UnderCover Waitress: The Chef Knows How to Cook

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Chef Knows How to Cook

The idea that the customer is always right is downright ludicrous. There are some customers that businesses shouldn't mollify so they will come back. Serving a customer shouldn't cost the restaurant.

Take the family of Very Important Person. Party of eight arrived late - par for the course for the entitled. Sister has a gluten allergy; I do my job and I do it well. (Never mess with food allergies.) She can't have the expensive filet because the sauce has gluten in it, but I check in with the kitchen as to what sauces she can have. There are two that evening and I approach the table to tell her the choices.

Used to having anything and everything she wants, she can't decide between the two. She decides she will have both sauces on the side. She will have her meet grilled without sauce to medium-rare.

The chef agrees to grill the meat without either sauce and put both of them on the side. The flavors are quite different and do not complement each other; they are presented in two small dishes.

Again, I do my job well. After delivering dinner and allowing my table to start eating, I approach to find out if I can do anything else for them. Sister, for whom we just went out of way to accommodate, is not happy. Her medium-rare filet is overcooked, dried out, and well-done.

Let's see. I take a look at the inside of the meat -- it's red. Absolutely, perfectly cooked. I gently call her attention to the deep red color of her medium-rare filet. She bristles, and tells me it is overcooked and dry. "But you asked for it to be grilled without sauce, that will make it dry." She is so mad she is shaking, so I continue, "Let me tell the chef and see what he can do for you."

I have never seen this chef this angry. I could almost see the steam coming out of his ears, and this was the only time in all the years I worked with this person that I was frightened. In the most quiet and even tones, he instructed me to ask the "lady" what she would like him to do.

I return. I am informed by a shaking and indignant twenty-something that he will cook her a new filet, this time rare, and to go. She has lost her appetite. I have to admit I rather enjoyed asking her if wanted it grilled without any sauce. Unable to admit she is wrong, she wants it grilled without sauce. I can't imagine it was any moister after being grilled without sauce and sitting in a refrigerator all night. Bon Apetit.

Another fun moment of this memorable evening was the mother attempting to defend her daughter's stupidity. She asked me whether the sauce on her plate was on top of the meat or around the meat on the plate. Mrs. Einstein didn't know that chefs baste the meat with sauce while cooking, then decorate the plate with a little more, and she wasn't going to let some stupid little waitress tell her something she didn't already know.

In the restaurant industry, we don't require that customers know how to cook. We do need our diners to trust that we are professionals who know what we are doing. Word to the wise: if you think we can't cook, don't eat in our restaurant.

The hostess and I were a little taken aback that Sister insisted on boxing up her second, free filet herself. She was most likely afraid I would dust flour on it or spit on it. I never would, but I had visions of letting the chef teabag it. He never would.

The absolute proof that these folks are missing some cards in the deck is that they continue to waltz in, always expecting us to be happy to see them.

I love Mark Bittman's books:

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