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Does the cook get offended when food comes back uneaten?

I have often wondered about this but the other night, we ate early at a restaurant and were about the only ones in the place. I only add that because if the restaurant had been terribly busy, I don't think anybody would have noticed. However, I was curious about the fried spinach appetizer on the menu and ordered it. What came out was a huge plate that was enough for about four people. It was just the two of us and my husband is not really crazy about fried foods. I tried a few pieces, it was good but there was no way I could do justice to that entire plate. Taking it home was out of the question since it was fried and would not hold up. I felt guilty about sending almost the entire plate back to the kitchen because I was afraid the chef would think something was wrong with his/her food. Not ever having worked in a kitchen, does the chef take notice of these things (when it is quiet enough) and do they appreciate an explanation that there was nothing wrong with the food but that you just could not finish it? I was actually very taken with it but it is extremely filling. It would have been much better as a very small side item.

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  1. I can remember in a restaurant long ago in another galaxy, having the server come out, if I had not eaten much of my food and being unable to take it home in a free takeout container, asking me: the chef wonders if there was something wrong with the food?

    I always found that charming.

    1. Hi I run a kitchen a golf club, when I see a whole plate of food come back I always ask the server to check w the customer if everything is alright, sometime I will come out to speak w you just to make sure. most of the time its just to much food, and no I dont get upset, in todays world people are eating smaller portions anyway, if you did not like the dish you should tell your server what it was that you did not like (please do it nicely) as a chef you have to be open for your customers opinion whether good or bad or you will never make it.

      3 Replies
      1. re: chefsklls

        I think it would also depend on the shape of the kitchen - in a linear kitchen the chef doesn't see food being scraped into the trash and the plates stacked for the dishwasher.

        1. re: chefsklls

          What an excellent attitude, chefsklls. I commend you.

          1. re: dolores

            in my experience, they notice. and they're not all as easy going about it as chefsklls, sadly!

        2. Every plate, no matter how busy we are, is shown to the chef on its way back into the kitchen as on the way out. The servers know they should have a ready (honest) answer to give if there is food left.

          1. I went ot a restaurant on a date. Neither of us had ever been before and he portions were much bigger than we thought. We each left about half of our entrees over and we had tickets for after so couldnt take leftovers. The waiter asked if everything was okay and we told him it was, we were just full. The chef came out and apologized for us not liking our meals and insisted we eat dessert on the house. We were so full but sortof afraid to not eat it.

            1. I'm not a professional chef, but do host sit down dinners quite frequently. If food comes back uneaten, it isn't offending, however you do want feedback, so it isn't so the next time - seasoning, sauce, sequence or just plain size?


              11 Replies
              1. re: sidkhullar

                I appreciate all the thoughtful feedback and conversation on this and I do understand the comment about hosting sit down dinners and being concerned when the food comes back. I don't host sit down dinners but I do prepare baked goods quite often for work functions and Friday, I was sitting with a co-worker who was eating a piece of my cake. She took a couple of bites, complimented me and headed for the nearest trash can with it. Maybe that is partially what prompted my post. My feelings were not exactly hurt but it did leave me wondering. Was her piece too big, too sweet, too icky...??? I did not want to put her on the spot by asking but it did get me thinking about the chef who got my plate of fried spinach back.

                1. re: Hooda_Guest

                  Ack, if I had had a piece of cake at a work function in the last few days I'd be wondering if this were me!! Granted, I normally try to do it discreetly, but if I don't "take couple of bites" then "head for the nearest trash can" that entire piece of cake will go in my mouth and onto my waist. I realize it is my own issue with self control, and that I can't expect others to change how they cook/serve because of me. So throwing the extra food away is the best (only?) way I have found to ensure I don't eat something I will regret later. HG, I am 99% certain your coworker is dealing with an issue similar to mine. It would have been more sensitive for her to wait until you didn't see her throw it away, but she was probably so fixated on making a good choice for her that she didn't think of you. Please don't take it as a commentary on the quality of your cake -- heck, it's a compliment that it was so good she knew she wouldn't be able to stop herself from eating it if she kept it around!!

                  1. re: charmedgirl

                    As one who has dealt with serious weight issues all my adult life, I do certainly understand just wanting to take a bite to try something and discard the rest of it. If I came across as upset with her, I am not at all. Self control is a very good thing-I need more of it!! I was much more curious than upset. I'm the type of baker who seeks out feedback good or bad and I would love to have known if she didn't like it and why. But, I really appreciate your perspective on this as I had not considered that she might be making a health choice. It was not exactly a low calorie dessert!

                    1. re: Hooda_Guest

                      I also bring baked goods to work and because of my own efforts to lose weight I've started to bring bite-sized goodies: mini cheesecakes, brownies, bars/squares... you can have a whole one and only add 100-150 calories to your day. Seems to go over well with the other calorie conscious people too... the only way to "get in trouble" is to have more than one :)

                      I agree with dolores though, the coworker who took a few bites and then dumped your hard work in the trash was a bit thoughtless; she could have at least waited until she was out of sight.

                    2. re: charmedgirl

                      I ask a good friend at work what he thinks of whatever I've brought because I know he'll give me an honest answer. Everyone else gives the polite "wow this is really good, thanks for bringing it in" reply and I don't pay attention to who eats it/how much they eat/etc because I know their responses won't be as valid!

                      1. re: charmedgirl

                        Ideally I'd have taken a clean knife and cut a sliver off a piece if I only wanted a nibble to taste... but maybe the person didn't have a knife handy. I'm sure there wasn't anything wrong with the treat - she's probably on a diet!

                        1. re: charmedgirl

                          Charmed girl...what about taking a knife and (neatly! neatly! neatly!) cutting off a small sliver? Intentionally wasting food, especially costly things like baked goods, sounds like a pretty thoughtless way to keep a trim figure. In my family, we always take tiny portions of things we only want to taste, and that way, people get to enjoy them, not the garbage disposal!

                          1. re: Morticia

                            Oh certainly, Morticia. When I am serving myself, I cut a piece the size that I want to eat. But on many, many occasions I am not the one doing the serving, and it would be infinitely rude/presumptuous of me to ask for the serving utensils and cut my own. Not to mention, it would look really weird. Asking for a "small piece" also rarely works, since people by default cut too large a piece, I think because they are trying to be generous. Trust me, I prefer it when I can serve myself, so then the occasion never even arises where I am staring at a plate and fork full of delicious cake and have to force myself to toss it. But often all too often that is just not an option.

                            1. re: charmedgirl

                              I completely understand about other people serving too large portions - at my family gatherings, you always ask for a "small piece" and then give that one to the person who wanted a large one, then say, "Half the size of that one, please!" - even so, myself and Mr. Morticia (who are trying to cut down!) always ask to share 1 piece between us. I know that in a work situation, this might not be so easy, but don't you have a fellow dieter in the office, with whom you can split the piece (using a clean fork?)

                              1. re: Morticia

                                I don't think of myself as a dieter, trying to cut back temporarily to lose a few pounds. I am a habitual healthy eater. :-) And no, honestly, I'd rather not discuss my eating habits with my coworkers, or make such an issue out of it that I have to ask around for someone who wants to share. Besides, that puts the other person who wants an entire piece of their own (and rightly so!) in the awkward position of telling me no. I guess I just am not as bothered by waste as you seem to be. I have absolutely NO qualms throwing away extra food, that I didn't ask for, and that is high in sugar and fat. Better it goes in the trash than on my waistline.

                                1. re: charmedgirl

                                  Yeah, I know - the wastefulness of American society grates on my nerves. I'm sure you work in a much more formal environment, whereas I couldn't imagine anyone taking offense if you offered to share rather than throw away most of a perfectly good piece of cake...

                    3. To me when food isn't eaten, it is always a concern, because that's what they came for was the food.
                      I will always ask politely if everything was ok. 99.9999% of the time it has to do with the portion size.
                      But when I was was a short order cook working in other restaurants I did find myself a little miffed when I saw uneaten food going to the trash, but I never took it upon myself to investigate.

                      1. I feel that a conscientious chef should be informed if any of the plated foods are going to waste. An appearance tableside isn't necessary, but the chef should rely on the feedback given from the wait staff. Based on feedback, he or she can then tweak recipes, exercise better portion control, and get a true sense of what the diners want. Hopefully, while all this takes place, the chef's ego isn't bruised, and everyone's feelings remain intact. Many times it's not a question of competency either -- it's a matter of fine-tuning certain dishes to meet various tastes. Chefs who are offended should try to understand that.

                        1. the good chefs i've worked with always appreciate feedback on their food. if a dish comes back substancially uneaten, of course they'll ask the server. and of course it's nice if the server can say why rather than "um, i don't know, they didn't say anything".

                          even if you don't like something it's good to say why. it's important for the chef to be aware of different peoples tastes.

                          1. Last night I left half of my entree uneaten. It wasn't because it wasn't delicious, but the fish fillet was of uneven thickness and it was just not cooked enough on the thicker side. I ate the thinner part and left the rest. Had they asked, I might have told them.
                            Regarding one of the posters who had a coworker take a bite of cake and toss the rest, I've done that as forced portion control!

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: BeeZee

                              >>>Regarding one of the posters who had a coworker take a bite of cake and toss the rest, I've done that as forced portion control!<<<

                              Why not put a napkin over the uneaten cake, take it back to the office or home, and throw it out there?

                              But in front of the person who made the cake?

                              That's just rude.

                              1. re: dolores

                                I've tried to do that, Dolores, and I end up eating it in the car, or in the hallway, or in the bathroom. Sometimes the only way to not eat something is to render it inedible. I might argue that your bringing baked goods to work is rude, since you're forcing me to deal with my own food demons! It's not pretty, but for many of us, these tests of will are a way of life.

                                1. re: ctscorp

                                  Ahhhh, interesting point, ctscorp. And one to which I can relate.

                                  I have to give you point/match on this one. Ain't it a crime to be a foodie who can't eat anything and everything they want?

                              2. re: BeeZee

                                I had a similar experience with a piece of fish and when questioned, I gave the server an honest answer. But then the kitchen sent a complimentary dessert which we felt obliged to eat even though we weren't really into having dessert. (after all, that's why I had ordered fish instead of steak & frites!)

                              3. I can't eat a large amount of food at once - I snack constantly throughout the day - so when I go to a restaurant and get a huge plate of something (ordering simply an appetizer gets you a strange look from a lot of servers) I almost never come close to finishing it.

                                Guaranteed 8 times out of 10 the server asks if there's a problem with the food, and I feel bad but try to assure them that it's just too big a portion.. and hope the kitchen doesn't take offense.

                                Servers seem to understand the portion thing. Now, why can't my family and in-laws appreciate this explanation? ;)

                                1. Oh god, I can remember a really embarrassing moment when the waiter asked if there was something wrong with the food. It was my first date with my now husband, and I was sick to my stomach, puke on someone's shoes, nervous!! I don't really like to be asked that, needless to say.

                                  I usually take leftovers home, even if I didn't like my dish, just because I don't want to offend the chef.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Katie Nell

                                    I don't like to be asked either. I'm one of those people who eats small portions but frequently. So I often can't finish an entree. It's one thing if the server asks inconspicuously if the food was ok. I'd be mortiified if the chef came out to talk to me about it.

                                    1. re: JennS

                                      I find the concern on the chef's part more commendable than a disinterested server or manager or chef.

                                      I would prefer to explain to the chef that the food was good, I watch my weight, and I will bring it home, if I can.

                                      I would also welcome the opportunity to share with the chef the reasons, if any, that I am unhappy with the dish, if that were the reason I did not finish it.

                                  2. not offended (chefs know that there is always someone who won't like an otherwise popular dish), but concerned-- if someone did not prefer to eat the majority of their portion, is there a quality issue? a mostly full plate sent back to the kitchen can mean the loss of a future customer, & being in the hospitality business means caring about each patron's experience-- if they disliked a certain dish, is there some other one that will please them and allow them to leave a happy customer? if it is a new dish or a special, the chef may want the direct feedback the customer has to offer. 19/20 times the customer IS pleased with the dish, but can't eat it all/can't take it away because they aren't going directly home-- to the game, the theater, their hotel room doesn't have a fridge, etc, so it's a non-issue and nobody's ego needs to be bruised. but sometimes there is a problem with the dish-- & the chef is concerned about this because the kitchen is striving for consistency in all menu dishes, & pleasing the greatest majority of customers possible.

                                    for most of these instances the server should be the go-between (ambassador) between the table & the chef-- it's a little confrontational for the chef to come out to a table when there is a quality issue, the customer may clam up/get flustered (not give accurate feedback), or be too embarrassed to return. if the server handles the situation correctly, the chef will get a direct answer about the problem w/o it being put in an offensive way, & the customer will get their dish adjusted or changed. a good server is a good ambassador, and can get his/her tables what they want without causing any waves.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                      Agreed! the chef should never come to the table if the diner hasn't liked something. My worst ever experience in a restaurant started out that way.

                                      My waiter at Le Bernardin a few years back appeared close to panic when he saw I only ate 1 of the 2 scallops on my plate. To this day, I'd love a chance to eat that fabulous scallop, but I was SOOO full. (then he brought me 2 desserts...I actually nodded off in my board meeting that afternoon)

                                      The only time I have have a problem with leaving food on the plate is on those rare occasions when a chef I have come to know sends out a little lagnaippe from the kitchen. I'll clean the plate even if I normally DON"T order a rack of lamb ribs! No way I'm letting him see a gift come back. I wouldn't have thrown away homemade cake within sight of it's baker, either.

                                    2. Even if the chef doesn't see it, the kitchen manager/ops manager should take note from a cost perspective. If nobody is consistently eating something, that is money down the drain. Or, if there is a pile of food left maybe portions should be noted.

                                      I think most folks make an effort to eat the entree part (meat, usually) and pick at the sides. This is evident in the case of the new age steakhouse - everything is ala carte. They aren't giving you a salad or baked potato if you aren't going to eat it.

                                      Personally, the only time I eat a baked potato is at a steak house - so, I miss the old fashioned places.

                                      Sorry for the long note...

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: stellamystar

                                        Oh no- I'm a side dish girl on the way! I've decided that I'm not really a good voice for barbeque on the Kansas City boards, because I don't go for the meat, I go for the sides! Oh well! Guess that means more sides for me!

                                      2. At the worst breakfast place I've ever eaten at (it's hard to mess up breakfast that bad--even McDonald's does it better), my husband and I left most of our breakfast, except a bite or two. The cook/waiter/do it all guy, who in the meantime held his hand over the coffee pot spout while he chat non-stop while we were there, told us we shouldn't feel bad because the portions were so big there that most people didn't come close to finishing. It all explained how we were the only ones there, at 9am on a weekend morning. It was all inedible and I don't think they ever cleaned their grill.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: chowser

                                          See I usually ask about portion sizes since I don't want to order something too small or too big (I'm a big appetizer as entree person). This helps avoid such confusion.

                                          1. re: Zucumber84

                                            I read chowser's note differently -- the server assumed the food came back uneaten because portion sizes were large, when in fact the diners took no more than a bite because the dish was awful. Was that incorrect?

                                            1. re: KTFoley

                                              Yes, the food was awful. The cook somehow assumed it was because he made such generous portions. I didn't know if I should have said otherwise, but this cook was definitely not offended by people not eating the food!

                                        2. Just want to mention that with the new popularity of gastric bypass operation, those who've had it still like to eat out with their friends but can only eat very small portions. Chefs or waiters should not put people on the spot that way.

                                          1. Hi, as a personal chef I will ask if anything was wrong with the food and alway look to get honest answers so I can improve the food.