Gold ’n Silver Restaurant, Reno, Nevada

Candacy Taylor’s book Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress (Cornell University Press, 2009) combines oral history and photography, featuring 120 images and interviews with 38 waitresses. The inspiration for the project began when Taylor was a waitress in a San Francisco sushi restaurant while pursuing a graduate degree in visual and critical studies. Only in her early thirties and exhausted from waitressing, she began to wonder how older, career waitresses handled a lifetime of restaurant work — work that is demanding both physically and emotionally.

During her initial research, Taylor found numerous books on diners that focused on architecture rather than the human element. In 2001, she began interviewing coffee shop waitresses. The criteria she established were that the women had to be at least 50 years old with over 20 years of waitressing experience, and…

More of this feature article can be read in the Summer 2010 issue.