A Good Brunch

At least for me, one of the highlights of a hotel stay is the brunch. I love a good, solid buffet with a varied selection of meats, egg dishes, an omelet bar, and starchy sides. Some are better than others. (It’s always a good idea to peruse the offerings before deciding to settle in, and don’t be afraid to ask about the price. The Peninsula in Chicago may be the most impressive Sunday brunch spread I’ve ever seen, but at $75 per person, my wife and I took a pass.)

Last weekend, however, I found myself in Orlando at a conference at the Marriott World Center—the largest Marriott in the world. And the $25 per guest brunch buffet at Solaris was well worth it: There were the cold selections of lox, cured meats, and yogurt-granola in tall shot glasses, an omelet bar, sour cream pancakes made to order, sausage links, sausage patties, kielbasa slices, corned beef hash, and bacon (just what you need before taking the kids to the Magic Kingdom). And with friendly servers asking if I’d like Tabasco and ketchup for my Western omelet and potatoes, it couldn’t have been better (at least for the price).

So what do you tip? Older folks will tell you to leave a minimal 10 percent. You’re doing all the work anyway. Steve Dublanica, author of Keep the Change, suggests 15 percent: “Well, someone has to clear your dishes and refill your sodas.” Also keep in mind the staff running the buffet would probably prefer to be elsewhere. “Cooks hate brunch,” Anthony Bourdain writes in Kitchen Confidential.

A wise chef will deploy his best line cooks on Friday and Saturday nights; he’ll be reluctant to schedule those same cooks on Sunday morning, especially since they probably went out after work Saturday and got hammered until the wee hours. Worse, brunch is demoralizing to the serious line cook. Nothing makes an aspiring Escoffier feel more like an army commissary cook, or Mel from Mel’s Diner, than having to slop out eggs over easy with bacon and eggs Benedict for the Sunday brunch crowd. Brunch is punishment block for the “B” Team cooks, or where the farm team of recent dishwashers learn their chops. Most chefs are off on Sundays, too, so supervision is at a minimum. Consider that before ordering the seafood frittata.

And no, there was no seafood frittata at the Marriott.

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