Three servers each celebrating 50 years at storied Los Angeles restaurant Taix

March 8, 2012 8:51 am
  • Bartender Fernando Gomez, right, and servers Jose Fragoso and Bernard Inchauspe, left, have worked for decades at the French restaurant Taix in Los Angeles, California's Echo Park neighborhood.
    Bartender Fernando Gomez, right, and servers Jose Fragoso and Bernard Inchauspe, left, have worked for decades at the French restaurant Taix in Los Angeles, California's Echo Park neighborhood.
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If diners want to be seen, they head to the lively main room, where the booths are ample and chandeliers hang from the ornate, pressed tin ceilings. Waiters in white shirts and black bow ties waltz from table to table, starting off each meal with the careful presentation of fresh bread and a platter of chopped vegetables. Every now and then the cast of waiters brings out a cup of mousse with a candle and gives a booming rendition of "Happy Birthday."

Mr. Inchauspe has been doing this since Sam Yorty was mayor.

He started at Taix in 1962 about a month after he and his wife arrived in California from France. They had planned to work on a relative's farm outside Los Angeles, but both thirsted for something more urbane.

He learned to speak English on the job, sometimes in exchange for French lessons for patrons. (The restaurant's name, for the record, is pronounced like "tex" as opposed to "tay.")

Mr. Inchauspe also likes to dish out compliments. Women of all ages may be targeted. And those unable to finish their meals can expect a light-hearted scolding.

When, over the years, competing restaurateurs quietly offered jobs elsewhere, he always declined. Taix is his second home, he says. And its staff and customers are his second family.

By that logic, longtime regular Hayward "Kelly" Fong, 87, would be something like a brother. For years, when Mr. Fong and his wife, Dorothy, came to Taix for a romantic dinner, they always requested Bernard.

"How is my beautiful?" the waiter would welcome Dorothy. "And how is everything?" he'd ask Kelly.

"Everything's fine," Kelly would joke. "Except for the service."

On other nights, when the Fongs had a Shrine Club meeting or another banquet to attend, they would dine in one of the restaurant's private rooms. That was where they got to know Mr. Fragoso, the 70-year-old Mexican-born banquet server who helps put on 2,000 private events at Taix each year. He always remembered Dorothy's unusual drink request: 7-Up and a splash of orange juice. He would top it with a cherry.

Dorothy is ill now, and homebound. So these days Kelly mostly goes to Taix alone.


First Published 2012-03-07 23:29:05
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