This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
Showing The Internal Workings Of The American System Of Hotel Keeping. The Steward's Duties In Detail And In Relation To Other Heads Of Departments. Steward's Storekeeping, Steward's Bookkeeping, And Management Of Help. Also, Composition Of Bills Of Fare, The Reasons Why, And Numerous Illustrative Menus Of Meals On. The American Plan
The steward is out of fashion just at present, although there are indications that the time is coming around again when he will take his proper place in the hotel economy, a place second in importance only to that of the proprietor. He has been dropping out of fashion more and more every year for a long period, while the chef gained the ascendancy, till now the steward and his position are almost forgotten. It used to be sufficient to say that Mr. So-and-so was the proprietor and Mr. Somebody was his steward, and that included everything, for the steward had his headwaiter, his cook, his pastry cook. Some stewards of the few remaining write my cook, etc., yet, from the force of old habits, but really there are but few and they are but seldom heard of. There are plenty of indications to satisfy anyone that this is the case. There is no employe* of any importance about a hotel or restaurant so seldom mentioned in print now as the steward, and if one of them does appear in print through his own writings he gets but a nod like any stranger, and at once disappears.
It is very rarely that any advertisement appears of a steward wanted, and when occasionally a steward advertises for a situation it is half-heartedly, for most of such advertisements end with an offer to assist with something else, as if it was scarcely expected that any hotel keeper could possibly want a steward, or as if a steward's duties were not exacting enough to demand every minute of his time; some, who so advertise, have been stewards, they say, twenty years or more; that is, they are of the old stock of stewards, remainders from the stewards era, and cannot help offering themselves. But the young men who advertise numerously wants to be assistant managers, managers of small houses, caterers, occasionally, or storekeepers and assistant clerks, anything but steward, and letters of inquiry come to the hotel newspaper offices innocently asking what the steward's duties are, almost by implication asking what stewards are for. About a year ago some newspaper man interviewed the proprietor of a large hotel in Washington and asked him about the methods of internal management, and asked: "How do you know how much to cook?" "I confer with my chef" answered the proprietor - and then we do thus and so, and the dialogue included many such questions.
But where was the steward in that case?
Another such indication comes to hand in a very late number of the Hotel World, after the foregoing had been written, and must be repeated for its worth and to help confirm the position taken, that the steward is out of fashion, and the chef is in the ascendant:
The chef of a large Saratoga hotel is reported as saying: "We receive word from the office every morning how many people there are in the house, and there are certain well established rules for calculation. For instance, among a certain number of people so many will take roast beef, and we have found by experiment that 100 people require a side of beef weighing about forty pounds. Among the same 100 people forty or fifty chickens will be needed, according to the size of the chickens. We can calculate pretty closely, but we have to be liberal, so that if fifty or sixty people come in to dinner whom we did not expect, there will not be a scant supply. I make out the bill of fare for each day's dinner on the afternoon of the previous day. I look over my stock, ask the steward what he expects to have in by the morning trains, and thus knowing the material I shall have to work with on the morrow, the bill of tare is made out"
The above is according to fact, but if everything in the hotel system were in its proper order it would have been the steward who did the taking, conferred with the cook, instead of being questioned by the cook, and who would have suggested the bill of fare and revised it after the chef had written it.
A year or two ago a young proprietor in sore trouble applied to the writer to assist him in finding a different variety of cooks from those he had met; he said he had tried all sorts, the high-priced association cooks among the rest, and he stigmatized them all as a man will who is tormented. He wrote: "I want a cook who can compute the cost of his meals, who knows the difference between skillful work and common extravagance, who will remain at his post until the meal is over, and be as willing to earn his wages as I am to pay them." This young proprietor has come into the business while stewards are out of fashion, and it never occurred to him that what he really did want was a steward. There are no cooks who will do all that he sees should be done, none that have learned to compute the cost of meals, except with the cooperation of the steward and store-keeper; where there is no steward something is neglected to be done. Although this necessary officer may be absent, his duties are there to be performed in every hotel, and are divided amongst several, and as these cannot do as well as a man trained to the special duties of the position, there must necessarily be irregularity, incompleteness and loss in the hotel system.