We read a recent article interviewing the famous New York chef David Chang, owner of the Momofuku restaurants. Chang’s popular and successful cuisine mixes Asian classics with American tastes. He is famous for his pork buns.
In a recent interview with Details magazine, Chang talked about his style and other issues, including his complaints about customers. This was interesting thought that many of us fail to consider when we go out to eat.
Topping his list was when diners announced they had some sort of expertise in food. One supposes they do this so the restaurant will provide superior service, most carefully prepared food and/or give them their meals for free. Chang says all this makes the kitchen and wait staff laugh. Food bloggers are the worst, Chang says, because they really don’t know anything about food, cooking or restaurant work. With the explosion of food blogs, one can see this becoming a more common problem than we might think.
Second on Chang’s list is patrons who are drunk. I think most of us can relate to this one. They tend to be loud, rude and obnoxious. So, remember when you go out to eat, a drink or two, a glass of wine with dinner, perhaps an after dinner drink should be more than enough to enhance your experience. More than that and you’re just making a fool of yourself.
Faking allergies is next for Chang. We suppose people think if they mention they have special needs that the dish they get will be fresher or modified to their taste. This is the “airline food” school of thought. But if you don’t like some waiter’s saliva in your food, you should avoid this. If you really have allergies, you should think about that before going to that restaurant or ordering that dish.
This goes hand-in-hand with another complaint. Special requests. There are times when making a substitution is no big deal, depending on the restaurant and the dish you’ve ordered. But in higher-end restaurants, this is often offensive to the chef and cooks. A lot of thought, time and care goes into preparing what goes on the menu. If you don’t like what that restaurant and chef serve, why go there?
Of particular note for Chang is vegetarians. It’s not that he doesn’t like them, but, he says, if you’re going to do it, then really do it.
“But if you’re a vegetarian for ethical reasons, you may be causing more harm. I use this example: I was at a wedding, and at the reception everyone was eating local lobster and clams, but a couple of my friends were like, “No, we want the vegetarian option.” And it’s vegetables from every corner of the planet. Really? They don’t want to pollute the earth, they don’t want to support factory farming, but factory commodity farming is awful. And not only that, it’s almost slave labor. That poor person who harvested your asparagus from Peru might have died because you wanted asparagus in August.”
The Bachelor’s Kitchen agrees with the chef. It has always mystified us why someone would go to a seafood restaurant and order chicken. If you go to a hamburger joint, you should order and eat what that restaurant does best. Otherwise, go to a different restaurant. If you’re such a picky eater that you don’t want to eat what the rest of the gang is having, bring your lunch from home or meet up with them later.
This is what has led some chain restaurants to have such broad menus, usually doing none of the dishes very well. To have something for everyone means having nothing that good for anyone.
Finally, the fifth complain about customers is dealing with those who say they’re right when they are wrong. Chang points to the definition of “medium rare” in cooked meat. Chefs and cooks go through extensive training about the varying degrees of doneness for meat. When you ask for a particular doneness, that provides the cook with a particular definition. If that’s not what you want, you should learn what those definitions are or just take what you get. One supposes that some customers believe that since they are paying that they have final control over the meal. But anyone who has worked in a restaurant will tell you that there is a carefully choreographed routine to make the diners’ experience as good as possible. Again, if you want to control every aspect of the meal, eat at home or at a different restaurant. The rule of thumb has been changed. The customer is not always right, but the customer is always the customer and should be treated with respect. That’s just not good enough for some people. Those folks are usually too obnoxious to put up with anyway. The customer needs to recognize that respect goes both ways.
What do you think of Chef Chang’s complaints? Is he right? Or is he way off base? Please give us your comments.