THE LAST SUPPER CLUB
A Waiter's Requiem
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,
- University of Minnesota Press
- October 2023
- 272 Pages
“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
“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
“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
- How many different ways does the phrase “the last supper club” work?
- In which ways can restaurants make us feel more at home than when we’re at home?
- Batt writes a lot about his early food memories. What early food memories of your own come to mind?
- Batt writes about a dinner he shared with his mother at a restaurant called “Heaven City” as one of his most transformative. What is your favorite meal?
- What is the hardest job you ever loved?
- Batt suggests that working in restaurants should be required like military service is in some countries. What do you think?
- Batt writes about how working in restaurants is “to know trauma.” What do you think he meant by that, and how does it translate to your line of work?
- Why do you think fine dining is dying in America?
- Batt compares working in higher education unfavorably with working in restaurants. To what extent do you think it’s fair to compare the two?
- One subtext of the book is whether going to college and pursuing post-graduate degrees is worth it when, in Batt’s experience, they end up paying about the same as working at a nice restaurant that doesn’t even require a high school degree. What’s crazier: not going to college and working wherever the jobs are à la our current “gig economy,” finding a trade, or incurring, as many undergraduates do, over a hundred thousand dollars in debt for their bachelor’s degrees (never mind grad school) to hopefully work within their field of study?