Tipping the Kitchen Staff
Is is okay to tip the kitchen staff by sending a bottle of wine back there?
If so, how does one go about it? And how do I find out what they like? Has anyone else done this?
I go to this one very nice place twice a year and want to show my appreciation to the wonderful work they do with the owner's cuisine.
Absolutely OK. Are you thinking of bringing in a gift or sending them something from the list? A round of beers might be even better, but I wouldn't send shots of tequila unless I really knew them well. Do you know how many kitchen staff this restaurant has? If its pretty small it might be 4 or 5 but if it's a big place there could be 10 or more and you may want to consider two bottles or a 12 pack or case of really good beer.
A round of beers? Is this really Okay with powers that be? I think I am a babe-in-the-woods when it comes to certain things, but that babe is saying: maybe not good to drink on the job (yep, I've read all the Bourdain stuff; still...) I know none of my bosses would have been happy to see me imbibing while working.
Maybe a gift delivered outside of working hours? Something for after closing. Tell us, o-those-in-the-know, if this round of drinks to the staff is really smiled upon, or if it's a bad policy for making a restaurant work well.
I work in a kitchen in Portland, OR. This is also for ny.foodie, (and everybody else reading along). We taste wines/beers to work with food pairings, but that is about the extent of our alcohol consumption during work. If we want a drink after work, we have to go to the bar and buy it.
Gifts of alcohol for the kitchen staff can be problematic for one simple reason: Not everybody in the kitchen may be of legal drinking age. If the underaged partake of the gift, then the establishment's liquor license can be in jeopardy. If everybody but the underaged are drinking, then the kids feel left out, which is bad for morale, especially when everybody needs to feel that they are part of the team.
A bottle of wine is an incredibly nice gesture, and I'm not going to suggest that you don't send one back. Just realize that some of those that are being thanked may not be able to enjoy it. How about high octane energy drinks? We live off of those things these days :)
As your concern is well taken, and understandable, if there is a kitchen employee who is underage he/she should be able to enjoy such a gesture! I don't think the liquor license control is playing "big brother" with a secret camera within the kitchen! I'll make a toast to all those under agers!
I have actually gone up to the chef (open kitchen) and handed her money to split with the staff. She was in total shock, didn't want to accept it, but did for the staff. She seemed very, very overwhelmed by it.
One chef told me once that the biggest thanks he ever got was when a table of 6 approached the line and began to applaud. "One of the greatest nights ever".
Andy and melly, I like what you have to say: energy drinks, cash, and applause (and NO, no tongue in cheek here!). I guess the point the aforementioned posters made is finding out what would actually make the whole kitchen happy. (Good point, Andy, about the ages in the kitchen - we forget that at at times.) melly's approach with a kitchen-specific tip is nice, IMHO. And applause is always good, even if it's metaphoric - "tell the kitchen this is great." Still. if you're a regular (a REAL regular), a nice spiff would be appropriate.
And, some energy drinks!
Every kitchen I have ever worked in would love to get a round of cold beers sent to them. They may have to wait until the last dinner has been sent out, but maybe not! Kitchens are REALLY hot sometimes and nothings better at the end of a busy night! When there have been underagers working, we would just give them a "special" nonalc drink if everyone else had a beer. No big deal.
I have also had a table (several times) send back a glass of wine - liked that, too!
What the heck -- don't just tip 'em, knock 'em all the way over!
Having been a chef, I love the idea of the round of applause! It's crazy busy back there, and a bottle of wine or beer not only has the aformentioned age related problems, but by the time they get to it it it may have lost some of it's immediacy. And when to drink it? After the kitchen is closed but before clean-up? Not a good idea. After people are ready to go? Some people hang out and others are ready to run. The applause will raise eveyones' spirits, from the diners themselves to the other diners to the whole staff. If you're really lucky a reviewer will be there and it will make the review!
One thing I always appreciated was a hand written note. The server can give it to a manager or owner, so it has the added impact of impressing them as well. They often get posted, extending the impact.
Thanks for the tips (no pun indeeded). I went with Melly's suggestion. I left a monitary tip for the kitchen crew. (There were 12 back there). We had different people from chefs to managers coming to our table to thank us.
Since the kitchen is kind of part of the bar/restaurant area, we were too shy to do the applause thing. (group of 4 in our party) I did want to though, but got cold feet.
Not only that, they got the world renowned big time popular chef to come out as well. I almost died.