What should we have done?
Admittedly, it's after the fact, but other than a very nice personal note of thanks and a large tip for the gracious service, what should we have done in this situation? It was my son's 21 birthday. He had been dreaming about a particular dish that he used to get in two restaurants that had closed down years ago. We recently learned where the chef from those two restaurants has been working. We contacted the restaurant and requested that the chef prepare that special dish for our son. When we appeared for dinner (two adults and 3 21year olds), the chef came out to say hello. The great wait staff when presenting the menus advised us of the special dish which my son obviously ordered. After the apps and mains, the chef sent out three desserts gratis and they made a big production over my son at the presentation of same. The chef reappeared to touch base with us and chat briefly. We thanked him profusely and complimented him on the food. Had we ordered wine, I would have certainly sent a glass back to the chef; but no one but myself wanted any; so a glass was all I had. We later learned that the chef came in on his day off to prepare this dish for our son. Although this restaurant is located in the next town from us (approx. an hour away), we most certainly will return. But the nagging question remains, what should we have done to show our appreciation for what the chef did for our son that helped make it a memorable dinner?
I dunno what you "should have done" then, but either way now you can get the restaurant address and write him a glowing thank you letter recounting your fantastic experience. The question above is relevant: if the chef is not the owner, then the the letter or perhaps an additional letter may be best directed to the owner or general manager depending upon the scope here. (Not all restaurants are really big enough to have a general manager, etc.) Basically, if the person that helped you has a boss, it's always nice to further recognize them by directing a letter to the boss.
Despite the many things unique to the restaurant world, I can't imagine that a letter of praise is ever unwelcome or inappropriate. it may well find a prominent place on someone's wall, bulletin board, etc. (I speak from experience knowing the recognition we give for such things.)
If some think a gift would be a good idea, I wouldn't argue, but I'll leave it to others to figure out what it should be, for I really don't know. I just think that few enough people spend time to write letters of high praise that even a letter alone would go a long way.
Sounds like the chef totally "gets it". A few ideas;
- Slipping the chef a cash tip.
- Making sure the owner knows(if the chef is not the owner).
- If the chef drinks, find out from the owner what he likes and bring him a bottle next time in.
- Tell everyone on Chowhound what a good guy the chef is and recommend the restaurant.
It would be nice if you bought a good bottle of wine for the chef as a gift. In addition, dine there often and recommend it to friends.
I would definitely give the name of the restaurant and the name of the chef to us all so they will be lauded by Chowhounds everywhere. Scream his praises from every (virtual) rooftop to which you have access. And I second the recommendation to call and ask the owner what the chef might like as a gift. And send a personal thank you.