There was a time when going out to dinner was an indulgence. A thing you did when you really wanted to treat yourself. Now most of us head to restaurants out of necessity, or at least we tell ourselves that: We're either too busy or too lazy to actually prepare food for ourselves.
Professional chefs are happy to oblige this need, creating dishes for us that are much more delicious than what we're capable of cooking at home. But they'd prefer that we didn't barge into their restaurants hell-bent on making their evening a living hell.
Maybe you're not intentionally pissing off your chef. Maybe you're just innocuously annoying. And maybe you believe that, as a paying customer, it's your inalienable right. Regardless, here are 10 things that piss off chefs at restaurants of all kinds, from fine dining right down to that Olive Garden where you binge-eat breadsticks.
1. Threatening to leave a bad Yelp! review Social media has given the average diner a lot of power. Any old asshole with a Yelp! account can scare away diners from a restaurant, especially if said asshole has a lot of followers and influence. Threatening to give a chef a bad Yelp! review because you didn't like your food is a very effective way to let everyone know that you're an asshole, but don't expect it to help you weasel your way out of paying the bill. Even if the food or service actually was bad, don't threaten anyone with your stupid Internet words. No one, least of all the chef, cares.
2. Asking for butter/salt/ketchup before even trying your food Chefs spend hours crafting recipes that perfectly balance salt, acid and fat. A little piece of them dies every time you drown one of their beautiful plates in salt, but especially so if you haven't even tried the damn thing first. You've already pickled your organs with all the salt you've dumped on your other food, so how about giving that beef tartare a taste before deciding that you need to salt-cure it?
3. Demanding special treatment on your birthday or anniversary Unfortunately now that you're an adult, special treatment on your birthday is kind of a thing of the past. Sure, the chef might be nice and offer you a free dessert to celebrate "your special day." You shouldn't, however, expect them to be so awed at the fact that you've managed to keep a wife for six years that they stop attending to every other diner in the restaurant in order to whip up a special gluten-free dessert for your blushing bride.
4. Not knowing what something is on a menu, ordering it, sending it back and expecting a free refill Everybody should try new things, but you're not exactly an expert on how octopus should be cooked if you've never tried it. You don't get to send a dish back just because you didn't like it and demand a fresh (free) plate from the chef. Ask questions before you order, and if you go wrong, suck it up and eat that black pudding, or expect to pay for your dinner reboot.
5. Asking the number of calories in a dish If dieting is your thing, good for you, but you shouldn't expect your chef to give a damn. Restaurant food is full of butter, cream, and oil; that's what makes it delicious. It's unlikely that your chef has calculated the exact caloric value for each portion, so don't ask. If it's not on the menu, they don't know, and they don't care.
6. Ordering everything "well done" Ordering a $60 steak "well-done" is the food equivalent of buying a Ferrari and never driving it faster than 50. It sucks the flavor from the meat and ruins the experience. Your chef will likely just sigh and proceed to burn the food as requested. That doesn't mean he won't hate you for it.
7. Name-dropping Knowing the owner, sommelier, or guy who parks cars in front of the restaurant probably isn't going to get you any free food unless you're really close, so just stop it. This is especially true if you're friends with the chef. You wouldn't pop in to your dentist friend's office for a free root canal, so don't expect your buddy, the "one who cooks at that restaurant in Uptown," to hook you up with a bunch of entrees on the house.
8. Asking for the skin to be removed from your fish dish. This seems like a pretty simple request, right? Not everyone wants a shiny reminder that the meat on their plate used to have a face. But it isn't easy to just remove the skin from a portion of fish. Most of the time, the filet gets damaged in the process. Which means that the chef now has to use two portions of fish just to suit your picky ass, and that gets expensive.
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9. Requesting special food for your kids Going out to a fine dining restaurant is probably an activity best left to adults, but plenty of people drag their kids along to places where they're not going to find a single thing on the menu that they're willing to eat. If your kid is a pint-sized foodie, bring them along and let them try something new. But if Junior is the picky type, take his ass to Chuck E. Cheese. If only so your chef doesn't have to come out from the back and try to tell you "sorry ma'am, we don't have any chicken nuggets" and risk his head exploding all over his best server.
10. Asking the chef to visit your table for any reason other than compliments Everyone likes to be told when they're doing a good job, but no chef wants to listen to you tell them how they could have made your food better. Or that you'd really like to know how to make that lobster bisque at home. No matter how many episodes of Barefoot Contessa you've watched, you should probably avoid sharing your "tips and tricks" with chefs that just cooked your meal. Plus, your boring foodie talk could be pulling them away from the kitchen when they're already in the weeds.
Chefs love their jobs, but everyone has their gripes about work. These are some of theirs. Know them, heed them, and seriously: Just order it medium, OK?