Tipping the Chef
Someone had mentioned to me that they've actually dined at restaurants where someone from their dining party asked for a visit from the chef and actually handed them a tip. I've never heard of that happening before. Did I miss something in the tipping world?
ime not generally appropriate. sometimes the chef is also the owner, and in that case it's actually a faux pas on the part of the would-be tipper. if a customer wants to show appreciation for a chef, the best thing is repeated & loyal patronage to the restaurant (ensuring business, if the chef is the owner, or continued employment, if s/he is not).
sometimes it can be appropriate for a customer to express appreciation for the chef's abilities by "buying her/him a drink" at the end of the meal-- this is arranged through the restaurant management, and the waitstaff & barstaff: the chef's preferred libation is charged to the customer's bill, and the chef drinks the beer, or the cocktail, or the $70 scotch (careful, some chefs have expensive preferences!) or whatever at the end of her/his shift, with the customer's complements.
if a chef is performing some sort of special service, or acting as a personal chef, outside of a restaurant, then a tip may be appropriate. if the chef makes a special meal/menu or caters an event *within* the restaurant, a thank-you card/gift to the chef are more appropriate, with generous tips to non-chef staff members. sushi chefs are an obvious exception to the general rules on tipping the chef.
Finally, SK, something I disagree with you about! Don't worry, it only makes me appreciate you more.
As a chef/owner I'll admit I'm in this business for love -- but if I don't make enough money to pay the rent, keep my employees happy and bribe the health inspector (KIDDING about that last one), I'm not going to stay in business long. While I agree about the "repeated and loyal patronage" I must disagree that a tip to the chef/owner is in any way a faux pas.
Now, that being said, if a customer comes into the kitchen and tips me, say a hundred bucks, I'm not going to hold back a cent of it (even if the electric bill is overdue). It goes to my kitchen crew, with maybe a little extra for the guy or gal in the dishpit (they work hard for their money, people, and NO ONE ever thinks to tip them). If it's the odd ten or twenty, then it's much appreciated and goes into the general fund (we call it "bail money" though we've been fortunate never to have to use it for that) and if a staff member has medical bills or needs to fly home for a family crisis or we all just want to use it to hang out and have a party, then that's where it goes.
The only case in which I'll accept a tip for myself is when I'm doing off-site work and I'm on my own or with one server. If the server has recieved a tip equivalent to mine (I always ask) then I keep quiet about my windfall and accept it. If they haven't gotten anything, then the full tip is theirs. If there's a discrepancy, I make it at the very least even. If I'm on my own, I take it all and determine that the next time I work for that client I will devote all of my attention to blowing their minds with the food, cleaning their kitchen, charming their kids and doing whatever I can to make sure that they call me again.
As the cook (not the chef) I was actually once tipped with a 5 dollar bill. Very strange and irregular but appreciated nonetheless.
If you've had an exceptional meal, I'm all for tipping the cooks, as it's their labor (and sometimes sweat) that yer tasting. Not that a cocktail wouldn't be enjoyed, but dollars more so. As a reformed line cook, the couple of extra $$ sent back to the kitchen to thank the cooks for a extraodinary meal meant more to me than it did to the front of the house staff that was making twice my income for half the exertion and time.
I have from time to time left a bottle of high end Oregon Pinot Noir for our club chef, we are talking $80-90 range. This is a bottle that is sold out and unavailable, even if he wanted to pay that much. I know it is appreciated.
Around Christmas I usually put a $50 in an envelope and sent it back to the cook at a local Tavern that I frequent for lunch. Last year she came out and was almost crying.
jeez duck, nice but I'm not sure I'd want to see her reaction. (modesty obliges)
but then there'll be no spitting in your food (to hijack the name of a concurrent vile thread).
correct me if I'm wrong, but in the US servers don't really know what they're going to make that shift and have to deal with things like "I don't like the shape of this fork" or "my napkin's the wrong size" or "I know I said well done, but everybody knows I mean quite rare".
I'm sure there are inequities all around, but I don't think I'd tip unless I was a regular and knew the set-up and it was consistently great.
Owner/chef - no, if it could be kitchen staff specific - sure.
although, if done discreetly (your companions don't see and it wasn't for show...) no harm done. lagniappe/manna/expressed appreciation is always fun.