Minnesota professor takes sabbatical, finds joy in waiting tables

A man poses for a photo
Matthew Batt is an associate professor of English at St Thomas University.
Courtesy photo

Matthew Batt went on sabbatical with one goal in mind. The associate professor of English was going to take a breather from teaching and writing at the University of St. Thomas to try his hand and other kinds of work.  

“I had in mind an experience of working various jobs to write about it,” he said. 

Then he got a job waiting tables at Brewers Table at Surly Brewing, and he was confronted with two uncomfortable realities. 

First, that sabbatical came with a 50 percent pay cut, and needed the money he was earning to pay the bills.

“It may have started as an intellectual experience, but it came to be all about need,” he said. 

Also, he loved it. He found the work of being a server both more challenging and more satisfying than anything he had done as a professor.  

“At the end of the day, my job at that restaurant was to make people happy. And because of the great chefs and the great support staff there, we often did,” he said. “And I would have people leave the restaurant, and they would seek me out and want to shake my hand.” 

Batt wrote about that experience in his book “The Last Supper Club: A Waiter’s Requiem.” It’s a far cry from his 2012 memoir: “Sugarhouse,” which details home-repair misadventures.

Click on the audio player to hear Batt’s conversation with Tom Crann about his restaurant adventures.

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