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xxchef

The customer is NOT always right

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As for the vegetarian thing, I'd suggest you stick to cuisines and restaurants that cater to that sort of thing.

Honestly, the caliber of food at most vegetarian only places is not the same as that at the highest end non-vegetarian restaurants. It's no secret that if you want the very best vegetarian food possible, often your best choice is somewhere that is not vegetarian only. But I think it's important to bring it up the right way - call ahead of time, explain the situation, be specific about what you can and cannot eat, and ask if the restaurant can accommodate you or not. Interestingly, sometimes it's the places who agree but think it's a bit of a stretch who come up with the best things. I'm of course grateful to be accommodated in any event, but it's usually very obvious when the chef enjoys (and rises to) the challenge vs. when they're just throwing out something that technically meets the criteria. The very best chefs often can come up with something incredible, even with these sorts of limitations. And yes, occasional mistakes and / or cross-contamination are inevitable when you're eating food prepared in a kitchen that's not exclusively vegetarian, so people for whom absolute purity is important do need to stick to veg*n restaurants.

And, like vegetarians, vegans, pescetarians or not, there are a lot of us, and many / most of us go out to eat with people who are not. While going to a fully vegetarian restaurant often isn't an option, restaurants which don't offer anything may end up losing business to restaurants which are more accommodating.

In case anyone's interesting, here's a side-by-side of a vegan and standard tasting menu at Michael Cimarusti's Providence in Los Angeles. Despite being famous for his work with seafood, I've never been short of amazed at the vegetable dishes he comes up with.

http://www.runawaysquirrels.com/2010/11/chefs-table-providence/


Edited by Will (log)

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Thank you for your reply.

In my last post I asked you to acknowledge that in the event of a non-licensed dog being reported in my, or any other establishment, the restaurant owner gets the fine. I will now ask you again to please acknowledge this.

Just to clarify, you asked Kajikit to acknowledge that, not me. I don't believe that they've replied to the thread since. However, the fact that you may be assessed a fine doesn't change the tenants of the ADA. I don't claim that's fair, but there are many situations in which the intersects of well-intentioned laws aren't completely fair. In the situations I've been in, the local health department was aware that the business owner's hands were tied and would not assess a fine for a service animal being in a food consumption area. Plant tours and the like that would have a service animal in a food prep area would be a far more difficult situation to navigate.

Is it illegal for a store clerk or bank clerk to ask you for I.D. when paying with credit cards or depositing /cashing cheques?

Illegal? No. It is a violation of their merchant agreement to require ID when paying with a credit card though. Depending on the card, asking for ID can be a violation of the merchant agreement.

So when I am fully aware of the law, and know that if the Health Dept. determines that I allowed a non-licensed dog into my establishment, I will get a fine. Do I not have the right to protect my business? Why then, does this seem wrong? I am only asking for I.D. or documentation, same as a bar or liquor store.

Being fully aware of the law means that you need to be aware that the ADA requires you to allow active service animals (those in the company of "their" individual with a disability) into your shop and that you can't enquire too closely into the nature of their disability or the service the dog performs. To do otherwise opens you up to lawsuits that are likely to cost you more than $120 to resolve. Protecting your business is up to you, and some conversations with the local health department about how they would handle it, or your lawyer/small business association about the best ways you can protect yourself from liability may be in order.

Moreover, there is no official documentation for service animals in the US. Seeing that piece of paper doesn't give you any more than the illusion of protection. You're not going to photocopy it and keep it around in case the health department asks. You're going to look at it and nod your head and serve your customer and promptly forget what was on it.

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Ahh...

Interesting depiction of U.S. law, but of course, it's not applicable in Canada.

The whole dogs issue has been on my mind and I only realized how much of an issue it will be when I checked out "urban fare", a high-end supermarket/deli with several branches in Vancouver and more in the lower mainland, this weekend. Upon entering the building, the doors had a several pictograms with red "X"'s through them: NO outside food allowed, no video cameras allowed, and no dogs other than seeing eye dogs allowed. The same "no dogs other than seeing eye dogs allowed" pictogram was on several other food service businesses as well.

So I got to thinking......

Until that fateful day when I first became aware of "service animals", (1) I had no idea they existed. (2) Until I personally contacted VCH (Van. Coastal Health) they had no idea service animals existed. (3)My customers had no idea service animals existed, and clearly two people-elderly Asian women, were uncomforable with dogs in restaurants, as well. (4) Urban Fare and other businesses seem comfortable enough to boldy state that no dogs other than seeing eye dogs are allowed on their doors.

So even though service dogs may be allowed, no one knows about it........

I can forsee a time when service dogs will become popular enough to be seen daily on public transport and taxis, and I forsee that the non-profits/organizations that use these dogs should make the public aware.

A court case is a bit extreme, but attention grabbing. Frankly I think a better idea would be to use "ambassadors", dog trainers and owners, to make the public and businesses aware that these dogs do have the freedom that seeing eye dogs have as well.

In other words, a carrot is better than a stick.....

And now, I must apologize for hi-jacking this thread. Should anyone wish to continue, please feel free to P.M. me

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To me it depends on the nature of the request and how hard it is to accommodate or how much it changes the dish/prep.

We love sushi but my wife absolutely hates wasabi, and I'm not a big fan myself (and then only used extremely sparingly). So a simple request of please don't slather green goo all over my fish should be honored, and I see no reason it shouldn't be.

Wanting entirely different elements to a dish or wanting a special order that isn't possible for prep reasons is something else entirely.


Edited by Lupinus (log)

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There's an apropos quote from Charlie Trotter in today's New York Times:

“You know the old adage that the customer’s always right?” he said. “Well, I kind of think that the opposite is true. The customer is rarely right. And that is why you must seize the control of the circumstance and dominate every last detail: to guarantee that they’re going to have a far better time than they ever would have had if they tried to control it themselves.”

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There's an apropos quote from Charlie Trotter in today's New York Times:

“You know the old adage that the customer’s always right?” he said. “Well, I kind of think that the opposite is true. The customer is rarely right. And that is why you must seize the control of the circumstance and dominate every last detail: to guarantee that they’re going to have a far better time than they ever would have had if they tried to control it themselves.”

I can't disagree with the premise, but is there a way for him to say it without sounding like a total asshole?

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To me it depends on the nature of the request and how hard it is to accommodate or how much it changes the dish/prep.

We love sushi but my wife absolutely hates wasabi, and I'm not a big fan myself (and then only used extremely sparingly). So a simple request of please don't slather green goo all over my fish should be honored, and I see no reason it shouldn't be.

Wanting entirely different elements to a dish or wanting a special order that isn't possible for prep reasons is something else entirely.

Good example.

A sushi restaurant that it heavy handed on the wasabi is one thing but a meal at Charlie Trotter's is quite another.

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I think we're discussing the difference between "art" vs. "trade", here. I think for true culinary artists, like Blumenthal, or Trotter we are going for the experience, not just the food. When you come back from one of these wonderful places, you talk about it for weeks, months and sometimes even years later, where you very rarely talk about the meal you had at the Outback Steakhouse or Denny's.

Personally, that's how i see this discussion about submission. For a true artist, you are there to experience his vision of food, so you choose the road your interested in traveling down that night, and he or she guides you through it, like a Psychopomp. Where as you go to the mom/pop or chain restaurant to eat, not to experience something. Some of the best meals I've eaten were at the hands of a friend who wanted to make something new and exciting for me, I kow its not quite the same, but I let them lead me through their vision of what the food should be.

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Well, I'm dealing with this issue right now and could use some guidance.

We host periodic cheese making and goat herd management workshops here at the Ranch and also offer our "Bunkhouse" for small group lodging. We are a very long way from town and further from decent dining so we include meals for our overnight guests.

The meals we provide are good home-cooked meals proudly featuring almost exclusively Ranch-produced foods including our own pork, beef, chicken, duck, veggies from our own gardens or greenhouse, dairy products and cheeses from our on-site goat dairy. The meals are very diverse, well balanced with something for everybody and considered by most the highlight of their stay.

I am in the process of booking a group of four women who will be staying one night. They are nutrition students at a school in Phoenix and as so wanted to get a sample menu of the food I might be serving, which I provided.

That's when it started. The "she can't have that" and "she doesn't like this", and "one is ovo-lacto and one is kind-of vegan, and one can't have lactose" and "we'd rather do it THIS way", etc, etc, etc.

Example: For the lunch I suggested a nice quiche meal: free-range ranch eggs, ranch grown and smoked bacon, vegetables and a blend of house-made goat cheeses (swiss, jack and cheddar) with several types of salad and some fruit. They came back with (and I quote): "How about making the quiche without the eggs or the meat and putting it on grilled bread, like a panini?" <sigh>

We are not talking about a lot of money per person here at all and now she wants to know what brand of coffee we use and she's concerned that our "whey-fed pork" will have too much whey in it for one of the women. HEY LADY!!! The HOG was FED WHEY before we KILLED it for the pork chops! There is NO WHEY in the PORK!

I'm usually pretty accommodating but why on earth do these people even want to come here? I'm considering countering with "Salad buffet for every meal, meats and cheeses on the side, BYOB (ALL beverages). Take it or leave it".

Hoping cooler heads here will steer me in a different direction.

(edited to fix a couple of typos)


Edited by xxchef (log)

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"----" will provide 3 (price inclusive) wonderfull home cooked meals showcasing on-site grown produce, dairy and meats. Cooking facilities are available for those who wish to prepare their own meals.....

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"----" will provide 3 (price inclusive) wonderfull home cooked meals showcasing on-site grown produce, dairy and meats. Cooking facilities are available for those who wish to prepare their own meals.....

I agree with this.

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I am in the process of booking a group of four women who will be staying one night. They are nutrition students at a school in Phoenix and as so wanted to get a sample menu of the food I might be serving, which I provided.

That's when it started.

Nah, I think it started with "They are nutrition students." Isn't that a curriculum designed to give you the academic credentials to prove that you are always right - no matter which end of the equation you are on?

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Farm stuff.

Fuck 'em.

Exactly.

This scenario has mass-murder/suicide written all over it.

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Refund whatever small amount is covering their meals and tell them their demands are simply too diverse and too time consuming and you can't possibly accommodate them as well as care for your other guests that are staying in the same time frame. Let them bring their own food or fend for themselves when there's nothing nearby. Not your problem any longer. Simply don't charge them for services not rendered/partaken in. And if they don't pay for it they shouldn't be allowed to have anything but tap water. To rinse their mouths out when they brush their teeth. But nothing more. Let them bring their own bottled water to drink. Done.

That ought to teach those entitled beyotches a lesson they're clearly far overdue for...

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Thanks all. Not exactly the calming voices of reason I was hoping for but some damned fine suggestions never the less!

The Bunkhouse does have a full kitchen. I'm not sure that helps in this particular situation but for the future "Cooking facilities are available for those who wish to prepare their own meals..... " is something we're going to have to seriously look into. (God, I can just here our lawyers and insurance agents screaming at us already).

No murder-suicides here, I promise. We're too well armed and proficient to be murdered, way too stubborn for suicide and much too polite to consider harming a guest, no matter how irritating (self-defense situations excluded, of course).

I mean, the customer IS always right...Right? :wink:

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Personally, I would let them know that you can provide a vegetarian option (as I don't think this is an unreasonable request) but that you are unable to cater to personal likes and dislikes beyond this, and that they are welcome to make their own eating arrangements if this is unacceptable.

Not sure why someone who's almost vegan is coming to your cheese making course...

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xxchef - I checked out your website. That's great place you have there. And off-grid no less...

Why not tell these "ladies" you think they'd be happier going some other place and be done with it. No point in messing up your life this way.

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Personally, I would let them know that you can provide a vegetarian option (as I don't think this is an unreasonable request) but that you are unable to cater to personal likes and dislikes beyond this, and that they are welcome to make their own eating arrangements if this is unacceptable.

Not sure why someone who's almost vegan is coming to your cheese making course...

They never mentioned there being a vegetarian amongst them AND the menu I suggested were already suitable for any vegetarians by simply having them not eat the meat component. For example, a dinner menu: Eggplant Parmesan, baked ziti with 3 cheeses, Ital saus w/ peppers & onions, garlic bread, green salad, etc. The other lunch suggestion was a cheese-tasting menu with 6-8 farm-made cheeses, fresh baked bread, fresh fruit, crudités, salad, and a ranch-made meat platter (smoked sausages, capocola ham, etc).

Tell me those aren't full meals for any veggie.

Actually this group will just be lodging guests, not associated with a workshop. Still no sure why they want to stay here.

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Sorry xxchef, I read this:

"one is ovo-lacto and one is kind-of vegan, and one can't have lactose"

and to me that means one is an ovo-lacto vegetarian. I've never heard that expression used to mean anything else. And by the way I was not criticising what you have done, I was merely indicating my feelings about the situation.

Since you asked, and I am just saying so please don't be offended, but technically those aren't meals that would satisfy any vegetarian, as parmesan is not vegetarian. But some vegetarians will eat animal rennet cheese so it would be ok in some situations. Again, I am just saying. It's not really a relevant point to this situation anyway because you are trying to be helpful and your guests are the ones coming up with difficulties.

Since you have offered them some options, I think you have done your bit. Some people are fussy and difficult, and honestly there is only so much you can do.

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Sorry xxchef, I read this:

"one is ovo-lacto and one is kind-of vegan, and one can't have lactose"

and to me that means one is an ovo-lacto vegetarian. I've never heard that expression used to mean anything else. <snip>

Since you asked, and I am just saying so please don't be offended, but technically those aren't meals that would satisfy any vegetarian, as parmesan is not vegetarian.

I assumed she was ovo-lacto veggie too but that particular sub-diet (along with vegan I might add) is so restrictive that those choosing to follow it should, at the very least, understand the challenges of eating away from home if not fully expect to provide their own food especially when visiting a cheese dairy!

From what I understand of the vegan practice, I'm not sure how a "committed vegan" (oh Lordy forgive me for the inappropriate jokes now running through my brain) could even consider eating anything but their own, well-researched and pre-approved foods. I mean, there are SO many, seemingly innocuous foods that are SO wrong for vegans, right?? I would never presume to represent any of my food as vegan, not even a carrot stick because God only knows if a bug got smooshed on it when it got picked. Or maybe that particular vegan wouldn't want it because it was grown in compost from my barn which houses our dairy goats, which I'm sure is some kind of an anathema.

And, by the way, the Parmesan in the eggplant IS vegetarian. I know this because I made it myself with vegetarian rennet. :rolleyes: I may be a Neanderthal - but I'm a market-sensitive one.

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^^^

Ok, interesting. I was led to believe that traditional parmesan is never vegetarian. But you are a cheese maker so what do I know :smile: For the record, I wasn't implying you were trying to mislead or trick.

I am a lacto vegetarian and I find it pretty easy to eat out myself. Veganism is of course going to be trickier in many places. However, the few vegans I know are not so insane as to go nuts if they think a bug has been squashed near their food! They like to avoid animal products as much as they can. If they accidently eat a bit, they don't beat themselves or others up, they just shrug and move on. Mind you, I know there are some vegans who are much more...how can I put it...anxious.

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Jenni - in the US I think that rennet is ok with most vegetarians just not the vegans. Quite a jumble and no clear definitions.

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^^^

Actually, there are vegetarian rennets and there are rennets from animal origin. So some cheeses are vegetarian and some aren't. A casual vegetarian (and there is nothing wrong with that) may not mind cheese made with animal rennet. But strictly speaking it is not vegetarian, and there are plenty of vegetarians who do their best to avoid such cheeses. Vegans of course do not consume cheese at all, as it is made from milk.

Parmesan (or so I have been told) is traditionally made with an animal rennet, and certainly where I live there are just a few parmesan-a-likes that are similar hard cheeses made from vegetarian rennet, but they have to be called something else. Perhaps it is different in the US?

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Ah, but they will spread the word far and wide about that much 'customer service'.

I like the buffet suggestion made by the farm owner.

Every meal is build your own, with a fancy name.

At breakfast, call it Danish or European style.

Lunch is Build your Own

Dinner is Charcuterie buffet.

Limit it to the four. Everyone else gets a regular meal.

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