Meet Debbie, the Multitasking Badass Behind Peach Farm
It takes a special kind of server to wrangle Chinatown’s rowdiest late-night scene.
After midnight, Peach Farm becomes the province of Boston’s restaurant industry. You’ll often find groups of chefs and bartenders, their round tables—with pink table cloths and swirling lazy Susans—topped with surf clams, half-empty Tsingtao bottles, and piles of deep-fried, head-on shrimp.
This kind of scene, filled with tipsy patrons and rowdy hospitality professionals, calls for a special kind of server who can balance being efficient, congenial, and firm. Debbie (she declined to disclose her last name), a fixture at Peach Farm for almost 10 years, is that server. Ask anyone who goes to Chinatown regularly and they know her on a first name basis. “She’s fucking on point with everything,” says Douglas Rodrigues, executive chef of The Tip Tap Room. “Her hospitality is the best, by far.”
Debbie—a food lover who spends her minimal downtime cooking and scrapbooking recipes from old Chinese newspapers—moved to the city from Ipoh, Malaysia, specifically for Peach Farm. She now works at the restaurant six times a week, in manic blocks that last up to 10 hours. “Working here, you have to be fast,” she says in the relative calm between the dinner and late-night rush. “When I’m working, it’s a lot of fun.”
That’s not always the case, though. “The worst guests, they don’t want to pay me,” she says with a bit of a laugh. “They’re teenagers, maybe high school kids, they just leave. I have to be careful. It only happens once or twice a year, though, if I’m lucky.”
When Debbie first started working at Peach Farm, she says that chefs rarely dined at the restaurant, but after a while she began to see famous faces like Lydia Shire and Ming Tsai. She got to know some of the chefs, but rarely by name. “I only know their face,” she says.
Over the past decade, she has noticed that the chefs she serves follow a pattern. “In the beginning they come in by themselves, then in big groups. Then they move out of town and new people come in.”
One chef that has moved out of town, but still travels into the city to eat here, is Johnny Sheehan. The executive chef of New World Tavern in Plymouth used to make Peach Farm a frequent after work stop after shifts at Clio and Uni. “She was part of the whole experience,” he says. “Walking in the door and seeing Debbie, she knows what you like to eat and order. Where else do you feel like a regular in Chinatown?”
Debbie’s love of food comes across in her work. She plays hostess, server, translator, and culinary counselor to both regulars and rookies. The menu at Peach Farm can be overwhelming for the unfamiliar, but under Debbie’s care, guests often find dishes that become favorites. She recommends the eel with black bean sauce, the lobster with scallion and ginger, and for the more adventurous, frog hot pot. But if you want to stick to crab rangoons and egg rolls, you are free from judgement.
Sixty hours a week of serving countless people (and the occasional unruly guest) sounds tiring, but she handles it in stride. “Enjoy your work, you enjoy your life” she says, and basks in the temporary calm of the dining room.
4 Tyler St., Boston; 617-482-1116 or peachfarmboston.com.