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Tea Moments — The Chef Knows Best?

Time to hurry home for a soothing and calming cuppa!
Time to hurry home for a soothing and calming cuppa!

This “Tea Princess” has a hard enough time getting a decent cuppa tea in a restaurant. Dealing with temperamental chefs just adds to the dilemma, especially when the chef proclaims that he knows best.

It’s tricky to be a chef, something I fully acknowledge. However, tastebuds are tastebuds, and we each have our own set, attuned to our particular sensibilities. While a good chef takes pride in his/her skill in the culinary arena, accepting the customer’s particular tastes would seem to go with the job. Some of us don’t like an excess of black pepper on our food or our eggs cooked with the yolks runny. And when we order a dish that is so standard, so run-of-the-mill, and on just about every menu from the East Coast to the West Coast, and we get something that falls far short, it can make anyone dare to raise a bit of a fuss.

I dared.

Corned beef hash is one of my favorite breakfast items. It just tastes so comforting and homey. Usually. So, my expectations may have been a tad too high when ordering it from the little café near our house. How convenient, we had thought when buying the house, to have a cute little place like that so close that we could walk there. We had even tried the café out on a weekday morning before closing on the house purchase just to be sure. All had gone well. This time it was Sunday morning and the place was crowded. We waited about an hour, and then they seated us in the patio area out back. Hubby ordered an omelet, and I ordered the home-style hash. It took about twice as long as before to get our food. When the meals finally arrived, the omelet was fine but the hash was only half cooked and looked like it had been plopped on the griddle, left for a few minutes without being flipped over and then put on the plate. It tasted hot on one side and cold on the other. Weird.

The Chef Knows Best? A fancy hat does NOT a chef make.
The Chef Knows Best? A fancy hat does NOT a chef make.

I have been served some things that were not what I had ordered, some things that had mystery items in them that I had to pick out, and some things that were just plain strange and not at all what I had expected based on the menu photos and/or descriptions. Rarely had I ever returned anything. This time, though, I called over the waitress and asked if the chef could cook the hash fully. She looked at me with a very peculiar expression but took the plate away. In a few minutes, she was back. With the plate. And an even more peculiar expression.

“The chef says this looks fine to him,” she said, “and he says it looks like dog food anyway and he doesn’t know how anyone can eat it.”

Hm, I think my taste just got insulted there, but she wasn’t done.

“The manager tried some and said it’s fine,” she continued and plopped the plate back down in front of me.

The manager? She tried the food on this plate? And then is re-serving it to me? Hm. Bad enough to be served basic bagged tea, the stale tasteless kind, but to be told that the chef thinks I like to eat things that look like dog food and that the café manager dipped a fork into the food that was now sitting in front of me… Eww! This is not exactly “customer knows best.”

Needless to say, we left the food sitting on the table, dared them to try to charge us, and walked out, never to return.

This is one of those things that needs several soothing potfuls of good tea savored in the warm and loving company of one’s spouse and in the comfort of one’s home to recover from. Some lovely malty CTC Assam with just a bit of milk and sweetener did the trick.

Here’s hoping your experiences are always good ones, but don’t be afraid to let the chef know when something is not quite up to your taste. And have your tea moment when you get back home to soothe any jangled nerves.

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7 responses to “Tea Moments — The Chef Knows Best?”

  1. […] Tea Moments — The Chef Knows Best?, By A.C. Cargill […]

  2. […] Too Quiet House Tea Moments — A Castle on My Teaspoon Tea Moment — That Fall-time Frame of Mind Tea Moments — The Chef Knows Best? Tea Moment — “Honey, I’m Home!” Tea Moments — The New Pot of Tea Tea Moment […]

  3. […] … uh, I mean, “comforting.” No surprises, unless the chef is having a really bad day (been there). Even a restaurant, café, diner, or — yes, it’s true — a tea room strives hard to provide […]

  4. That’s an awful story! As a former chef I have been known to be, sometimes at least, a little arrogant however I can remember clearly the three times in my cooking career when a dish has been returned to me.

    On each occasion I remember feeling sick with disappointment.

    Afterwards I apologised profusely and ensured that whatever I cooked next was perfect for them. On two of those occasions I believe the fault was not my own, they simply didn’t like it, however that is not relevant when some feels strongly enough to send something back.

    I am however greatly amused by a cook (by his actions he is not a chef) who describes his own cooking as ‘dog food’ and a manager who considers it acceptable to eat off a customer’s plate. That shows an outstanding degree of arrogance and general contempt.

    Am delighted you walked out!

    1. Thanks, James, it has happily been a very rare occurence in our dining experiences. 🙂

  5. Sorry you had such a bad, unacceptable experience with ordering one of my favorite breakfast treats. I hope you did not pay. I would certainly stay clear of that restaurant in the future. So funny if the Chef really feels that way about the offering, and is not willing to prepare it properly why do they have it on the menu?

    1. Yeah, it was quite an experience. Thanks for the commiseration! 🙂

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