So, I had someone come in last week and tell a server she is vegan and wanted to know what we could make for her. Mind you, as with vegans, celiacs, diabetics, lactose intolerant and the near-extinct Atkins dieters, it's all the same to me. It's an equation, one simple and true. Tell me what already exists, tell me what I need to figure out, and I'll do the math. I am NOT a chef who enjoys denying people a special request: I will bitch to high-heaven about it, but I'll do it.
Yet, there exists a rare breed of egomaniac chef who believes everyone has come through the front door of the restaurant just to taste the magic God has blessed them with. For example, in this real-life scenario: customer asks for well-done duck breast. Grrrrrrrrrrrr. My colleague chef spits at the server, "I will NOT cook it well done!" Server tells guest, guest gets angry, husband of guest gets angry. Name-calling and indignities ensue. KaBOOOOOM! Guest is ASKED to leave by management. Many four-letter words. And that's what we call a lose-lose scenario, gang.
I can and will cook a duck breast well-done. I won't like it- and I will advise against it, but I can give the "offending" customer what they ask for: a duck breast that is fully cooked with as much flavor as possible. Why? If you're with me, I apologize for dragging this out, but if you aren't, prepare to be enlightened. There are people who fit into a category not included above, and they are known simply and familiarly as PREGNANT women.
So, put your freakin' ego aside chefs and servers, and realize that pregnant women don't LIKE that they can't eat undercooked foods or various items that are dangerous to their unborn children. In fact, there ought to be a Monopoly card akin to Get-Out-of-Jail-Free for preggers that exempts them from the contempt of industry types who roll their eyes and curse the living who are simply hoping to create more living.
However: as I like to think of my blog as the FOX News of the blogosphere, "Fair and Unbiased", (OMG ROFLMFAO!), I would like to present a scenario that addresses some much needed perspective in this discussion.
Take for example, this same vegan from earlier asked if she could have the pumpkin-mushroom risotto, vegan-style. Mmmmm!- pumpkin, mushrooms, rice. Vegan like. Vegan want. Mmmmmmmm- HELLO??! Why not ask me for a souffle with no eggs? Or, why not demand french fries cooked with no fat? People, I'm here to make your food taste good, not polish a turd. I'm amazed at the number of people who come into a restaurant and ask for items as though we were a Star Trek food replicator and all they need is ask for what their clogged little hearts desire.
Yeah- like I said. I'll bitch about it...
So, I advise the guest to have the same ingredients, but with our lovely "animal product free" basmati rice. Because kids, you just can't make a risotto withOUT butter and cheese. Because it ceases to be risotto.
This is where the Soap Box part comes in. The guest lazily and somewhat reluctantly agrees, but asks the server if I, and I'm going to quote, "can make sure it has some flavor" because she doesn't just want "rice, mushrooms and pumpkin."
Aww man. Here I go. "How about a nice big plate of stinging nettles, known to those in the industry as bitch weed? Or, how about some radishes with a side of sorry-about-your-shitty-life-choice dressing? FLAVOR?? "Sorry- flavor is extra!" Or, "Hmmm- nope, No can do! BUH BYE!" are just a few responses we thought up, but- as I've said before, I'm going to make food that tastes good, as long as people aren't expecting miracles, I'll do the math.
As my hackles went down, I began to find ways to infuse flavor into this dish, just to blow the doors off this customer with low expectations. I used infused basil oil, roasted garlic, added fresh herbs and other tricks to make sure this customer left completely satisfied.
I never heard back from the server or got a comment card, and I"m not sure I even asked, but I do know this: we accommodated a notoriously fussy variety of guest and did so without the drama of a reality TV series. We call that a "win-win" in the biz.