It happened so quickly I almost didn't know how to react. This evening I was enjoying a meal with some friends at a local Thai restaurant when this guy and his kid come in. They sit down at their table and are quickly greeted by the wait staff. The waitress is a friendly, sweet spirited young Thai lady. After retrieving drinks from the kitchen for the two, she quietly asks them if they are ready to order. After about 5 seconds of uncomfortable silence the man barks " Yes I want the fragrant chicken with the onions, peppers and yeah, I want to show you how I want it prepared..." I turn to see mister white hair flip open his 'not so trendy' flip phone and begin to sort through pictures. " I want it made like this, I want it made like I make it at home!" He barks...
Did I hear that right? Not only did Powder bark at this kind waitress like she was mowing his lawn, but he wants her to quote " make it like he makes it at home"? Are you for real? Did he really just say that? To add insult to injury we then get to hear this curmudgeon complain to his 14 yr old daughter about how her friends have no respect for his home when they come over. Really? Respect?
This brings me to the topic of this week's rant...something I like to call 'Culinary Kindness'.
Imagine you are a waitress or waiter. You've just clocked in on the clock and are set to start work. You greet customers as they walk in the door. Short ones, tall ones, skinny ones...you get the picture. And for the most, most of the customers are smiling and at a minimal...courteous to you.
As the evening progresses, the crowd begins to build. You are handing out menus, taking up empty plates and pouring tea. While to the untrained eye it seems very chaotic. But you've got this. You are able to be courteous, welcoming and prompt in being a server. All is going well till you hear the sound of what might as well be fingers on a chalkboard. 'Klink, klink, klink...' Above the sound of table side chatter and forks against plates can be heard the sound of rudeness..'Kilnk, klink...klink'
Out of your peripheral vision you notice a man raising his arm above his head. Say he isn't...Yes, he has raised his glass of ice and is shaking it at you. Like a baby rattling their sippy cup, this 50 year old man is rattling his glass.
What in God's green earth would posses a grown person to act like this? Here's one better...A dear friend of mine was responsible for catering a wedding and provided the meal and desserts. As the caterer and her staff dipped into the kitchen to bring more food out for the guests, a woman appeared in the kitchen. My friend asked "Hi, can we help you?" The woman responded " Yes, I need to get some A1 steak sauce." My friend who had provided a delicious meal consisting of roasted pork and assorted vegetables responded " I'm sorry, we don't have any A1.." (obviously curious as to why anyone would want steak sauce on barbecued pork but I digress) The woman placed her hand on her hips and exclaimed " Daddy has to have his A1. He won't eat meat without it!" My friend, rather puzzled again repeated "sorry we don't have any" The woman began to wrinkle her nose as she snipped " We'll somebody has got to find us some!"
And to that I say..no my friend, no they don't. Now I'm not saying that if you order a steak medium rare and it comes out charred black that you don't inquire with your waitress about perhaps something that went wrong with the order. But this growing issue of being such rude and entitled babies in restaurant and the food scene has got to stop! Do we even realize how hard it is to work in the food industry? From the chef behind the scenes to the waitress pouring your coffee, it is hard work.
"But when I pay for a meal, I expect service!" some will cry. Your absolutely right. But that service is not a license to be a jerk. For some reason we put on our best manners when we meet complete strangers at social events but find it quite easy to be rude to strangers who are our wait staff at restaurants. I recall an occasion in which I was eating with friends and one of the friends's spouses had gotten a steak that wasn't so enjoyable to her. As the perky little twenty something waitress dropped by our table and asked "How is everything?" My friend's spouse replied "This steak sucks!" The color in the waitresses face drained right before us. "Um...I'm sorry. Would you like me to take it back?" the waitress asked. " No, I just wanted you to know it sucks...." she replied.
How many of us know incidents like this where we 'just wanted them to know'? Here's a novel idea, when someone is trying to provide a solution, accept it. That waitress didn't cook your steak. Furthermore, insulting or being rude will not bring about a happy server. (I always have to warn folks, be kind to your wait staff...they can touch your food!)
It is true, going out to eat is not just about the food. It is also about the experience. The wait staff, the cook, the management...they are all inviting you in to eat in their kitchen. Whether it is a conscious effort, the true goal is to be hospitable and to provided an enjoyable dining experience. When a customer or one of the staff of the restaurant is a jerk, it hinders the flow of enjoyment. The customer that makes it hard on the wait staff will also make it hard on the next customer that comes in. The stress that is carried over from an incident of rudeness will affect the emotional atmosphere.
Why am I saying this? Because your waitress can't. The manager..can't. But it needs to be said. There is no law on the books that says just because you paid $9.95 for that plate of chicken fingers that you can be rude and it be acceptable. Show some culinary kindness. Be nice to your servers. Oh yeah..Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays and Happy Kwanza! Eat Local!