"A lot of people will think things are souvenirs -- spoons, glasses, napkins -- but they're not," said the man in the white sweater to the table of men half dressed in their tuxedos. "If you see anyone taking anything, don't become involved. Find me."

It was 1 o'clock yesterday afternoon at the Kennedy Center roof terrace, where the waiters were receiving their instructions for the candlelight dinner. w

"These are very important people," the section captain continued. "They all have personal invitations. They will be getting souvenir plates. But they will get them when they leave."

As the tables were being dressed in their green moire clothes, preparation of the menu that has already become the hallmark of the incoming administration -- veal and fresh raspberries -- continued. There was more than $10,000 worth of veal topped with $1,000 worth of morels and another $1,000 invested in fresh raspberries flown in from California. Without the two wines and champagne, the menu "at retail" would be about $35 a person, said the executive chef.

Back at the partially set table, the section captain went on: "Serve from the right, pick up from the left." One of the old pros looked up and mumbled, "I was always told serve from the left, pick up from the right."

The direction was amended and the captain went on: "I don't want to see any service napkins over your shoulder or in your back pocket. Just here," he said laying an imaginary one over his arm.

The old pros to whom he was talking knew that already, but what about the dozens and dozens of others, the pink-cheeked college students who had been recruited from Georgetown University by signs posted on bulletin boards? Some had waited tables in restaurants; others were about to undergo on-the-job training. But at $7 an hour, it was a profitable lark. "There are millions of people here," chirped one young nouvelle waitress, "and they're mostly my friends."