5@5 - Questions a chef hears more than once a day
August 3rd, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Diners say the darndest things - and apparently, hungry minds think (and inquire) alike.

Here are some frequently asked questions that chefs like Ryan Butler, the Executive Pastry Chef at Mary Queen of Scots, receive from customers - and perhaps a little bit too frequently at that.

Questions Chefs Really Wish You Would Stop Asking: Ryan Butler

1. Are you any good?
"When I get this asked this question my first thought is: 'What do you think?'

Most employers have done a little research and tasted some of your food before they allow you to be in control of a kitchen - and in the end, you are hired because you are 'good' and the right fit for the establishment."

2. What is good on the menu?
"This is one we hear a lot. I think the question should be 'What’s good for me?' rather than 'What’s good?'

Everyone has different tastes and preferences so I try to have something for everyone on the menu."

3. What is your favorite thing to make?
"Being a pastry guy, I have access to some really unique ingredients that most home cooks may not ever get to work with - but I really enjoy making the basics. The short answer is pancakes."

4. How do you make that?
"I love when people enlighten me with their version of a recipe I’ve been making for over 10 years. I get this a lot, and sometimes you can pick up something new or you can help someone with tricks of the trade - so it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I will never forget a friend of my father’s explaining to me how to cook a baby goat in a pizza oven - hilarious!"

5. Can I have the ice cream that goes with the chocolate dessert on the caramel dessert instead?
"This is one of my pet peeves. Of course we want people to have what they want, but when plotting out dishes I put a lot of thought into what flavors complement each other.

A phrase we say in the kitchen pretty often is 'This isn’t a diner' - make your own conclusions on what that means."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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soundoff (548 Responses)
  1. Professional Server

    Innersix, if that is your favorite thing to make, use that as your answer. But, be prepared to start making cookies for their dessert.

    September 17, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  2. Danielle

    Um... the Japanese DO have a sort of pancake like that. It's called okonomiyaki.

    August 6, 2011 at 5:20 am |
  3. __


    August 5, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  4. Jim Ballou

    If you think the portion sizes are too large. Before you start to eat, ask for a "Doggie Bag" and box up what you don't want. Give this to the local homeless person(s) and do a good deed.

    August 5, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  5. Jerv

    Thanks for the tips. And you are right "Dont think that successful restaurants need your money and will put up with your poor attitude." I have a sister that every time, every time, she eats out she finds something wrong with her dinner and gets nasty with the "help." I stopped eating our with her years ago.

    August 5, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Jerv@Dave

      Posted out of thread for some reason.

      August 5, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • I Heart Evil Grin

      @Jerv, I had a friend like that and I swear it was to validate her leaving a sh*tty tip, its embarrassing and then I would over tip to compensate. she had no concept of turnover and that the server had to tip out the bartender a certain % for each mixed drink she ordered, or % for the busboy and in some places % for the hostess. She had a $30 bill ($8) was food and leave $2. And that was one of the many reasons we "lost touch"

      August 5, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  6. Dave

    The correct question to ask is "what do you recommend?" or "I'm interested in this chicken dish. Have you tried it?". Never ask "what's good?". A good establishment has service staff that has trained extensively and in that training, they sample every dish on the menu more than once. Some places let staff eat for free, some give them a discount, so it's a good bet that the "help", as they have been referred to by many posters, have a good idea which dishes are the best. Use the resources that are available to you. Dont think that successful restaurants need your money and will put up with your poor attitude.

    August 5, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • innersixx

      One of the benefits of being in the back of house, in the kitchen is I never need to hear this question being asked. Yes, people do not like the same thing but saying "What's good?" is in a way insulting to a chef. A Chef would not put up a horrible dish on purpose, so I agree asking what someone recommends is a better way of phrasing the question.

      August 5, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  7. innersixx

    Being a culinary student who has worked in a few kitchens, being asked what my favorite thing to cook/make is the most annoying question ever. Mainly because the truthful answer is: cookies. I love making cookies, heck most people do. But I guess because I work with food all day I'm suppose to have a better answer.

    August 5, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Dr. Phil@innersixx

      Who cares what other people think? If that's your passion, go for it! Screw their expectations. Follow your passion and you'll be happier for it!

      August 5, 2011 at 8:58 am |
      • innersixx

        I agree with you, its just when people ask "what is your favorite thing to cook" or "what is your favorite food" the look in their eyes kind of makes it disappointing when I tell people I enjoy pizza and burgers.

        Just because we (chefs) can make great quality food for people every day doesn't mean we actually want to eat great quality food every day (especially after a 13-15 hour shift, the most comforting thing to me is grabbing fast food on the way home and getting away from a stove for a few hours).

        August 5, 2011 at 9:05 am |
      • AleeD@innersixx

        I get where you're coming from. I'm in front of a computer screen for 8-10 hours a day. The last thing I want to do when I get home is plop down in front of the PC at home.

        August 5, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  8. Dave

    I have been a professional chef for more than 20 years. The question I hate the most is "What's your specialty?". I usually reply with "cooking food"...

    August 5, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Jerv


      August 5, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  9. humtake

    Ok, so in #2 you are admitting that everyone has different tastes and preferences so you have to try to have something for everyone on the menu...yet in #5 when a customer doesn't like the options you have TRIED to put on there for everyone and wants it done a different way, then you complain about it?

    Also, for #2, by asking what is good on the menu what people are really trying to find out is if you have any specialties. I might not think much of a dish on the menu, but if the chef tells me that dish is their specialty I will probably end up trying it.

    I hope I never get stuck having to go into this place.

    August 5, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • innersixx

      The differance between #2 and #5 is this. #2 tries to please everyone. We know that not everyone likes their chicken one style or likes the same salad. So we make dishes to try to suit a variety of people. #5 is talking about taking portions from other dishes and putting them to something we don't feel works. It would be like telling a professional painter to take a part of one painting and put it on another...it disrespects their work. Chefs are artists in a sense, we create dishes and spend hours perfecting them.

      Telling us to not put nuts on something, or asking for potatoes instead of fries is one thing...but asking us to take portions from another dish and reconstruct our work is really out of line. We created a menu to try to be diverse and help people, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere. Yes, you hold the money but if you don't like our food I guarantee someone will fill that seat your leaving. Chefs need customers just as much as customers need chefs. If you don't like one restaurant try another.

      August 5, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  10. jdoe

    My pet peeve? I know some people who, when the waiter comes to take the orders, actually say, "I don't know. Whatever is fine." That's when I say things that come close to "make up your mind you idiot".

    August 5, 2011 at 2:58 am |
  11. NoRez

    I love leftovers, I tend to see them as an extra (midnight snack, tomorrow's lunch, etc.) but one has to have an idea of what is worth taking home and will 'keep' and what is not.

    My favorite question has to be "Is the ______ fresh?" Usually asked with a lowered head and whisper i.e. 'conspiratorially' like "between you and me." I'd usually reply "No, but the sauce is so good you won't be able to tell!" And then laugh, as would my customer (usually.)

    That chef's an ass; his example for #5 should have been something a little more complex than a substitute of an ice cream flavor if he wanted to make his point more acceptable to the average diner. "Certain tastes," my rump roast. You're talking about ice cream AND it's not like the customer's preference was for anything other than the scooper to take a scoop from a different container.
    Some chefs really pride themselves on the combinations of seasonings and cooking technques for a certain dish; it's the customer's job to either take a chance on a taste they've never experienced before or find a different dish to order BUT if a customer is adamant, it's in the restaurant's best interest to try to do that way if they are indeed cooking to order and the request is not difficult to comply with. It's the difference between a customer who may not be overly adventurous but goes home happy, and comes back perhaps a little more willing to trust the chef's training and experience next time.

    August 4, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  12. street legal

    not to defend annoying customers but chefs generally think way too highly of themselves. every customer service profession will entail people asking questions that rub you the wrong way. But you know what CAVEMEN could cook. the people of the world would still eat without chefs so stop expecting people to kiss your ring because you can throw a fire under a lamb chop. Be greatful you have a talent that gives people pleasure once in a while.

    August 4, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Dave

      And if a Caveman could head into his local restaurant and have minted lamb chops, or pan seared halibut, I bet he would choose that over the burned meat on a stick...

      August 5, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  13. robota

    i don't like to take leftovers home. for one thing, they can spoil before you get them into the refrigerator and restaurant leftovers often lose the quality they had when served for the first time. also, there are several people handling the food from the time it is cooked, to the time it was served, and then put into a take-home box. you might be taking something home that you didn't bargain for.

    i had a co-worker who always brought her restaurant leftovers for lunch and she would often call in sick with "food poisoning." if she was not just using that as an excuse to take a sick day, she just didn't realize that her restaurant leftovers were poisoning her on a regular basis.

    i always like it when restaurants have smaller portions as a menu option, and many do. there is also an option to share a meal with your dining partner if you can both agree on an entree.

    food allergies may also drive questions as to what's in a dish. while chefs want to showcase their creations, certain ingredients may not be good for everyone.

    August 4, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  14. knoe too many chefs

    resonses from yet another arrogant jack-ass!!!

    August 4, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Waldo

      Hey, who turned the light off I can't find myself?

      August 5, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  15. William

    What the sam he|| ever happened to the customer is always right? or at least the PAYING consumer. Do get snotty just because you went to cooking school. The "public" comes with the territory... you know, SERVICE industry.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Dave

      Because the Customer isnt always right...

      August 5, 2011 at 8:40 am |
      • Jerv

        And that my friend, is the gods honest truth. No, the customer is not always right.

        August 5, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  16. Jerv@Kay

    "I don't send food back. If you got it wrong the first time, I'm not risking it again."

    You got that right. I tell them to take the entree off the bill, I pay for my drinks, appetizers and salad and get out of Dodge.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • AleeD@Jerv & Kay

      For me, it depends on where the mistake took place. If it's a place I visit frequently and something's wrong with my order, I have no problem sending it back to be fixed. I've never had to send anything back twice.

      If it's a place that I don't go to that often, I'll gauge whether or not I send it back based on the server's response. Not that it happens that often, but when it does, they usually are very apologetic and prompt with the correction.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  17. Kay

    I find it laughable that people are comparing chefs with Mozart and Picasso. If artists, they compares more to the local artist at my Saturday Morning Market. What was his name again?
    I don't have allergies but I am a super taster. But if I ask for no onions I'm not explaining that to you. Give me onions and I will just throw up all over the table and then NO ONE will want to eat in your establishment. Get it?
    I don't eat at chains or diners or fast food because I like good food so I mostly cook for myself. Do you really not want my business at all?
    Don't tell me to go elsewhere if I want a reasonable change to an item. Maybe it is my Mom's birthday and she selected your restaurant. Would you rather I sit there and not order anything because you refuse to accommodate a simple change request to your "art"?
    I dated a chef, once. I mean, one date. Can you say: inflated ego?
    I ordered a steak well done at a real fancy place here in my hometown at a Christmas party. Come to find out, that insults the chef – no wonder my steak tasted like a hockey puck. Two things came out of that experience: I, nor my company, ever has a dinner party there again AND I never order steak out again. Nice accomplishment there cheffy! You made me hate restaurant steak. You should have just told me you were going to ruin it so I would order something else. I don't send food back. If you got it wrong the first time, I'm not risking it again.
    Most people are reasonable with reasonable requests.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Professional Server

      I ordered a steak well done at a real fancy place here in my hometown at a Christmas party. Come to find out, that insults the chef – no wonder my steak tasted like a hockey puck.

      Uhh, your steak tasted like a hockey puck BECAUSE you ordered it well done, that's why chef's don't like to cook them to death.... again. Hey, it's your steak, order it how you want, but don't expect it to defy all the laws of nature and still be tender and juicy.

      September 17, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  18. Peanut M&M

    I don't understand why someone asking him what he likes to cook is annoying (#3). It sounds like a question that a person who is sincerely interested in you and what you do would ask. Lighten up and give people a break, scary man!

    August 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • innersixx

      Because its not the first time he has been asked what he likes to cook. I'm only a culinary student and have a few kitchens on my resume and even I'm sick of hearing this question every-time I tell someone I'm an aspiring chef. It's not so much the question that is annoying, its the fact that its asked too often and finding different ways to say it can be tiresome.

      August 5, 2011 at 9:33 am |
      • Peanut M&M

        Ok, I can understand that. But that really comes with the territory in almost every job. People think lawyers are jerks, doctors should give them a consultation right there, and computer programmers are nerds. I'm a librarian and people always ask me what books I like to read, or say something stupid, like "oh, I guess I should be quiet." And those things aren't even relevant to my job. They're just trying to make conversation.

        August 5, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  19. Yakobi.

    5. Can I have the ice cream that goes with the chocolate dessert on the caramel dessert instead?
    "This is one of my pet peeves."
    Of course it is. Because you haven't tried every conceivable combination. Chefs forget that many hits that wind up on a menu originated with a customer asking for a twist on an existing recipe.

    August 4, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Peanut M&M

      It's my belief that chefs who refuse to make substitutions of any kind are really just being stubborn and lazy. I know that they can't bend to every whim, but switching ice cream flavors is not a big deal.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  20. screwcnn123

    He gets bent about "Can I have the ice cream that goes with the chocolate dessert on the caramel dessert instead?" but in #2 he says "Everyone has different tastes and preferences."
    Aww, his poor ego seems a bit like an eggshell.

    August 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • boltnbc321@screwcnn123

      "Aww, his poor ego seems a bit like an eggshell."

      Cracked? Delicate? Thin? Disposable?


      August 4, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  21. henry

    but the orange did not like the turtle! lol!

    August 4, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  22. Raddoc

    Just box up the extra into individual portions, get napkins and utensils, and give it to homeless people you might see on the way home or elderly neighbors who don't cook for themselves anymore.

    August 4, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  23. Heywood Jablowme

    In regards to question #5...Hey chef...you're in a service industry. I don't care if you think one flavor compliments another one well...I'm paying the bill and should be entitled to have pickles and ice cream if I want to...pompous SOB...

    August 4, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  24. Dryarae

    I can see both sides of question five.

    On one hand, asking for a substitution could be a matter of personal taste or other problems with the particular item (such as an allergy).

    On the other, asking -is- and insult. It's akin to saying, "Hey, I don't find the way you pair foods to be acceptable and I believe this goes better with that." Obviously that's not usually the case; most don't mean to insult the chef, but it -is- an insult all the same.

    Food is an art and, as such, people take it seriously and passionately. Da Vinci would probably be insulted if you told him the Mona Lisa would look better with eyebrows.

    August 4, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • Thomas

      "Hey, I don't find the way you pair foods to be acceptable and I believe this goes better with that."

      Is that not exactly what the chief is saying to the customer though? Both the chief and the customer have opinions.

      On one hand the chief is supposed to have an education about such things
      On the other hand the customer is the one paying the money.

      Both can compromise.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  25. tom colichio

    I often ask the server what they like. If they give me a direct answer that sounds knowledgable, I consider that. If they hem and haw, I assume that they don't know much about the food. In better restaurants you find more knowledgable servers – due to training.

    August 4, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  26. Jeff Lewis

    I'm a little disappointed by #5 as well. Not so much that you're annoyed by someone asking for something other than what you designed, but that you're missing the possibility that the customer has seen some thing you haven't.

    I was at Mesa Grill in Las Vegas earlier this year and I had a dish that was fantastic. But when I got to the end, I couldn;'t shake the feeling that there was something just *off* about it. Then it hit me – walnuts. The astringent and slightly woody/nutty flavour would fill the missing hole in the taste perfectly.

    Now, I'm not a chef. I'm not an expert. But I know what my tongue was telling me – so I offered the suggestion to the waiter who accepted it gracefully. I'm sure it was promptly discarded – but who knows – maybe I was dead on and a 99% dish would have gone to 100%?

    August 4, 2011 at 3:40 am |
  27. eric

    Seriously, get over your f'n self. Your a freakin' cook. I'll ask you whatever the F I want! I'm paying you! If you don't like dealing with stupid questions, go work as an embalmer in a funeral parlor. Your customers there won't ask too many questions. I just love that smug arrogant pic of this douche too. And people wonder why the world is coming unglued at the seams.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:17 am |
    • texbyd

      Exactly! Chefs are not curing cancer, doing brain surgery or rocket science, you are cooking food. The explosion of cooking shows has, for some unexplained reason, placed chefs up there with Einstein. You may have put a lot of "thought" into what goes best together, but I am paying for it and I know what I like together. Despite what the people in the kitchen think, it really is just a diner no matter how much you charge as you are doing nothing more than preparing food as well.

      August 4, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • Chef

      Do you seriously think the wait staff doesn't tell the Exec or Sous Chef you're being a douche? Always remember one rule of thumb while being a guest in someones restaurant: Don't piss off the people who handle your food, ever!

      August 5, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  28. ray

    Personal opinion, but #1 a chef should never become a "chef" if they don't want to hear ANY of these questions, it's like a mechanic saying "i wish people would stop asking me which oil to use" YOU KNEW they would ask you this kinda stuff when you signed up pal, #2 the reason we have menus is to decide what WE want to eat, not what the chef wants us to eat, if i want whatever ice cream with my dessert, guess what? i'm the on PAYING for it! #3 if you don't want to interact with customers and answer questions like "how did you make that?" my suggestion to you,,,,,,,,,Mcdonald's is always hiring :)

    August 4, 2011 at 2:03 am |
  29. RobbD

    Wouldn't want to hurt the cooks feelings.
    Let me know when a cook cures cancer.
    Restaurants are there to make a buck, anyway they can.

    August 4, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  30. Lambys

    I see this article so often, and all it says to me is this: Chefs cry like babies about their jobs. Shut up, you are paid to serve.

    August 4, 2011 at 1:00 am |
  31. recommend

    good smell the cooking ...

    August 4, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  32. ChefsKid

    When I was growing up, my father was an executive chef at one of the nation's best 5-star restaurants. I remember many a days in the kitchen watching him perfect his recipes. He took great pride in creating unique flavor profiles with an unexpected combination of ingredients and put together menus that would please even the pickiest of eaters. But if a customer asked him to make a substitution or omit an ingredient, he would always happily oblige them. For him, it was all about the customer. He took pride in his creations, but he took even more pride in watching his customers enjoy the meal that he created for them and if that meant a substitution, so be it. It wasn't about his ego. It was about his customers. And I think that's the way it should be.

    August 4, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • Joe

      Agreed. Seems like most chefs who work in "rated" restaurants these days think its more about them, however, than the people actually trying to treat themselves to a luxury.

      August 4, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • tom colichio

      It SHOULD Always be about the customer. Your father did it right. I want to know that a restaurant has a creative chef who will come up with new ideas and who has been trained and has experience with what foods and flavors go well together. But when I'm deciding where and what to eat, I don't really care about the chefs opinion. At that point, the chef is the just the person making sure my food is prepared well and if that means I have my dish without an ingredient then that is what the chef should happily prepare. Sorry if your ego is hurt by this but when it comes down to it, you're no more important than I am.

      August 4, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • Programmr

      Agreed. The chef should also consider that the customer could be asking for the substitution for a reason other than simply second guessing the chef's culinary ability.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Chef

      I like that your father had pride good for him...

      August 5, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  33. Joe

    #1 – Kind of a little rude to ask. Someone asking this is just a jackass.
    #2 – If you don't know what the person is trying to convey with this question, you're an idiot. They're asking what you would recommend . . . People used to communicate without the internet and didn't have life rushed up their ass . . . Stop being a snob.
    #3 – Someone asking this question is just being friendly. Stop being a snob.
    #4 – Again, some people like to just converse. They might also wonder what your take on their way of doing it is . . . My grandmother tells me how she makes her version of something I've made very often. She just likes to talk. Either way, stop being a snob. Go back to smoking your lonely cigarette in your depressive rage in the alley.
    #5 – So what you're saying is, your decision to do something should supercede someone's preference? How do you know they haven't already had it your way and don't just prefer it their way? Or, how about this . . . As an adult, I kinda know what tastes go well together in my mouth and if I identify 2 things that could be better in some way, I'm gonna ask for it . . . And if you don't like it, you don't have to sell it to me, giving me the chance to bypass your piddly ass restaurant the next time I'm in town with my fat wallet.

    Get a life . . . you shut in. I don't get why CNN allows this snobby crap to post.

    August 4, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • ConfucianScholar

      Well said. These Chefs really think they are some kind of master artist and that it is some kind of crime to in any way modify their masterpieces. Only think is, they are not masterpieces and these glorified cooks have turned arrogant and very adept at biting the hand that feeds them.

      August 4, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  34. Jim Brown

    Be happy someone's eating your food at all. Now shut up and make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich

    August 4, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  35. Jimmy-James

    I find it silly that the chef would tell you to ask "What is good for me?" instead of "What is good?" and then turn right around and say "This isn't a diner" when you specifically tell him what is good for you. Fix that cognitive dissonance. The solution, of course, is that the guest order something and if they don't like it write an exceedingly poor review...unless, of course, the chef is willing to come down from his ivory tower.

    August 4, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  36. Noxious Sunshine

    I'm a server, & let me just say, it -is- incredibly annoying when customers bombard me with 1636272 questions all at once when I clearly have other tables to tend to. If we're slow, it's not as big of a problem, & yes I -do- answer all questions patiently with a smile on my face no matter the situation, but it takes away from my other guests getting things they need. it doesn't happen too often, though.

    This past Saturday, I had a family of 4 come in. We were slammed & The woman managed to ask every question possible. "what u get with 2 eat for $16? what's the $3 kids meal? what you get w that? how much a hot wings? what come with it? (@ that point I nearly snapped – how stupid can you be? it's an effing appetizer it doesn't come with a side!)" then later they complained that a 4 oz ramekin of extra chili cost. 99¢ and wasn't bigger. Then the man argued for 10 minutes w me over the bill & that I didn't give him enough change (he looked at the subtotal instead of the total after tax).

    Needless to say, their cheap a**es didn't leave a tip.

    August 4, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  37. imnotjaded

    Poor baby goat...

    August 4, 2011 at 12:11 am |

    What an a$$.......with this economy he should feel lucky that anyone goes to his restaurant......

    August 4, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • Thomas

      Many well known restaurants have closed in my part of the country. Customers are "voting with their wallets" and are less inclined to tolerate the "arrogant artist" type of chief these days.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  39. jenycuco

    I think a lot of people are confused between a cook and a chef. For example: #5. If you're at Chili's, let's say, you can ask for a salad without a certain ingredient. But if you are at a five star restaurant with an actual head chef, you really should take their advise. He's absolutely correct that they spend a lot of time experimenting with the foods to get just the right flavor profiles they're looking for. Being a chef is an art. Being a cook is just a job.

    August 3, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • Dancing

      I think people are also confused in that being in an upscale restaurant equals great food. Price and atmosphere has very little to do with what's actually good in my mouth. Some of the little hole in the wall places with a "cook" serve food most people, including chefs, would give their eyeteeth to know how to make. It's like saying someone who sculpts with clay is more of an artist than someone who sculpts with scrap metal.

      Regarding what irritates him, I'm sure every profession has the same 5 questions that drive them crazy. But just like the doctor or lawyer or accountant answers those questions over and over – so should the chef. The customer is asking for a reason. Just because you've answered them a million times doesn't mean that person has ever asked them before and heard your answer.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:23 am |
      • Thomas

        One of the problems is that chiefs want to be considered professionals but don't want to act like professionals.

        A professional is not just someone who gets paid. A professional adheres to a set of ethics and standards. A professional does not let his or her emotions dictate how they act.

        Some chiefs would benefit from learning not only the benefits of being a professional but also the responsibilities.

        August 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Jimmy-James

      While a chef may spend a lot of time preparing flavor profiles, people spend a lot of time eating food. In that eating of food people often know what tastes they like together or not. If they are going to say, specifically, what they want and it is not an absurd request, and if they are willing to pay for it...they should get it. People almost always go to restaurants to eat. They do not usually go to restaurants to critique food or find something new and exciting (though I know some do that). The end result is that if I, a customer, say I do or do not want something and that is disregarded, the restaurant will end up eating the price of that meal. Respect given is respect gotten.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  40. Hallie

    It's obvious most of you have never worked in a restaurant, or you'd understand where he is coming from. I've been a server for quite a while and nothing is more irritating than a special order (only out of pickiness, and not due to an allergy). The entire restaurant works in a certain rhythm, and you disrupt that rhythm when I have to go to the kitchen and spend five minutes explaining to the chefs (who are busy trying to make other dishes) exactly what you want. I never mind easy substitutions, but I literally have some customers who want to make their own dish. It's unbelievable.

    Apparently most of you look down on chefs, who spend a lot of time cultivating their culinary skills. Do you all think you're better than them? Do they not have a right to be proud of their work? Reading through these comments, I would never want to have such massively ignorant and snooty customers at my table. Most of you seem like you'd look down on me for being a waitress, too.

    August 3, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • Programmr

      I work in an entirely different industry (software), but we have many good paying customers who want things "their way". Guess what? We usually figure out a way to give the customer what they want. Ever run a program that has a "Preferences" tab? That's just one way we let the customer decide what's best for them.

      August 4, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  41. TheDB

    The customer isn't always right, but they are always entitled to their opinion.

    If I think there's no need for raspberry sauce on my chocolate volcano cake then I'm asking you to leave it off.

    The whole argument that the chef has worked hard to pair up items works only so far. Why not just make one dish and serve it to everybody? They know what tastes good, right?

    If a chef really doesn't like it then get out of the SERVICE industry.

    August 3, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  42. Lorenzo

    #5 Just because a chef believes certains flavors work, doesn't mean a customer does. I typically like to see what a chef presents, but it isn't uncommon to find a chef who has missed the mark. There is also the issue of potential allergies to certain items. Customers may request alterations because of allergies to nuts, fruits, grains, etc.

    Any chef who believes he has the perfect match is kidding themself.

    August 3, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Jeff Lewis

      For me, it's truffles. I honestly cannot understand why people like these.

      Maybe there's some weird genetic glitch going on – but I *swear* they taste and smell like burning plastic in diesel oil. My first exposure was to the oil (there went a lot of money for nothing) then to the actual fungus... I'll never touch it again.

      So, I honestly don't care if the chef is 5 star or 500 stars – or if truffles are the 'gold of foods'... I'll have them off my dish, please.

      August 4, 2011 at 3:47 am |
  43. ConfucianScholar

    Chefs are biting the hand that feeds them by peeving on their customers. Yes they plan what flavors go well with which other flavors, but some people have different tastes and lots of chefs are not nearly as good as they fancy themselves to be. They have to accept they are in the service industry and provide service with a smile or get the hell out of the industry.

    August 3, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  44. mark

    "2. What is good on the menu?
    "This is one we hear a lot. I think the question should be 'What’s good for me?' rather than 'What’s good?'

    Everyone has different tastes and preferences so I try to have something for everyone on the menu.""

    then he says

    "5. Can I have the ice cream that goes with the chocolate dessert on the caramel dessert instead?
    "This is one of my pet peeves. Of course we want people to have what they want, but when plotting out dishes I put a lot of thought into what flavors complement each other.

    A phrase we say in the kitchen pretty often is 'This isn’t a diner' – make your own conclusions on what that means.""

    So which one is it? First he says he thinks people should eat what they like then he says he gets mad when people dont eat what he want HE thinks tastes good...This dude sounds like a D1CK!

    August 3, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • NYCGastronomist

      In response to #5, a chef really takes time in developing a dish. When people ask for modifications on the dish for no good reason (the only good reasons are really allergies and/or religious observance) then they are not having the dish he/she created. They're having a different dish/experience. It's like saying, "Mozart, I like that song but play it in E minor instead of G major."

      August 3, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
      • ConfucianScholar

        My point exactly, most chefs arrogantly would compare themselves with Mozart when, in fact, the are no better than the guy playing an accordion in the sidewalk for a drop in the bucket. Of course customers will ask for that ice cream on this dish. Chef: You are no Mozart.

        August 3, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
      • Phil@Confusian whatever

        I don't know what makes you so dumb but it really works.

        August 4, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • DedTV

      There's a very big difference between a cook and a Chef. This is coming from a chef, not a cook.
      As someone who grew up on McDonald's where "fine dining" meant a trip to red Lobster or Outback Steakhouse, the first time I saw the menus at restaurants like wd-50 or Alinea I thought it all looked disgusting. But after eating it it's always clear that these people really know what they're doing as they take things that by themselves I've always hated and they make them into dishes that are delicious.
      For example, I've always hated fish. I grew up where there was a Catfish Shack on just about every corner and have tried everything from Tuna to Talipia to Swordfish at places where cooks make the food and have always hated it. But the Crispy Black Bass at Le Bernardin is about the greatest thing I've ever had on a plate even though it comes with several other things I hate like Beansprout and several other things I'd never heard of and there wasn't even a drop of tartar sauce to be found.

      And of course, if you don't like it, you can always go down to Olive Garden and pay 1/10th the price and they'll make it however you want it. But you could also decide your doctor doesn't know what they're doing and decide to cut off your arm to fix that brain tumor...

      August 4, 2011 at 12:19 am |
      • Jeff Lewis

        Ok, my chef...

        How are you on true vegetarian cooking?

        See, almost no western chefs have a *clue* about it because they're all trained to flood everything in some kind of meat stock. The western mindset is lumps of meat – with something on the side.

        So I'm willing to bet that when it comes to something even moderately challenging (like vegetarian cooking), even the best chefs simply AREN'T the experts.

        Oh – and if you're thinking 'a nice arougala salad with almond slivers, mandarin orange wedges, a little parmesan cheese and a raspberry vinegrette should do him'... surprise – you fail. If you thought 'steamed veggies' even bigger fail. Most vegetarians are so tired of the idea that all we want is some grass to graze on.

        Somethng clever like a potato, cheese and chive fritter with wasabi sauce would be nice – but we never get that.

        Thank god for veggie burgers or I'd have to eat at home all the time.

        August 4, 2011 at 3:55 am |
    • Jimmy-James

      What a heinously flawed analogy. By the time Mozart was the age of these chefs, he was already dead (he died at 35). His insurmountable genius cannot be compared to a temporary dish that because excrement a day later. And musically speaking merely changing a key (but nothing else in a work) is done all the time in music...just ask Schubert.

      August 4, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  45. Older But Wiser

    A litle heavy on the ego sauce here. The first answer leads to the conclusion that there are no bad chefs because no one would hire them, yet we all know there re out there. To paraphrase an old joke, the world's worst chef is out there, and right now he is preparing a meal for someone. Similarly, the last question assumes all tastes are the same, and just as one would have several desserts on the menu for different tastes, so one should trust the customer to know what HE likes.

    August 3, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Thomas

      I thought that all chiefs graduate from the same world's greatest school with straight A's.

      You mean to tell me there are chiefs out there that graduated from cruddy schools with just passing grades?

      I am shocked

      Next you will be telling me that there are chiefs out there who never attended any school.

      August 4, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
      • Spelling Nazi@Thomas

        Thomas, I applaud your use of the English language and the salient points you make. But I have to call you on your consistent use of the work "chief" instead of "chef". We're not talking about Indians or Sailors. ;)

        August 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
      • Spelling Nazi@Thomas

        HA! Or the use of the WORD .....

        August 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  46. Tom

    This guy (just like most chefs I've met) sounds like a complete prick.

    August 3, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
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