal nudity inside the restaurant.

RUB’s Jonathan Meyer Cleans Up Your ‘Mystery Napkins’

After serving as a barista at Cafe Gitane, Jonathan Meyer joined the opening team as a server at RUB, New York’s pick for Best Barbecue. “It was a huge change,” he tells us. “I didn’t know anything about smoking meats.” (Meyer’s primary love is the theater group he runs, PossEble.) Almost two years later, the Long Island native is informed enough to hold his own against southerners who he says “wear their barbecue knowledge on their sleeve.” We asked him to steer us through the very heated world of Righteous Urban Barbecue.

Sara of the Penthouse Executive Club Knows Your Children’s Names

Twenty-seven-year-old Sara (who asked that her last name not be used) has been a waitress at the Penthouse Executive Club since it opened in June of 2003 and has been popping Champagne bottles and serving tuna topped with quail egg in the lounge area and private rooms ever since. (The in-house restaurant, Robert’s Steakhouse, employs only male waiters.) The New Orleans native remembers how surprised she was the first time a woman came in alone and talked openly about her husband, but now she doesn’t bat an eye. “I generally know my guests by name,” she says, “and whether they have children.” We asked her to show, er, tell us a little bit more.

Guss’ Pickles Vendor Roger Janin Doesn’t Mind Getting Wet and Smelly

Roger Janin has been working at Lower East Side institution Guss’ Pickles for six years. “I used to hang out here,” says Janin. “The mother of one of my friends was working here. She asked if I wanted to push some pickles around and I said, ‘Sure, I got nothing better to do.’” These days Janin works at the stand with Pat Fairhurst, his mother and the current owner of the eightysomething-year-old establishment. We asked him what it’s like persevering through frostbite, two-hour lines, a budding lawsuit, 500-pound pickle barrels, and the very stinky train ride home.

Boyfriend Cheating? Corey Lima of Schiller’s Is There for You

Last week’s Valentine’s Day celebrations made us wonder what the loveage scene was like at Schiller’s, one of the city’s most romantic — or, romantically lit, anyway — restaurants. Who better to answer that question than veteran bartender (and MC of hip-hop band Spoken Movement) Corey Lima, who, in addition to being the creator of the Delancey martini, is also, we discovered, a matchmaker, consoler, and every now and then, an object of desire.

Your Secrets Are Safe With Katarina ‘the Shadow’ Auster of Morimoto

After graduating from Juilliard, Katarina Auster started a pop-rock band called Majorette that was signed to Sony. Instead of blowing her advance, she took a job as a server at Morimoto. Her boss there, music booker turned restaurateur Stephen Starr, tells her to thank him when she gets a Grammy; before that happens and she finally leaves, we thought we’d ask her what it’s like playing “shadow” in the vicinity of misbehaving celebrities, awful blind dates, mysterious fish thefts, and the Iron Chef’s fugu theatrics.