Best of Extra: Server of the Year!




Joel O'Laughlin is waiting for his big break while waiting tables
​Joel O'Laughlin is a writer. He's a waiter. He's a writer and a waiter and the Reader's Choice for "Best Waiter/Waitress" in this year's Best of Kansas City issue. Since O'Laughlin -- who has also dabbled in stand-up comedy -- may have the perfect credentials for professional restaurant work, it's no surprise that his friends and fans sent in lots of ballots for the Kansas City native who has worked at Waldo Pizza for nearly a decade.

And what are those credentials?

Well, he has his degree in psychology from UMKC, he's the son of a

former Catholic priest and a former Catholic nun and attended Catholic

schools (so he's a little shy, but very congenial and deeply

understanding of human flaws and foibles), and he started his

restaurant career at age 17 as a teenaged waiter at Winstead's.


understands that waiting tables requires the skills of a psychologist,

the patience of a priest, the humor of a good comedian, the sales

technique of a veteran traveling salesman, the energy of a professional

boxer, and the juggling abilities of a circus clown.

Oh, and the diplomacy of an experienced politician. The 18 months he

spent working in the office of former Kansas City mayor Emmanuel

Cleaver II -- writing formal proclamations and answering letters --

probably helped there.

"When people ask me if I want to be a waiter forever," says

O'Laughlin, 38, "I tell them, 'Yeah, maybe.' It's an excellent

profession for a writer. When I need time off to hunker down and write,

I can. Last year I took a month off to go on a writing binge."

Currently O'Laughlin is completing a novel, though it has nothing to do with the restaurant industry. "It's about a time-traveling squirrel."

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