Being reviewed and criticized about our food goes with the territory of being a Chef. It’s a part of the job that you have to learn to take with much humility. It starts right out the gate as a cook when you’re just starting to learn the craft, and your toughest critic is always going to be your Chef. As you progress in your career and are finally in the “driver's seat” it’s all eyes on you, so the pressure is on to put out amazing dishes.
There are many ways you will be judged on what you plate and so many different areas of a dish to explore and critique. Our job is to make the best possible product. Being given feedback goes an extremely long way in improving our performance. Whether an element worked, or it absolutely didn’t, educated critiques help us see outside the bubble we work in.
There are times for the food to be serious, to be eaten with a sense of dignity. To delicately break apart a slice of tuna or to twirl tagliatelle with the precision of an experienced pasta connoisseur.
Then there are times to dig in and have some fun with your food! This is the case with one of our current plates that involves whole Tiger Shrimp marinated in Thai curry paste, grilled, and then simply served with tajine and finished with half a lime. When describing this plate to the FOH staff we encouraged them to tell the guest to break apart the shrimp from the body, suck the juices out of the head and have fun getting messy! Now, it is also wise to read your crowd and know your company. If you see a family celebrating a graduation or a couple dressed in their Friday night best, this may not be a dish for them; just in case a little bit of shrapnel happens to fly onto their attire.
The server's job is to be an ambassador of the kitchen and they are the bridge between the Chef’s and the guest. Quality checks are crucial to the dining experience. Knowing how the guest is enjoying everything, or not, aids us in knowing how best to make the necessary corrections. But then sometimes, a guest is asked what they think of a dish, and the response leaves your mind numb, asking yourself how to move forward from what you’ve just been told.
A guest had ordered said Tiger Shrimp dish and the response during the quality check left me asking myself, where do I go from here?
Simply put, the gentleman was unhappy that the shrimp came whole with the bodies on and suggested that the dish should’ve been served with the shrimp already peeled. The server had assured me that they told the gentleman how the dish was going to come, and he replied that despite being aware of that, he still felt the dish was simply “dumb”. That was it...It’s Dumb.
Let’s break that analysis down, shall we?
How am I supposed to take that back to Chef? We place a blackboard on the door of the walk-in and map out a gameplan to improve the dish, from DUMB to SMART! Picture if you will, a scene out of ‘The Wire’ where we connect all the red strings together to try and solve the mystery at hand. How can I possibly work with a critique so plainly and unhelpfully summed up in one word? Presentation, sustainability, price, taste, texture, flavour profiles, aroma... I mean there are so many things to think about when consuming food. Yet, here we were, left with dumb.
I’m not saying EVERYONE takes this approach when sharing their analysis of what they’ve just eaten, but I do find this one particularly mind-numbing and truthfully quite funny. If anyone can share their opinion about what we do, then sometimes it’s fair to share both sides of the tale. And let me tell you, this sort of thing happens so I’m not pulling back any curtains as to the inner workings of the industry that we aren’t already aware of; and for all my wrestling fans out there, we call this sort of thing ‘breaking kayfabe’.
Use this as a precautionary tale. If you’re out and not enjoying a plate or a drink be sure to use your words effectively. Not only to help make your experience more enjoyable but also for us slaving away in the back to know what we can do to get from dumb to dumbfounded.
Until next time, have a great service.