In New Book, Alum Extolls Joys of Waiting Tables

'95 Graduate, Daughter of Corporate Mogul, Traded Consulting Job, Law School for Food Service

Waiting tables is not the blazing start on a career path that most mothers wish for their daughters.

But Loida N. Lewis, the mother of Leslie N. Lewis '95, was "extremely supportive" of her daughter's decision to decline a plush job offer in her hometown of New York City in favor of slinging hash at a trendy Miami beachfront eatery.

The daughter of the late Reginald F. Lewis, founder of TLC Beatrice Foods International, Lewis had the luxury of choosing between Harvard Law School and McKinsey Consulting. Instead of working from 6:30 a.m. to midnight at McKinsey, the Harvard graduate instead drove south to Miami and took her chances with a job waiting tables.

"I think everyone should wait tables or be in the service industry," Lewis said in a phone interview. "It teaches how kind we should be to people who serve us."

After he junior year, Lewis worked as a summer analyst for McKinsey.


"I was just miserable. It was not right for me," Lewis said.

"I wanted to travel to a foreign country. Miami was foreign enough, only it was here in the States," she said.

Lewis applied for a position with News Cafe in Miami Beach and immediately received an offer.

"[News Cafe] couldn't care less about what school I went to. They want just want you to show up and work hard," Lewis said. "Being from Harvard may have shown them I was responsible."

Lewis said she did not talk about her background with her co-workers for fear of being alienated.

Her most memorable scuffles were with patrons known as "Sunday customers" because they only dined out on Sundays.

"They want everything. They never tip. There are the people who complain that their coffee isn't hot enough," Lewis said.

"Finally, I just said to them: 'I'm not trying to give you bad service. I'm just not very good.'"

Her experiences at News Cafe turned into a book idea during a casual conversation with her mother.

"I called my mother about my job, and as I tried describing all the things that happened, I realized it could be a book," Lewis said.

As an undergraduate, Lewis concentrated in Social Studies and took classes in psychology and sociology. She did two case studies for those classes at the House of Blues and Grendel's Den, providing her with some practice studying restaurant life.

Lewis wrote a 128-page book titled Waiter, There's a Fly in My Soup: How to Make Megabucks Waiting Tables based on her six months at News Cafe.

On Sunday, Lewis will be signing copies of her book in Holyoke Center as part of the Harvard Square Book Festival.

Entering New York University's film school this fall, Lewis now aspires to write and direct