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Customers v Chefs


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If I can do something to accomodate a customer I will. I am not in a traditional restaurant now so it is different. Don't forget the role of the waitstaff. If a customer orders a well buffalo steak, a great waiter would be able to suggest that that cut is not suitable well done and that they may consider a different cut. They have been warned and if they still choose the well buffalo it is their fault. If this is not handled correctly the customer get a bad meal and thinks the kitchen sucks. Seen it.

The waitstaff has to guide diners and keep some control over the table. I have seen brats act up just to make a scene..."what do you mean I cant get a pizza with no flour."

I have had customers engineer menus just to complain in the end. I have had customers do the same and become your best patrons. If I know a waiter is good, I will be more likely to accomodate them. If I know a waiter is just being jumped through hoops, I will limit my accomodations.

I had a waitress come unbolted on me with all sorts of stupid menu requests and complaints from a table one night. It was starting to effect the flow of the whole kitchen. Turns out it was prom night and these kids were just having a great time running this waitress in circles. She should have taken control from the first minute. Instead she almost blew up the entire kitchen.

A friend of ours has a wife that is a bitch. We went out and they had linguini vongole on the menu. She ordered the vongole substitute spaghetti for the linguini.This was not a pasta joint so they did not have spag cooked. The waiter should have went into the kitchen, came back and told us that they were all out of spag. Instead the request was filled but the table had to sit for 45 minutes while they cooked spag.

At times a waiter would come back with additional vegetarian requirements and requests. If it was not busy, I would rattle off a special menu of five items I could prepare (the chef was a vegitarian so we always had engredients to work with). If it was busy, I was not about to compramise the service of twenty other tables just to accomodate one diner. In this case I would offer a limited choice of what I could do for them. These customers were likely to become patrons....the kind of patrons that come in and tell you to make whatever you want for them.

I am doing catering and banquets currently. This brings up a whole different situation. You may have a client that wants to serve shit on a shingle. The guests think you are a joke because the food is innapropriate. Sometimes you have to say no to requests that do not suit your cuisine. Or get creative and offer canape de poopoo to make everyone happy.

Edited by RETREVR (log)
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There can't be a simple answer to the question, surely. It depends on the type of establishment you're eating in. There's also the cultural angle. In some - I'd say many - countries, the customer is not really expected to issue orders to the chef. Often the case, as it happens, in countries where the food itself takes precedence. They also seem to be the countries where allergies are not worn as a badge of honour.

It may not seem right to some that chefs dictate what and how their customers should eat, but customers should appreciate that in a good restaurant, the chef has years of training and expertise, while the average customer can barely boil an egg. As a customer, if you didn't like your salmon half raw, you can move on to a different restaurant next time. When I eat out, I try to appreciate some of the difficulties and pressures faced by restaurants. Contrary to what someone said above, there is no "bottom line". Each place is different, the quality of food varies, the atmosphere varies, the price varies, and the service varies. Do you always go to a restaurant that fulfils a checklist of your requirements regarding service, quality and so on? I don't. A lot of things that make a place special to me aren't easily definable. I hate actively bad service, but I enjoy variety, exploration etc and understand that to find new things and come to understand food better, I can't always tell the restaurant how it should be cooked. I think customers have to gauge the restaurant to some extent, and find out how accommodating the place will be to their demands. And just because it doesn't automatically meet them, doesn't make it a bad place. As anyone who has eaten out in Rome, Paris, Hong Kong or Tokyo would agree.

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There can't be a simple answer to the question, surely. It depends on the type of establishment you're eating in. There's also the cultural angle. In some - I'd say many - countries, the customer is not really expected to issue orders to the chef. Often the case, as it happens, in countries where the food itself takes precedence. They also seem to be the countries where allergies are not worn as a badge of honour.

It may not seem right to some that chefs dictate what and how their customers should eat, but customers should appreciate that in a good restaurant, the chef has years of training and expertise, while the average customer can barely boil an egg. As a customer, if you didn't like your salmon half raw, you can move on to a different restaurant next time. When I eat out, I try to appreciate some of the difficulties and pressures faced by restaurants. Contrary to what someone said above, there is no "bottom line". Each place is different, the quality of food varies, the atmosphere varies, the price varies, and the service varies. Do you always go to a restaurant that fulfils a checklist of your requirements regarding service, quality and so on? I don't. A lot of things that make a place special to me aren't easily definable. I hate actively bad service, but I enjoy variety, exploration etc and understand that to find new things and come to understand food better, I can't always tell the restaurant how it should be cooked. I think customers have to gauge the restaurant to some extent, and find out how accommodating the place will be to their demands. And just because it doesn't automatically meet them, doesn't make it a bad place. As anyone who has eaten out in Rome, Paris, Hong Kong or Tokyo would agree.

In France, even at the level of Haute Cuisine, I was trained to cook a steak according to the customers specifications and to accomodate special requests. Perhaps I was trained this way because there exists an underlying cultural tendency for customers to NOT dictate to the chef. And the customer understands that certain kinds of restaurants serve certain kinds of dishes. In France even at a cheap neighborhood Brasserie if you are served a cup of espresso that isn't up to par it is an unwritten rulle that they have to replace it with one that is. Needless to say we don't advertise this to tourists. It is also understood that if a customer complains about a well executed product there will be trouble... :laugh:

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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I'm inclined to say let the chef dictate the cooking and let the market decide whether that chef should be allowed to continue to dictate the cooking.

It's absolutely the right of the establishment to refuse to serve or revise something , but whether that choice is wise given its market is a whole 'nother topic.

sg

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Perhaps I was trained this way because there exists an underlying cultural tendency for customers to NOT dictate to the chef.

I think this is a salient point.

Twenty years ago, this was definitely the case; now, alas, no longer. Perhaps because of the increasing propensity of customers to dictate on a whim, chefs are beginning to mount a backlash.

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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  • 2 months later...

who here thinks that the dining scene in vancouver is too "the customer is right" oriented? almost every restaurant i've worked at is willing to comprimise what they believe in to make sure the customer isn't unhappy with their expirience. how many times have you (professionals) had to deal with someone who's come and ordered something off of the menu or asked for "no starch extra veg". they've complained about bullshit things and the restaurant indulges them in the name of good customer service. it's funny because the some of the most sucessful restaurants i've been to are the ones who don't give a damn what the customer wants. actually the busiest restaurant i've been to is the no. 9 restaurant in richmond. they don't give a rats ass who you are or what you want. all in all i just find that alot of my friends ask for things that i know agitate the staff or have no grounds for the complaints. the restaurant will simply grovel to anyone. who her would be offended if they went to a fine dining restaurant and was told that thier request would not be accomodated? i know i wouldn't. who here with allergies would be offended if they were told that the dish wouldn't be prepared without such and such an ingredient? i know i wouldn't. i'm sure this isn't something that is exclusive to vancouver but i thought i'd ask because i'm sure that circumstances differ from place to place

bork bork bork

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I agree to a certain extent. There are some things that I just will NOT do....but at the same time, these customers are paying our salaries.

We had a group of 20 walk out 2 nights ago because they couldn't get 1 large table all together. How ridiculous/unrealistic is that?

The night before.... we had a group of 16 show up as a 22 and the room that they booked was too small...so they spilled out into the dining room and made so much noise that they were a nuisance to the rest of the restaurant.....

Is the customer always right? No.....but do you want your clientele too afraid to say anything except behind your back? I say no a lot....but give in a lot as well. It's a judgement call for every decision I make.

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not all customers are good customers.

I think there are plenty of establishments here with pride and attitude. As well there are plenty of customers with bad attitude who figure money can buy them anything anywhere anytime. "I am a customer, I am right".

It takes a professional with great customer service skills to decline a request and yet turn it around into a positive.

That said, there are so many people with terrible manners who show disrespect to staff and other clients, which should not be tolerated in any environment.

Its a real dark place to be in the restaurant business when you really need the income and your best, or only customers are foul and disrespectful.

"Philistines!"

Alistair Durie

Elysian Coffee

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Chef Koo, do you really get upset when someone asks to have no potato/rice and extra vegetables (or just no potato/rice and nevermind anything extra)? Does that compromise your artistic vision or whatever?

I guess how I feel about it depends on the establishment; my dad does the Zone diet to avoid taking cholesterol drugs, so he watches his starches pretty carefully although he's not Atkins-extreme or anything. And it's easier for him not to have the potato on the plate. Most places don't seem to mind leaving it off...isn't it better than having it come back to be thrown out, for example? Of course he's not one to order shepherd's pie, leave out the potatoes! :raz: But he wouldn't do that at a FD establishment...on the other hand he has a bad shellfish allergy, so he orders around that. He doesn't ask for things left out, he just makes sure there isn't any in the dish he orders.

He's also a very polite, "if it's convenient" orderer, which I guess helps...places don't seem to mind accommodating him. But maybe they're all cursing him out in the kitchen!

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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I'm reminded of a restaurant on Broadway that insisted that potatoes be eaten 'firm' which to Canadians means 'half raw'. :rolleyes:

The Chef was adamant that all the people sending back their meals were in the wrong and he was right.

Note that it was on Broadway-an old story-opened with a bang, slunk away in the night with a whimper and a whine.

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Hmm.

Read the last section of this article by Steven Shaw on his experience working behing the scenes at Gramercy Tavern in New York: A Week in the Gramercy Tavern Kitchen

I'll just add a short quote from the article here to give you their perspective: "Technically, Gramercy Tavern doesn't even offer side dishes -- but the kitchen tries hard to accommodate all customer requests, VIP or not. All night, shouts of "SOS," (sauce on the side) "All Meat," (no vegetables), and "Veg. Entree" (a vegetable plate) can be heard in the kitchen."

I think there probably are lots of unreasonable requests, the magic is in how you deal with them and that doesn't mean acquiescing every time.

Cheers,

Anne

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As I wrote in another thread - I know of some Bhuddist Vegaterians who have frequented West and love it. The restrictions are pretty onerous - no garlic or anything from the onion family along with the normal no-meat, no-eggs credo. Dairy is okay.

I am amazed that West was able to accomodate them - and in return they have won over a new bunch of customers. Namely, Hong Kongers who are notoriously guarded about their food and usually don't make out of Kirin (or the like). My understanding is word has gotten around and a number of HK families (including those who with families that are not diet restricted) are now frequenting West.

So - I am not sure if this falls into the category of unreasonable request or if Chef Hawksworth and his team have taken this on as a good challenge. Certainly a new group of customers are now enjoying the excellent food and hospitality at West and the good word is spreading around.

I think how the requests are made (and where they are made) make the big difference. I am assuming (hoping actually) that the Bhuddist Vegatarian requests were not made last minute - otherwise I don't think it would be fair to the kitchen. Also- I don't think that it is fair to pull out about bunch of odd requests when you are at Earl's or White Spot.

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This is a strange question in my opinion. In any business a fine line is walked to keep the customer happy. In the business I am in right now the answer to the question is (is the customer always going to get what they want?) If they are willing to pay for it, yes.

This may get lost in the restaurant business, where everyone is trying to keep thier prices low and thier costs reasonable. I believe the garde mange may have a different opinion then the owner.

David Cooper

"I'm no friggin genius". Rob Dibble

http://www.starlinebyirion.com/

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ahh, Coop, your wisdom always shines through.

I can't count the number of times a chef and I have fought over this...

Ego and pride have great assistance in developing a chef's technique and craft, and also provide detrimental pressure when when we are seeking validation. A customer request off the menu always is taken by the chef as a dismissal or rejection of the chef's fundamental philosophies of his or her craft.

The customer doesn't intend to offend, nor do they intend to be difficult. What they are looking for is what I am looking for... a fantastic time in our restaurant.

Some customers have serious food phobias, and are intimidated by our use of french techniques in explaining our dishes. Others have serious dietary issues and look at me with pleading eyes 'please don't make me sacrifice my philosophies for yours'.

Chef Koo, I know it's sometimes difficult to go through the night and sometimes never hear the good with the bad. A night filled with 'no dairy', 'sub starch', 'well done' or even a totally made up one can be incredibly weary on the soul when not balanced with 'table four loves you', 'best meal of their lives' and 'first date successful, thanks for the truffles!' The other night, we had, 'allergic to vinegar', and the table was drinking wine. I couldn't figure it out, but hey, if that's their thing, than who am I to judge?

One thing I learned early in this business, if I start excluding the people who don't agree with me, I'll soon have an empty restaurant. If I start excluding the crazy people, I'll soon have a boring restaurant, and if I exclude all the people who don't like me I'll soon have no staff.

I hope you can keep it fun in the kitchen, koo, I know it ain't fun sometimes. Come join us on the floor and try a sip from our cup of insanity and you'll appreciate how much back and front have to gain from working together.

Owner

Winebar @ Fiction

Lucy Mae Brown

Century - modern latin -

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The chef is always right.

You go to restaurant to experince his/her vision, not your own. If you want things according to your own whims, go to Burger King or stay home. If you don't like what the restauirant serves, vote with your dollars and go somewhere else next time.

Plus, as an adult, eat everything that is on your plate in front of you. Nothing makes me more amused than grown-up that can't/won't eat red peppers or tomatoes or whatever. Stay home you big babies.

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You go to restaurant to experince his/her vision, not your own. If you want things according to your own whims, go to Burger King or stay home. If you don't like what the restauirant serves, vote with your dollars and go somewhere else next time.

Plus, as an adult, eat everything that is on your plate in front of you. Nothing makes me more amused than grown-up that can't/won't eat red peppers or tomatoes or whatever. Stay home you big babies.

:blink::blink::smile::smile:

Not exactly gonna work in the modern manifestation of the hospitality business, but an entertaining sentiment nonetheless.

Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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I'm not being sarcastic. It's how I feel. I honestly believe as a consumer you owe a duty to the chef/restuaranteur to experience their vision unadulterated by your own bias.

I think it's a part of the American consumerist infinite choice mindset that has led to a deterioration of fining dining to the point where a chef will subjugate his talent to satisfy the essentially immature request of the consumer.

Take what I say lightly, I am a bit a food fascist, I don't belive in lactose intolerance or even worse, peanut allergies.

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I think it's a part of the American consumerist infinite choice mindset that has led to a deterioration of fining dining to the point where a chef will subjugate his talent to satisfy the essentially immature request of the consumer.

Bang on. Fight the Power.

I fear there is no turning the clock back on this one.

Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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Take what I say lightly, I am a bit a food fascist, I don't belive in lactose intolerance or even worse, peanut allergies.

*hopes any restaurant of yours has a good supply of epinephrin*

:wink:

(I understand what you mean, and don't expect the chef to leave the zucchini out of my ratatouille just because I loathe it, but it's hard to argue with death as an allergic reaction.)

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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Take what I say lightly, I am a bit a food fascist, I don't belive in lactose intolerance or even worse, peanut allergies.

Keith, this is the only thing you've said that I won't take lightly. You are indeed set in your ways!

I happen to agree with you - when I go to a FD restaurant, I am allowing myself to be swept up by the chef's vision. However, I also can understand 1. if someone has a legitimate allergy, 2. if someone is squeamish about eating certain things.

1. is unavoidable, and by giving the restaurant patronage, that person is essentially saying (IMO), "I like / love what you're doing, but unfortunately I can't eat X so can you create something without X for me to enjoy instead?" Still a compliment, no?

2. is something most likely ingrained by upbringing or something seen on TV or other. Hey I have it myself - eg I had reservations about eating horsemeat. I think that a person can and should be enticed into eating more adventurously or slowly weaned off the comfortable. With the horsemeat, Chef Moreno made such a beautiful dish that hell now I'm practically chasing Mr Ed with a scimitar. Well not quite, but I'm sure ready to eat the tenderloin roast.

If "it" falls under category 2 and not 1, at the very least, just try it, and keep an open mind. Sometimes you change your mind about things. Does anyone like spinach now, but didn't like it when they were 8?

And isn't there a sense of accomplishment when a chef turns someone into a believer? I'd be interested in hearing what Aaron and others think about that.

One final thing before I shut up: this applies to fine dining only, again IMO. When someone goes to a mass-market resto, they're not looking for fugu or sweetbreads. Order whatever the hell you want, more potatoes or less potatoes or sauce on the side, more power to you the diner to try to enjoy yourself - because the food may not be the main reason you're there anyway.

End rambling with obligatory smilie: :smile:

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Chef Koo, do you really get upset when someone asks to have no potato/rice and extra vegetables (or just no potato/rice and nevermind anything extra)? Does that compromise your artistic vision or whatever?

i don't own my own restaurant so i really do'nt have a right to be upset. but if i did. i would insist that people try it first and then make up their minds. if they don't like it then they can orde something else. if alot of people like what they eat than so be it. if alot of people don't like what they eat than so be it. people call me arrogant, but it's not that i think my way is beter than the customers or that the customer doesn't know anything about food. it's just that i want to cook what i want to cook. adn does that comprimise my artistic vision? of course not. i'm confident in who i am. what people think of me is their own opinion. but if i take what you say to heart than it would make no difference if i worked at burger king, a chinese restaurant, an indian restaurant, or whatever. i chose french cuisine. i would like to accomplish that

bork bork bork

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who here thinks that the dining scene in vancouver is too "the customer is right" oriented? almost every restaurant i've worked at is willing to comprimise what they believe in to make sure the customer isn't unhappy with their expirience. how many times have you (professionals) had to deal with someone who's come and ordered something off of the menu or asked for "no starch extra veg". they've complained about bullshit things and the restaurant indulges them in the name of good customer service. it's funny because the some of the most sucessful restaurants i've been to are the ones who don't give a damn what the customer wants. actually the busiest restaurant i've been to is the no. 9 restaurant in richmond. they don't give a rats ass who you are or what you want. all in all i just find that alot of my friends ask for things that i know agitate the staff or have no grounds for the complaints. the restaurant will simply grovel to anyone. who her would be offended if they went to a fine dining restaurant and was told that thier request would not be accomodated? i know i wouldn't. who here with allergies would be offended if they were told that the dish wouldn't be prepared without such and such an ingredient? i know i wouldn't. i'm sure this isn't something that is exclusive to vancouver but i thought i'd ask because i'm sure that circumstances differ from place to place

Administrator's note: I have merged your thread into this topic as the topic really pertains to more than just Vancouver, as the replies indicate. This topic was already going and we like to keep these things together. Thanks.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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