I’ve always been of the opinion that if you are in a restaurant, then put up and shut up. Only if something very drastic is wrong do you need to complain. Really, for me, that amounts to the following things:
- They have missed a dish
- They have got the order wrong
- It is cold
- There are hairs in the food
Anything else, like, “Oooooh, the beans have touched the chips!” then you’re going to have to deal with it, I’m afraid. But unfortunately, people do not put up and/or shut up, and so inappropriate restaurant behaviour is rife, and the chefs aren’t happy about it.
So The Independent asked a load of top chefs for their biggest bugbears when it comes to those pesky ‘customers’. Here’s what they said:
Helena Poulakka - executive chef at Aster in London
“Ask for Tabasco in a fine dining restaurant. It’s just blasphemy.”
Richard Bainbridge - chef and proprietor of Benedicts in Norwich
“The worst thing a diner can do is put salt and pepper on their food before they have even tried it. Seasoning is individual to palate, but they could at least give it a go first. Taking photos of food is also a new dining trend that needs to disappear, just enjoy your meal!”
Lee Skeet - owner of Lee Skeet Seafood
“The worst thing a customer has done with us is to be dishonest or rude. All our meals are ticketed, and are a set tasting menu. We don’t really cater to dietary requirements unless it’s pre-arranged at the time of booking. We had a guest who turned up on the night and told us they were gluten free and couldn’t eat three of the six set courses so wanted substitutions, which we didn’t have. The menu was published months ahead and the guest had booked based on the menu.
“When our manager discussed the issue the guest told us they had selected a gluten free menu when booking online, which was a lie and in fact we have never offered any such option. They also told the manager to go to a shop and get something. We try to be understanding and fair to everybody, and are extremely grateful for all of our guests, but when somebody is lying to your face repeatedly and you know it, it’s incredibly arrogant and patronising!
“The guest went on to eat all of the tasting menu, including the dishes containing gluten. But added insult by requesting that we go out and get cracked black pepper for them and then covering every course in it.”
Ani Arora - head chef at Nirvana Kitchen in London
“Arrive really late for the reservation is annoying. As is making up your mind then placing your order and sending back a dish they don’t like but have eaten more than half of. And being rude to the server.”
Paul Wedgwood - head chef at Wedgwood in Edinburgh
“I really hate it when someone books in advance and mentions they have severe life threatening food allergies, only for the diner to get to the desserts and order the sticky toffee pudding because a ‘little bit won’t hurt’.
“We make sure when this happens we have as much of the full menu as possible available all made without dairy or nuts or gluten and so on, and it is prepared in strict conditions where cross contamination could not occur - usually one chef will stay on after the previous night’s service to cook alone through the night. Please just be honest with us.”
Daniel Fletcher - head chef at Fenchurch Restaurant, Sky Garden, in London
“Be rude to the staff. I have so much respect for my colleagues, and find it hard when they have to handle this kind of behaviour.”
Eric Guignard - head chef at The French Table in Surbiton
“The worst thing would have to be if a diner asked me to prepare a dish with no salt.”
Andrew Dargue - head chef at Vanilla Black in London
“Without prior notice, turning up with a list of things they can’t eat and assume that it can be done for them in the middle of service. Then when it comes to dessert, order something which contains one of their problem foods and start eating it.”
Daniel Petitia - head chef at The Library in London
“Send a lime cream back because they think the acid flavour means it’s off!”
Simon Rogan - owner of L’Enclume and Rogan & Co in Cumbria
“Please do not go to the toilet when you know your food is coming.”
Hari Ghotra - chef at Tamarind of Mayfair in London
“Eat and pay for food that they are not entirely happy with. Speak to the the staff they will help. No chef wants to serve food that is not enjoyed.”
I can agree with all of these apart from the toilet one. I do that every time and it’s never my fault. I went before I came, as well - so don’t try that one on me. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.
(Images: iStock/Alex Munsell)