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Everything posted by TheFoodTutor

  1. "Pasta Anytime." You know, because boiling water is so labor-intensive.
  2. My only disagreement is that I think that a well-handled complaint is actually better for business than a flawless experience. A flawless experience means that nothing intruded upon the guest's dining in any way, whatsoever, and many guests (perhaps most) would be unlikely to notice a flawless dining experience, in the unlikely event that one should happen. On the other hand, a well-handled complaint is a rarity that proves how good a restaurant actually is. Just to stay on topic, I certainly would have made sure that the entrees were comped in this case, and given that the restaurant has been named at this point, a little research into the place seems to indicate to me that they'd be likely to make it right if you contacted them.
  3. The Atlanta location of Legal Sea Foods opened with hand-held devices in use, but they were actually one of the biggest complaints about the place in the beginning. It seems that they were somewhat limiting, in that the server had to take all appetizer orders first, go around the table, then start back at square one for salad orders, then entrees, etc. Of course, this is just a matter of imperfect implementation of a system that could be fixed and I can imagine that this sort of POS could end up working very well at some point in the future. I'm not looking forward to seeing much of it in the very near future, however, since most of my favorite restaurants are struggling so much with meeting the bottom line and staying open in the face of the current recession that any added costs like that will most certainly have to wait for better times. I am the sort of server who always writes everything down, and at the restaurant where I work, our system of abbreviations is strictly used to the extent that a ticket order can be taken at a table by one server, then handed off to another server standing at the Aloha while the first server tends to other business. It really makes things much more efficient. Really, it's not like I don't trust my own memory as much as any of those waiters who insist on not writing things down. I have an excellent memory, actually. I just know that writing things down not only provides me with a record of what I heard the guest order, but the simple act of writing it helps me to remember it even better. I suppose I could be vain enough to want everyone to know that I can remember it without writing it down, but I'd rather people just remember me as the server who always gets things right, rather than the one who can do a parlor trick.
  4. Did the server take the side order of potatoes off your check? Agreed that a 16.5% tip isn't low enough to send a message to your server, and a difference of $1 wouldn't make much of a dent in my day, regardless. Granted, one wouldn't make the same money if you inserted the same check averages into one of jackal's formulas, but I think most breakfast places allow their servers to take much larger sections, so that they can turn and burn enough to boost their overall sales for the meal period. The tip probably had less of an impact on the server than seeing her manager bring you the orange juice that was apparently forgotten. Another way to (unobtrusively) have an effect would be to tell the manager, when he stopped by the table - which I'm glad for your sake that he did - that service wasn't up to par. I'm the sort of person who'd say, "Wow, that poor girl must be really busy. I'm having a bear of a time getting a cup of coffee." Or something to that effect. He'd probably tell her to step up her game or give up one of her tables to someone who wasn't so busy, and this could have made the rest of your meal pleasant, negating the reason to debate later on whether $1 difference in your tip sent a message.
  5. Well, I have been in this situation, but never because of confronting a guest. I've had a guest wait until after the meal was entirely over to give me a little "lecture" about why my service was bad and therefore I got no tip. The claims have always been so ridiculous that I was completely at a loss for words. Some examples: One time I had a group of 4 ladies at my table who were quite taken with their conversation with each other, and so every time I went by the table, I didn't get an opportunity to speak to them and ask them specifically how their meal was, whether they needed anything else, so I assumed that my mere presence, going by the table every few minutes or so, was enough for them to know that they could ask me for anything they wanted. The lady who decided to pay also decided that she wasn't going to tip me, and she was going to give me a humiliating lecture. First, she was upset that I didn't bring her another lemonade when she finished one of them, but of course she didn't give me a chance to let me tell her that we don't have free refills on lemonade, so I'd have had to ask her if she wanted to order another one, which I didn't get a chance to do. Also, she was upset that I had dropped the check at the moment that I did the quality check on the entree, because it was our company policy to do so at lunch, which I didn't get a chance to tell her, either, because she was so busy dressing me down. Her friends did look a little uncomfortable as she did this, though, so I suppose my real tip is knowing that I don't have to live whatever kind of life she lives that she needed to do something so passive-aggressive (or perhaps just regular old aggressive) to someone who never did anything wrong to her. Another lady told me that she didn't leave me a tip because I charged her for mango, which she had requested be added to her salad. I guess I just didn't realize that she's the woman who always gets free mango. Silly me. Another lady didn't tip me because I wouldn't give her a to go cup for her Diet Coke, because my restaurant doesn't carry to go cups. See a trend here? Really, sometimes it's better to just not know the reason, actually.
  6. I'll go ahead and agree with everyone else here that the two of you are incompatible. I feel the same way about fashion as he feels about food. I wish that I could just wear the same set of clothes every day, or identical sets of clothing, so that I'd never have to think about what to wear. But deciding on what to eat is definitely a different story. My current fiancee thinks less about food than I do, but he is very appreciative of everything I cook for him, so I guess I'm just lucky. The only food I can think of that he really doesn't like is olives, although he will eat them, if they're an ingredient in something that he is eating, like a tapenade or something. Oh, and he doesn't like fish maw soup. But then, I don't know many people who do, aside from myself.
  7. Actually, retail electronics store employees in the U.S. (not sure how they do it in other countries) earn their salary almost entirely, or possibly entirely, on commission. I am certain that they used to do this entirely on commission, with a back-up option that employees can be paid minimum wage for shifts where they make no sales, in which case they have the same situation that servers face, if they don't make minimum wage, in dealing with their employers. Of course, the commission for retail sales is a set part of the price, but you still pay it, whether you received good service or not. A number of retail electronics stores are going through bankruptcy right now, and/or closing all of their stores, so I'm not sure how long the system of guaranteed commission, if you make the sale, will last, or if it will become more like the restaurant model, or what will happen, actually. As far as people who come from different cultures where tipping is not customary, the Japanese have been great about educating their employees before business trips about all of the customs of the land which they are visiting. I'm not sure why all cultures would not do this, but I am sure that I'd always learn the culture of any land I'm visiting, before I visit there, in order to improve my own experience, visiting there. Edited to add that most other countries include health care coverage for everyone who works (or doesn't work) in any capacity. We don't. This is one of many things that might change in the very near future, but of course, that's another topic entirely.
  8. If the patron has to give a "dignified reason for an undignified tip", then should the waitstaff also be required to defend (or explain) the crappy service they provided? ← You'd better believe I do. I may be a very well paid server, but I am one of the most hawkishly-watched employees of any business that I know of. (Certain) people pay more attention to what I do and how I do my job than is paid to the person who stands guard over the red button that starts global nuclear war. (Well, almost.) When we have a manager called to the table to question a gratuity, you'd better believe that if the guest says, "Well, the food was good, but the service, not so much. . ." their exact explanation of why they didn't tip well can very well mean I don't have a job the next day, so if I choose to call a manager to the table, you're darned tootin' I know that I've got all my ducks in a row, and no misstep on my part can be used against me. In addition to that scrutiny, my managers regularly watch everything I do, from which hand I serve a table with, whether I provide open service, serve ladies first, crumb a table immaculately, word my "features" with exactly the appropriate and enticing language, offer dessert at the appropriate moment, never pass by an ungreeted or unbussed table, never walk by a piece of paper on the floor without picking it up, etcetera, etcetera. Every move I make all day long, every minute of every day is scrutinized to the nth degree. And there are video cameras so we can watch the replay, just in case there is a question about anything I've done. And in addition to that, sometimes managers sit down at a table to "recertify" me: They sit down to have me wait on them so that they can grade every tiny aspect of my performance as a server. Last year, I fell and broke my arm in a really horrifying way - my surgeon thought it likely that I'd be partially crippled for life - and yet when I came back to work, working through physical therapy and all, my manager recertified me, and she marked me down a point for pouring a bottle of wine with the wrong arm. (Pouring the bottle correctly would have meant that I'd have to use my broken arm, meaning that I'd probably have dropped the bottle.) So, yes, I think I'd say that I'm thoroughly accountable for whether or not my service merits an appropriate tip.
  9. Mmmmm. That sounds like quite the delightful "specialty" cocktail, indeed. I actually have been guilty of using smaller amounts of water to cook my pasta many times in the past, but, to be fair, I don't really like pasta that much, so it probably makes less of a difference to me.
  10. I would attribute it to both, actually, although I never confront guests directly about tips. As I said before, the managers do this on a regular basis at my place of employment, and the policy works very well, and not just for an extra six bucks here or there. I've seen a number of different reactions to this policy, and contrary to the expectations in this thread, most often the patron does not choose to get angry, storm out and never return. In some cases, the person who paid the bill is looked at in disbelief by his friends who say, "Dude, do you really not know that's a bad tip?" or something to that effect, after which they have a good laugh and someone from the group chips in the difference to make up a proper tip. Or sometimes foreigners admit that they've been feigning ignorance of tipping in America just to save a few bucks now and then. One time, a father with his family expressed shock at being confronted about a tip, since he swore that he had left a reasonable tip. At that point, the teenaged daughter reached into her pocket and pulled out a $20, admitting that she had slipped it off the table as they were leaving the restaurant. I'm sure she was embarrassed, but dishonest behavior should be embarrassing, frankly. This whole discussion seems moot, really. Everyone here seems to think the policy at my place of work is outrageous, so clearly I'm not going to convince anyone, and yet I see this policy work beautifully over and over again, all the time. The end result is that I work in a restaurant where far more often than not, people tip at least 15-20%, so that it really is out of concern for the state of service when someone leaves a shocking and out of the ordinary tip less than 10%. And the restaurant is enormously successful and popular, having been there for over 30 years, going on a wait for every single meal period served during that time. People don't want to get kicked out of this restaurant (Holly Moore aside), and so they want to behave in a manner that will ensure that they will be welcome there in the future. It is literally one of the most profitable pieces of real estate in Atlanta per square foot of space in the building. So OK, I lose, you win. You're all right and I'm wrong. I'd still much rather have the situation where I work right now than win a pointless argument on the Internet.
  11. I'm actually shocked that this statement could be made in response to something that I wrote more than anything else in this thread. I mean, wow.
  12. I own my condo, actually. At the time that I bought it, I was a server and my (then) boyfriend was a line cook, which was just a little before the time that I did my foodblog on eGullet. After that, I took a job as a pastry chef and he got promoted to sous chef, and we were still doing OK. When we broke up, I was down to one income and went back to waiting tables, but I've still been able to manage. Of course, I do work an average of about 50 hours per week, and I've been serving for a long time at one of the busiest restaurants in Atlanta, so I plan things very, very carefully. I don't go out drinking with my co-workers and I work hard and watch what I spend all the time. Still, I don't feel like I do too badly, even when I do a lot of cleaning and extra work for my $2.13/hour wage. Now, I did take an intense beating in the stock market last year, but that's entirely another topic. . .
  13. That's definitely not the way I prefer to eat my fish. At the restaurant where I work, medium rare to medium is the norm for salmon, unless the guest specifies that they want it cooked through. We don't ask for a temperature. We just cook it that way. I think the little fish sandwich shop around the corner cooks their fish all the way, but all of the upscale restaurants around here cook their fish rather lightly, though they do get a good crisp sear on the outside.
  14. I do. And so do they. We have a long-time line cook who works in our restaurant during the day, and in the evenings he works front of the house at a fine dining Italian restaurant on the north side of town. He is capable of doing both jobs, he speaks enough English to do both jobs and he is aware of the difference in pay rate for the two. Still, he likes working in the kitchen at my restaurant because back there he doesn't have to put up with the guests. Having worked every position that there is to work in a restaurant, I see his point. Some of our other cooks would not be able to work as servers because their English skills are not good enough, or in some cases, their personalities simply would be disastrous if they were allowed to mingle with the guests. We also have a dishwasher who has worked for the company for a very long time who would be unable to be a server because he cannot read or write. He has many friends who help him out, and I'm certain many people would help him to learn to read, but he clearly doesn't want to, nor does he have any desire to be out on the floor dealing with guests. I don't think it's really a valid comparison, discussing wages for cooks vs. servers. It's a different skill set, and therefore it's a different job. For this skill, you get paid this, and for that one, you get paid that. My boyfriend is a Polymer Chemist who develops spray polymers for specific uses, and yet he gets paid less by the same company as those who sell the polymers that he develops. Is this fair? Maybe not, but he has no interest in selling, so he does what he likes to do. I must admit that I take a slightly perverse interest in seeing how quickly this thread is growing. I love a good tipping discussion!
  15. The obvious, yet not-so-obvious problem here is that many patrons do not read the menu. A large part of my job is to read the menu for my guests, although I have reason to believe that many of those same patrons are not illiterate. They seem to be very able to text message on their phones, and yet they seem to be unable to notice the soup calendar on the menu, as evidenced by the question, "And what is your soup today?" after I list the featured specials at the table. If the soup of the day was as constantly changing as the fresh, grilled fish selections, I'd automatically state it as part of my spiel. And the soup calendar is prominent at the top right of a very simple menu, so it's hard to imagine how many people don't notice it, except for the fact that I've come to believe that the average guest does not read the menu, or at least not very closely. And that's alright. Lots of people don't like to read, and don't want to be bothered with reading, when they want something to eat. The statement about tipping is at the bottom of the menu, which is only one page, and while I'm having trouble with the idea of something that is "unobtrusive but obvious," there still seem to be a myriad of people who do not notice it. Many people don't notice the bit about an auto-gratuity of 18% being added to parties of 5 or more, even though it is clearly stated on the menu that every guest receives. How, exactly, does a restaurant make something like this, "unobtrusive but obvious?"
  16. The server confronting the table is not appropriate, I agree. The restaurant group where I work has a policy wherein the manager on duty in the front of the house makes a table call to ask if everything was OK with their food and service whenever a tip of less than 10% is left. This policy is rather complicated and involved, since it means that the server must receive full payment, look at the tip, then get a manager to make the table call, presuming the table has not left yet. The manager then goes to the table, asks how everything was, if service and food were good. Upon receiving an answer of "Yes, everything was fine (good, great, whatever.)", then the manager says; "Good. We were just concerned, because, whenever someone tips less than 10%, we always want to make sure that service was up to our standards." At this point, the patron is able to make other comments, but of course this brings up other questions. If service was sub-par, then why didn't you mention it when asked by the manager the first time? The resulting responses are often entertaining. "Oh. . . yeah. . . she was a little slow at times." "Oh, well, sure we tipped $5 on a $110 bill, but, well, . . . we're Canadian." (An actual response. I couldn't make this stuff up.) "Times are tough. We can't afford to tip that way." We have had managers ask patrons not to return to the restaurant, based on some of these responses, but we also state clearly on the menu that we stand behind our service, and that a minimum 15% tip for good service is customary and expected. It's a reasonable policy, since almost everyone does tip according to custom, and the house charges tipshare of our servers, in addition to the IRS assuming that tips will constitute a certain percentage of sales, as has been noted. Tips as a percentage of the sale is a form of wages in this country, and I think it is reasonable to expect that people either follow the custom, or speak up to management if service doesn't merit an appropriate tip.
  17. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Primanti Brothers. I'm not from Pittsburgh, so I didn't grow up with this concept, but I heard about it plenty of times. There was a knock-off of this restaurant in the Flats of Cleveland when I lived there called Panini's, and they sold their sandwiches with choice of meat, plus cole slaw and fries inside the sandwich, usually doing their best business late at night. I worked in a bar in that area, so getting off work late at night meant searching for something to eat at that hour. Most nights it was a choice between Panini's, Chin's Chinese or The Big Egg. Personally, I'm not a big fan, but it certainly makes for a very filling sandwich.
  18. eGullet member Torakris has been to a chicken sashimi restaurant, and she posted pictures here. I'd be very interested in trying it out myself. I haven't actually eaten raw chicken here in the U.S., but I'm not as squeamish about it as many people seem to be. And of course I like my duck breast to be cooked rare to medium rare, and my foie gras to be seared rare as well.
  19. The dispute between Sembler and 5 Seasons Brewing has been resolved.
  20. Agreed. To put things in perspective: Years ago, many of our ancestors wouldn't have thought twice about putting the roast back into the fire after leaving it out at room temp (or even a sweltering savanna temp) for hours and hours. More recently, my own relatives 40 years ago wouldn't have thought much of leaving partially cooked meat out for hours and then roasting it again for service. There is a gamble involved here, and you probably won't kill anyone, almost certainly. But the odds of the gamble are really known better by you than by anyone here, since we don't know exactly what time you turned off the heat and went to sleep, and when you woke up, etc. If I were in your place, I might be willing to go ahead and cook it the rest of the way, given that the end product might be particularly delicious, and my friends might enjoy it immensely, even with a slight risk involved. Good luck!
  21. HaHaHa! That would have been a priceless moment! I agree that the Uncle Ben's challenge was nauseating. But then again, someone's got to pay for the show and all the prizes. And why are we back to no prizes for the winners? I just really don't know what I would have cooked with that crappy rice.
  22. Regarding "overworking" the meat: There's a terrific eGullet foodblog from Anna N in 2004 where she describes making a particular sort of Danish meatballs that involve lots of beating of the mixture, which does contain breadcrumbs and loads of cream. Link to the thread, with the recipe Here. I was motivated by her description and the recipe enough to make a batch of the meatballs myself, though I must admit I used a Kitchenaid for some of the extensive beating, because I'm kind of lazy. The meatballs were delicious, and the texture was similar to a pate. I spoke to Chef Blais recently and mentioned the discussion on this thread of his technique, and he seemed really surprised that people would fixate on such a short clip - really just a few seconds show him throwing a meat patty against the pan - and go on to dissect exactly what he was doing. He indicated that he has been reading the discussions here and elsewhere, but I'm pretty sure he's not responding in order to keep in line with his contractual obligations. Well, that and I'm sure he's pretty busy with the new restaurant opening this week, of course. This is my first season watching Top Chef, but I've really been enjoying it, and this thread has added to my enjoyment, because some of the people here notice things that I don't notice while viewing the show. It's been fun rooting for Richard, and very gratifying to see that his talents are appreciated on a national stage. I can't wait to see who gets kicked off tonight.
  23. Cool. The last cooking class I taught was at the home of some lovely German ladies, and when I brought out a box of stock for making risotto, apologizing that I don't usually make my own stocks for risotto, though I do for some soups, they brought out their favorite brand of bouillon cubes to show me. It was a really neat looking package, with a picture of gravy on it, so I asked them if they had to add a thickener to make gravy with it, or if it might possibly have cornstarch in the base, but they weren't sure. (There was a little bit of a language barrier, but they were amazing ladies to hold a class with.) Now I'm wishing I'd pocketed a few, or at least written down the name of the product. They said they liked it so much that they asked their friends to get it for them, when they made a trip back to Germany. I think I'd like to collect instant dashi and oden as well.
  24. Oh yeah. Seen it, done it, got the T-shirt. Not being able to even leave the line in order to throw up, and heaving into a trash can instead, is a special occasion, however. They oughtta have a name for that. . . Of course, these days, I'm not so budget-minded that I'd have to work that way, but there are still those cohorts that do. In the grand scheme of things, I don't think it's really that risky to eat in restaurants, but caveat emptor, as they say. . .
  25. Guys like that tend to have a sixth sense about those things, knowing that if they just lay low for a while, they will be more than welcome to come back when the storm blows over. I really like your story, Mike. It reminds me, more than anything else, of a man with whom I work right now. The restaurant where I work has been open since 1978, built from bricks of the theatre where "Gone With The Wind" was first shown, after that theatre burned down. It stands on a busy streetcorner that has changed in myriad ways since its inception, and through that whole time, it has remained one of the busiest restaurants in the entire city. To this day, it is still one of the most profitable pieces of real estate in Atlanta. And there is one employee who has worked there since opening day. He's our dishwasher. Over the years, the company has rewarded him in numerous ways for his loyalty. He has received all sorts of gifts on his birthday and company anniversaries, and we've even put his name on the menu. He's our rock star. And I think that the company has their priorities in exactly the right place, because of this. I am friends with him, of course, and I talk to him every day. And even when he asks me ridiculous favors, I do them, and I never tell him what an annoying, persnickety old man he can be, at times. It's just a really, really precious thing to know him, I guess. Edited to bring this back to topic: I meant to say that one cannot forget to value the employees who do the work that the high-profile chefs might consider to be "less worthy." You have to respect all of the people in this line of work who do the jobs that you would not want to do, and take pride in doing it, even if it's banging out a hundred plates of eggs in an hour, every morning, year after year. It's good to see articles that show an appreciation for that.
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