[Sca-cooks] Cooking steaks was Re: lethal drinks

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Tue Jul 22 22:45:32 PDT 2008

On Jul 22, 2008, at 11:12 PM, Lady Celia wrote:

> Ummm... I know I'm more of a service related person than a 'chef',  
> but all
> three of my parents (including my step mom) cooked, both of my parents
> worked in the food industry, and I did my time in my teens, early  
> 20s.  If a
> waiter had given me that impertinent speech, I would have told him  
> to forget
> the order entirely, then asked for the manager and explained to him  
> that the
> reason I was not going to patronize his establishment was that I had  
> no
> interest in dining in a place where the chef was so temperamental as  
> to ruin
> the dining experiences of the patrons for an entire evening because  
> a diner
> requested their meal prepared to their taste, nor where the wait  
> staff felt
> it was acceptable to lecture the patrons as to the manner in which  
> their
> food needed to be prepared.  Perhaps the steak *was* better medium- 
> rare. A
> professional server would have simply stated something more along  
> the lines,
> of, "If I may suggest, sir... most of our patrons agree that the  
> type of
> meat that we server here tastes best served medium-rare..." and *then*
> asked, "Can I persuade you to try it that way, and if you don't like  
> it,
> I'll take it back to the kitchen and we'll cook it to well-done?"
> << I tried
> arguing the point, but eventually came to the conclusion that this was
> not about quality, but about taste and expectations, and that what
> these people wanted was overcooked, dry meat, and would not be happy
> with anything else.>>
> Precisely!  And when a customer has paid for their meal, they should  
> be able
> to expect a meal that they can enjoy.  I grant that the rules at a  
> feast,
> where the dishes are prepared banquet style for everyone is one  
> thing, but
> in a restaurant, especially one which is well appointed enough to  
> have a
> temperamental chef, you should expect service which is both  
> professional and
> above and beyond.  Your resolution at feast was humorous, and at a  
> feast
> that's certainly acceptable - but telling a customer, essentially,  
> that if
> you tell the chef how they want their food that he'll throw a temper  
> tantrum
> and spoil the evening of everyone in range until he goes home to  
> cool down
> tells me that the chef needs to cooking only for himself, or for  
> snobs who
> have precisely the same tastes he has, or will be cowed by his diva
> attitude. Sheesh!

Well, that's one perfectly legitimate reaction, but you may be  
stressing the wrong part of his remarks. First of all, it was over  
twenty years ago, and I can't guarantee that he didn't say exactly  
what you suggested might be more appropriate, with the other stuff  
merely implied or inferred entirely on my part, and if the guy broke  
the mostly unwritten laws of proper service, he appeared to be putting  
his own job on the line to help me. I feel what he did was perhaps  
just slightly more presumptuous than the waiter offering to show you  
how to use the lobster cracker and fork, just on the off chance you  
haven't done it before, or perhaps venturing to suggest a wine.

I've never been a waiter; I probably wouldn't have been good at it,  
and in retrospect, I'd probably have said the job is too hard, but as  
a cook and chef I didn't even have the patience to deal with some of  
the waiters (they used to move stuff around on my plates to make them  
easier to carry, engendering death threats from me), let alone deal  
directly with the public except in very small doses. Food I can  
improve. Some people, you can't. The customer may always be right, but  
in my experience a lot of them were, and remain, morons, and on that  
occasion, I was, to some extent, one of them.

If I'd been brought up on a steady childhood diet of massively  
overcooked prime tenderloin or shell steaks, doused with ketchup and  
Worcestershire sauce, and was empirically certain that that was the  
ultimate steak-eating experience, it would be different, but that  
wasn't the case. My prior experience had not prepared me for knowing  
how a really fine steak should be cooked and eaten, but I'm glad the  
guy took a chance, risked upsetting me and the possible ramifications  
of that, and broadened my view.

And, honestly, in defense of the temperamental chef, if any, it's nice  
to make people happy and give them what they want, but nobody really  
needs me to have paid the tuition money and put in the years to do  
that kind of work. People have asked me for some pretty strange things  
over the years, like the old folks at The Supper Club who wanted their  
mesclun salads finely minced -- how do you make an attractive  
presentation of two ounces of mulch? I always did as I was asked, but  
in this case I'm glad, when it was me putting in the order, that  
someone asked me, "With respect, sir, are you sure you want that?"


"Most men worry about their own bellies, and other people's souls,  
when we all ought to worry about our own souls, and other people's  
			-- Rabbi Israel Salanter

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