Nothing has been glamorized quite so much as the life of a chef, thanks to shows like Top Chef and just about everything on The Food Network. I sat down with the Chef de Cuisine of one of Manhattan’s premier restaurants, and asked him what he wished people knew before they came in and dined at his establishment, and about chefs in general.
I sincerely hope this article helps you (and your chef) have a better time next time you enjoy a night on the town.
1. Tip your server!
18 – 20% is standard. Servers don’t make minimum wage in many cities – they earn special lowered minimum wage ~ $4.00/hour. If you can’t afford to tip, you should not eat out. Period.
2. Ordering a prime cut of meat “very well-done” should be outlawed.
Nothing makes me want to cry quite like burning a filet mignon, or charring an otherwise delectable burger. In my opinion, no one should every order anything well-done. Stick to medium-well. Try it once for me! Wolfgang Puck has said: “You definitely shouldn’t get it cooked more than medium.” When you overcook meat, you lose the texture and all of the natural flavor.
3. You probably do not have a gluten allergy.
Unless you have celiac disease. And in that case:
4. If you have an allergy or a strict dietary requirement, call ahead.
We can certainly prepare food for you on a whim no matter what, so this isn’t necessary, but if you’re making reservations anyway please let us know! I shop and design my specials almost daily. If I know you’re coming in for dinner, I might design something special with you in mind. Never forget: chefs LOVE a challenge. I’ll go nuts at the green market if I have a table of vegans coming in and they let me know ahead of time.
5. If you have an allergy and you can’t call ahead, tell your server what you’re allergic to at the beginning of the meal.
Know your own allergy and state them first thing when you come in. Sounds obvious, but I guess it isn’t because I end up remaking stuff all the time. I don’t want to kill you, but when you don’t tell your server that you have a cheese allergy and its in the dish, I have to remake it and throw your food away. And that’s really lame.
6. Do not ask me to split an entree for one person into two plates.
It’s ridiculous, it slows me down, and it just looks cheap. Dishes weren’t designed to be plated into two separate portions. If you want to share, that’s fine. Ask your server for an extra plate but don’t put it on the kitchen – we’re busy enough already.
7. Don’t change your order in 1/2 way though your meal.
If you’re one of the people out there who asked, “Who does such a thing?” THANK YOU FOR BEING AWESOME. If you’re part of the other half of the world just learn how to make up your mind already! Seriously. If you’re already eating your appetizer, I’m already cooking your entree. Please don’t make me waste food.
8. No, it is absolutely nothing like Top Chef.
We work hard, and it’s not glamorous. Plus, my kitchen is about 1/5 of the size. Think of us as craftsmen in a very crowded garage. For food. Does that make sense?
9. Don’t come in and make your own menu.
Sure, arugula might be great with your salad, but I costed out literally every dish on the menu. Believe it or not, part of being a chef is a numbers game. We’ve all got a bottom line. Part of my job is answering to the owners when it comes to making my restaurant and menu both profitable and sustainable, and the only way your entree makes sense is with romaine rather than arugula. Plus, it’s hard to just switch a main component of your dish when I’m busy. Think I’m being crazy? James Norton of Heavy Table states: “Don’t order off-the-menu items unless you’re Jack Nicholson. You create logistical headaches, pricing dilemmas, and unneeded angst. The menus capture the essence of the restaurant and make it possible for the chefs to turn out a lot of good food in a timely manner.”MSN.com
10. Don’t feed eachother, eat erotically, or make out at the table.
You are making EVERYONE uncomfortable. Especially my bread-and-butter: older businessmen. My staff will be more than happy to direct you to the nearest bar or hotel.
11. Let’s talk about sending food back…
It happens. I understand that. But I really don’t like when it happens and there’s not a REASON. “I don’t like this” is not a legitimate reason to send something back. “Their fish is underdone” is a legitimate reason to send it back. Let me know (via your server) if you have a suggestion for how the dish can be improved, or if there’s anything else you’d like to try instead.
12. I spend an insane amount of time educating my servers.
They are your lifeline to me. Ask them any questions you have about the dish. Hell, even ask them if they recommend it. They’ll be honest with you, and they’re possibly more objective about it than I am.
13. I’m not a sushi chef, but stop drowning your sushi in soy sauce. It’s just wrong.
Some chefs at higher quality places actually brush their preferred amount of soy sauce on the sushi itself, in which case you shouldn’t dip it anyway. Less is more with sushi. If your sushi hasn’t been dunked in soy sauce and you have the option to dip, try dipping your chopsticks and then using a small amount of soy sauce. You might develop a new appreciation for fish!Reddit
14. Don’t complain about the prices.
I know exactly how much everything costs in the grocery store, wholesale, and in my restaurant. When you dine at a restaurant, you are paying for the experience and the expertise of the chef…plus an enjoyable atmosphere brought to you by the staff and the beautiful building that we pay rent for.
15. A glass of red wine should be served at right around 60 degrees Fahrenheit
Which means you should not be putting ice cubes in your red wine. Or any wine, if the restaurant is chilling it properly.
16. Don’t ask to be “hooked up.”
Your bill is not negotiable. Biggest pet peeve ever is when someone asks for a freebie…and if I was on the fence about sending you something on the house, now I’m not going to!
17. Instagram can wait.
Don’t spend three hundred years trying to snap the perfect “foodie” pic of the killer burger I just made you only to send it back to the kitchen because – SURPRISE – it is now cold. Gordon Ramsay himself banned mobile phones at Royal Hospital Road…I’ve considered doing the same.
18. The children’s menu is for CHILDREN.
One would think that this is self-explanatory, but apparently it is not.
19. Sitting down at a dirty table is actually disrespectful.
Even if you want that specific table or that spot at the bar really, really badly—don’t. It’s the host’s job to seat you when the table is ready. Sitting down at a messy table hinders the floor staff by making it harder to clean that table, shows what an impatient douche you are, and disrespects the bussers.
20. If you come into a restaurant where the kitchen closes at 12 AM and order a 3-course-meal at 11:45.
You suck. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
21. I love your cooking.
I love when people cook for me. I love that they CAN cook (too many people don’t know how to prepare a simple meal for themselves, and I think that’s tragic) and I also enjoy home-cooking. Like anyone else, I get tired of my own stuff. If I’m eating a meal at your house – for a holiday, BBQ, or just because – please don’t be self-conscious. No self-respecting chef would dare to critique you.