If your job involves customer service, the motto is, “The customer is always right.” This is taken quite literally in the restaurant world. You want your dish with no salt? Great. Your fillet mignon without blue cheese crumbles? Of course, no problem. You would like sautéed spinach as your vegetable instead of asparagus? I’ll pass that on to the kitchen. The entire lunch or dinner service becomes a free for all for customers to make off-menu wishes that are granted by the kitchen.
This idea – or rather problem – of always saying yes was demonstrated clearly the other day when working lunch service. I had a few tables, one of which asked if they could order off the dinner menu. Without hesitation, I said, “Yes of course, the kitchen is very flexible.” Did I really mean that? Sure, I guess. The kitchen is always flexible with any request I put in, and believe me, I am the modification queen. But when there is only one cook on the line preparing lunch for the entire restaurant and now he has to gather everything to make a dinner entrée, it can become hectic. And all I’m doing is watching. Imagine being the one filling the orders.
After delivering a dinner menu to my table I gave a quick rundown of the best entrée choices and then explained that they could order anything except the prime rib, because it wasn’t prepared yet. After looking the menu over, the couple ordered one item off of the dinner menu and one item off of the lunch menu. I rang the order in and gave an apologetic half-smile to the lunch cook (who, by the way, NEVER complains about any modifications, no matter how obnoxious).
After checking on a few other tables and bringing bread and butter to my dinner-dining lunch customers, another table asked me if we had cinnamon-honey butter. I explained that we didn’t but then offered to make some. WHY, TAYLOR?!! Because “yes” is always the answer. Because we are here to please. I went quickly to the back to mix up a serving of honey butter and promptly delivered it to the table. A few minutes later, I was back in the kitchen making a second serving. Guess it was delicious.
One of the prep cooks glanced over at me while I was vigorously stirring the cinnamon butter concoction and said, “You know it’s our own fault people ask for these things.” And that’s exactly the truth. This is a restaurant in the United States of America. Land of Yes. We are always ready to say yes and make any modification to any dish in order to get paid.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely ordered out and requested a change or two on my entree. It’s OK to do. But something that I realized recently is that a restaurant is similar to an art gallery. The menu provides a detailed explanation of each exhibit and the customers come in to eat and experience the art. With this in mind, I realized that I would never go to an art gallery and tell the artist that I wanted to buy a certain piece ... with small changes that needed to be made. This same idea can be applied at a restaurant. Consider that the people who prepared each dish and paired spices together were making art for others to enjoy, as is.
Now, I am not saying that you should eat the whole-wheat pasta that you are allergic to or the fontina cheese that gives you gas. But, if there is balsamic reduction on a grilled salmon or rosemary mint butter on your ribeye steak that doesn’t sound appealing, give it a try. The kitchen will always say yes to any modification or request. That will never change. But next time you want to make a modification, keep in mind that an artist of flavors created each dish.