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Most bizarre ways to ask "How is everything?"


Fat Guy
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I don't know how weird it is in the grand scheme of things, but it certainly gave us pause. Our already strange waiter asked us "Does that taste good?" My kneejerk reaction (which, thankfully, I didn't actually vocalize) was, "Yeah, wanna bite?".

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How many times do you tell them the truth?

"The plates were cold, the food underseasoned, the meat tougher than it should have been, the fish over-cooked, and the fries limp..."

You just say "fine thanks", Not even "Please go away, I'll call you if needed"

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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Being asked "Is everything yummy?" fills me with incoherent rage. Anything overly cutesy in the presence of a fine dining experience pisses me off, actually. If I wanted cute I would be patronizing, well, Cracker Barrel or something, alright? Buzz off.

I also despise "You still working on that?". The word "working" makes me think of a caveman gnawing on a tremendous bone in a forest somewhere and that is not appetizing at all.

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If you have to ask - there is a problem.

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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If you have to ask - there is a problem.

No. You always have to ask, actually. Sometimes, the asking is just making eye contact and ensuring that everything is alright, giving the patron the opportunity to say something if something is not perfect. Sometimes, the asking means standing nearby until someone cuts into a steak, popping over to check the color and saying, "Oh, that looks like a perfect medium to me. Is it to your liking?"

Sometimes, when people are really caught up in conversation, it's enough to walk by, raise an eyebrow and give a questioning "thumbs up" gesture, trying to be unobtrusive, but still offering an opportunity to ask for ketchup (yes, even if it's for a steak.) I've seen plenty of cooked-through steaks sent back to the kitchen because they weren't "cooked hard" enough, or perhaps they had a bit of moisture left in them (that's what ketchup is for, you know.)

My most annoying was a waiter who asked me at a brunch buffet if I was still "working on" half of a chocolate, chocolate chip muffin that I was enjoying rather slowly. It was really the tone he used to ask it that annoyed me more than anything. I looked up at him, just as sullenly as he had looked at me and said, "Why? Do you want it?"

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I wrote a column about how much I hated the question, "How is everything." I maintained that a savvy server should be able to cue off eye contact and need never ask.

A few days later, at Jack's Firehouse in Philadelphia, my favorite waiter made a point of staring me in the eye until I yelled uncle.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I know it's not that egregious on the face of it - not an entirely unreasonable question - but I profoundly dislike "how's everything tasting?"

Maybe it's just the construction...then again, maybe not.

"Life itself is the proper binge" Julia Child

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"how's that tasting" suggests you are eating cow's tongue and that it might be tasting you.

I would stick with non verbal, "to your liking" or "anything else I may offer you" or something like that.

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Not quite along these same lines, but the one that I distinctly remember from a brunch last fall, the bartender asked me, after just setting down the food, "what can I do to make everything perfect?"

Well, for one, I hadn't tasted anything. And two, she hadn't noticed I was buried nose deep in the newspaper, head down and by myself. To make it perfect, perhaps don't bother me.

I guess I'm not much of a morning person, however.

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I'm kind of surprised that "how is everything" or "how is dinner so far" irks some folks. Isn't "is everything to your liking" just a re-wording of "how is everything"? I tend to feel miffed if my server doesn't drop by once or twice during the meal, even if the question he or she asks is mostly a rhetorical one.

The plate-clearing is where things can get especially weird. It would improve the lives of servers and diners alike if all embraced the ol' fork-and-knife-at-4:20-means-I'm-finished. Leaves sooo much less opportunity for "are you still working on that" awkwardness.

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I haven't heard anything as bizarre as some of these. What's common, though, and always annoying, is when the question is asked in a way that coaches you to say everything's great. I want the server to express genuine interest.

The best servers make it clear that they're on your side if there are any problems ... they want your meal to be great and they'll fight on your behalf to make it that way.

The smiling, nodding variations on "is everything super???!!!" coax us into smiling and saying "yeah, great" even when everything isn't. The subtext is that the server wants approval more than the truth.

Notes from the underbelly

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If you have to ask - there is a problem.

There's a school of thought in the restaurant business that says you should never ask because you should never need to ask. In very high-end restaurant service, where the goal is to anticipate every need before it arises, this can be the case. In the best Michelin three-star restaurants in France, and in places in the US that have service on that level (e.g., Alinea, Ducasse at the Essex House) I've rarely been asked any variant of "How is everything?" It's just a given that everything is great. Beyond that the servers are trying to make things even more great. It's hard to think of anything to ask for because they give you everything you didn't even know you needed.

But outside of that top percent of a percent of restaurants, the "How is everything?" question and variants are probably appropriate. I just prefer not to be subject to some of the more tortured variants.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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"How are WE this evening?" or "How are WE doing with that?" drives me nuts. Maybe it's just a pet peeve of mine. Who the hell is "WE"? Me, my wife, and the waiter? Sorry, but that ain't happening. It seems very patronizing, if you'll forgive the pun. It's the sort of question you ask a class full of six-year-olds. ;)

Edited by Batard (log)

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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