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What should we have done?

  • z

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?

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  1. is it his restaurant or is he an employee?

    1 Reply
    1. re: smartie

      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.

    2. 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.

      1. A nice thank you note and a bottle of wine, maybe?

        Just a note is completely appropriate!

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

            4 Replies
            1. re: mojoeater

              Needless to say, I did give a shout out to the restaurant on the appropriate regional board. I don't think the chef is the owner of the restaurant as it's a restaurant that's been there for eons. All of the above suggestions are good. Thank you for all your speedy replies.

              1. re: zook

                Which region and what restaurant? Perhaps us travelers may want to swing by.

              2. re: mojoeater

                don't know why zook isn't more forthcoming in this thread, but apparently it was "Forge" in Miami (checked his pages).

              3. Not sure if your local paper has a food section but maybe a letter to the editor there? There is so much negativity on this board and in general, who doesn't love a touching story like that? This person went out of their way for you and made a special evening even more memorable and that should be recognized.
                I would for sure write a letter to the owner and a thank you note to the chef at the very least.
                Glad you had such a wonderful evening!

                1 Reply
                1. re: jturtle

                  Great idea about submiting something to the local paper. Local papers love positive stories like that.

                2. a note and a bottle of wine/whiskey/something he might like is of course a good idea.
                  secondly, you have travelled to his restaurant, let him know he is appreciated (which in itself is priceless), and the staff in that restaurant now know that too, which will give him kudos.

                  then the onlyl thing you can do is support the business by giving shout outs and recommendations.

                  obviously you are very touched by the experience, which is absolutely wonderful, but I think you will find that the effort was made b/c they were touched by your initiative.

                  lovely story.

                  1. You basically answered your own question when you stated you would have given him a glass of wine. Bring a bottle of wine to him. Likewise jfood loves the idea of a good-feel story in the local paper. Good advertising for a good guy.

                    1. the restaurant is an hour away and they don't go there all that often.

                      I think a letter to the restaurant praising the chef, a letter to the local paper ditto, and perhaps send him a gift card (gas card from Shell or a chain store) since you don't get over to his town very often.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: smartie

                        Amex or Visa gift cards are always good.

                        1. re: smartie

                          Just send the wine and a note in the mail.

                        2. Beat the drums on the CH boards; write to the local paper; send a very nice letter to the chef and staff; tell all your friends; have your son go in and thank the chef; send the chef a bottle of wine or a cheese.

                          1. I feel like the cash tip/gift card offering is a little tricky. It can come off as minimizing and I, therefore, would avoid it.

                            As you've clearly been singing the praises here already, I like the idea of a thank you note (and one to the owner) and a bottle of wine. Or just the bottle of wine and a word to the owner on your next visit.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: asiege2

                              I agee with the card, and print up a copy of your OP in the Miami board to enclose

                            2. what a lovely story!

                              i'd send the nice card and a bottle of wine/spirits-- call & ask another employee, who knows the chef well, what he prefers.

                              if the chef did own the restaurant i'd send a nice flower arrangement for the host station or other area of the restaurant with my thank you. talk this guy up to anyone interested & write to the local paper as suggested by others!

                              it would be a cool tradition for your family to visit the restaurant each year for your son's b-day, it sounds like you had a wonderful experience & i'm sure the chef would be happy to see your group again!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: soupkitten

                                With the exception of the flowers, I think all of your ideas sound great.

                                I would be very careful about sending flowers because every so often a florist will send something out that has those terrible little bugs (not fruit flies, but similar) or their eggs, which just turn into those terrible little bugs.

                                This has only happened to us (at the restaurant) once, but it came from a great local florist and any kind of bug is an absolute nightmare in a restaurant.

                                1. re: asiege2

                                  good point-- i know what you mean, though it's never happened to me. a lot of local restaurants get arrangements delivered once or twice weekly by a contracted florist, but the really small ones often can't afford it. i've sent flowers to owner-proprieters, esp for grand openings, and it's been very appreciated. the bugs are something to consider in future, though.

                              2. Write the restaurant a letter of thanks and rave about how wonderful your son's special night was thanks to the chef... and tell all your friends to go and eat there!