HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
What's your latest food quest? Tell us about it

25 Things Chefs Hate About You

mcgeary Apr 9, 2009 06:13 AM

This made me cackle this morning, because it reads like a greatest-hits compilation of contentious threads on the "Not About Food" board:


  1. goodhealthgourmet Apr 17, 2009 11:25 AM

    ok, they posted the comparative "25 Things Diners Hate About Restaurants" today...


    most of them sound pretty reasonable to me.

    2 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet
      Caitlin McGrath Apr 17, 2009 02:32 PM

      Thread about that list: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6126...

      1. re: Caitlin McGrath
        goodhealthgourmet Apr 17, 2009 05:44 PM

        thanks Caitlin!

    2. Caralien Apr 16, 2009 07:04 PM

      RE: off the menu

      We were craving fish tacos from Nick's, but are now across the country. At a local place which does have fish made in a plethora of methods, as well as tortillas, we asked for fish tacos. We wouldn't have done this if the restaurant didn't have a fryer (or one which cooked seafood) or tortillas. And it worked.

      Seriously, if you know the menu and have a good idea of how things are from the menu, you can ask for special requests, even off the cuff. I have allergies (real) and my husband is my taster, plus I have benadryl in my pocket if there's a concern. In my experience, calling ahead works well, as does questioning the server who may have to head to the kitchen to double-check, but that's part of the 20%+ tip. If the chef has too many issues and isn't creative enough on the fly, I'd rather be asked to leave (which has never happened). Going on off nights when the place is less busy helps too, but I'm past the age of needing to be at place X during Friday or Saturday nights, and brunch is the worst time for anything, particularly on holidays.

      And yes, I've worked in fine dining, and respected restaurants even before those years.

      1. limster Apr 16, 2009 05:15 PM

        re: ordering off the menu stuff

        It really depends. Once in a while, one comes across a really talented chef with serious experience behind them. In those cases, it's not unusual for chowhounds to do some in-depth research about the cuisine the chef specialises in, and find out the signature dishes that chef may have cooked/learned at previous restaurants. Once that's established, it becomes straightforward to ask if the chef is able/willing to go above and beyond what's on his/her menu to tap into the full extent of their expertise. If the answer is yes, then arrangements for special dishes can be made in advance.

        6 Replies
        1. re: limster
          condiment Apr 16, 2009 11:26 PM

          My biggest peeve is when a restaurant famous for a particular dish refuses to make it on the occasions when it is off the menu for one reason or another, and the ingredients are clearly in the pantry.

          1. re: condiment
            limster Apr 17, 2009 03:02 AM

            It may depend on the dish in question; some dishes can take days to make.

            1. re: limster
              condiment Apr 17, 2009 07:16 PM

              I'm not. One of the examples I had in mind was spaghetti carbonara, actually, which a restaurant like the one I had in mind, which has excellent housemade guanciale, can prepare in minutes. I wouldn't expect a restaurant to keep cassoulet around in summer just in case one person a week felt like ordering it.

          2. re: limster
            chowser Apr 17, 2009 06:12 AM

            If you know a place well and it's not busy, you can get better food that way. My FIL rarely orders off the menu in a Chinese restaurant. He talks to the chef/cook and they agree on dishes. I've also known people who've brought their own lobsters to a Chinese restaurant and had it cooked. It's not something you'd do at the Inn at Little Washington but in some places, perfectly acceptable. I don't, though.

            1. re: chowser
              Frodnesor Apr 17, 2009 06:20 AM

              In Miami I've seen someone at Nobu bring in their own catch of yellowtail (in a cooler) for the kitchen to cook. They did so happily. This clearly falls into the "check ahead if it's OK" category.


              1. re: Frodnesor
                chowser Apr 17, 2009 06:27 AM

                Definitely. I can't imagine bringing in my own food and just expecting them to cook it for me. For most run of the mill restaurants, I think some of the people cooking like to be given the chance to do something different, given that they have time.

          3. l
            LPhila Apr 16, 2009 04:03 PM

            "Don’t abuse good food. High-quality steaks, burgers, and fish suffer when they’re cooked until well done. Chefs will do it for you, but it hurts them inside."

            You also get the worst possible cut. All my chef friends say the well done filet order gets the ill-shaped, dry end. I guess at well done it makes no difference anyways though...

            7 Replies
            1. re: LPhila
              BamiaWruz Apr 18, 2009 06:43 AM

              I don't think this comment can apply to all chefs, because I've had to order meat well done for my SO just so that it arrives medium - and this happened several times! I get the feeling they just want to sear up the outside and then it comes totally bloody inside if you order anything less of well done, yuck!

              1. re: BamiaWruz
                jgg13 Apr 21, 2009 10:12 AM

                I often have the opposite problem. I find that in a lot of places that I have to ask for "rare" in order to receive "medium rare". I get really annoyed if I ever get anything that's medium or beyond.

                1. re: jgg13
                  Sooeygun Apr 21, 2009 01:56 PM

                  Same here. I used to order rare, just to make sure I got MR. Of course, then you end up with a rare steak at places where they actually do know how to cook. So I got started eating and loving rare. Still get MR when ordering rare at some places and dont usually complain (depends on my perception of the skill level of the kitchen...some places, I just eat it and say, serves you right for thinking this kitchen would know how to cook a steak).

                  1. re: jgg13
                    Caralien Apr 21, 2009 03:02 PM

                    I'm with you. After having so many overcooked steaks and burgers (rare to medium rare), I've tried asking the server what is considered medium, and that seems to help 90% of the time. But as with spicy, it's relative (ie Indian-Spicy in Princeton is barely American-spicy, wheras medium 5 miles away is perfect, and I can't imagine what Indian Spicy would be there!)

                    1. re: Caralien
                      jgg13 Apr 22, 2009 08:38 AM

                      Yeah, I also hate the "how spicy do you want it?" kind of questions, unless I'm pretty familiar w/ a place. Even then it can be a pain depending on the exact people involved.

                      I used to frequent a chinese lunch truck, and they'd always ask "how spicy you want, 1 to 10?", I'd always ask for 10 which ranged from hardly anything to blow my head off and tracked pretty consistently on the person in the truck. Unfortunately, that truck wasn't rigged to go to 11 it seemed so for the lower end guys that was all I could do.

                2. re: LPhila
                  Fritter Apr 18, 2009 07:09 AM

                  "All my chef friends say the well done filet order gets the ill-shaped, dry end"

                  More often than not that is absolutely correct. Especially if the cook can butterfly the steak with the guests permission before killing it the second time. A well done fillet not butterflied takes all a loooooong time to cook.

                  1. re: Fritter
                    LPhila Apr 19, 2009 03:27 PM

                    Bamia - I stand corrected based on your comment :) I do have some favorite haunts where MR or M gets you seared extra-rare, so ya gotta know your chefs I guess!

                    Fritter - My line when I waited tables for the WD ordered steak would be "And the chef serves that butterflied to ensure that it's cooked all the way through." I was never questioned or turned down.

                    ...Just for fun, I don't mean to disparage anyone who likes or needs to order meats well-done :)

                3. jfood Apr 16, 2009 02:28 PM

                  The one that jfood also disagrees with is the no Bar Menu items at the table.

                  That sort of depends. Now jfood could understand the chef not wanting buffalo wings in the dining room, but some items on the bar menu do translate into a dining room expereince. And does the converse hold true. If jfood sat at the bar and wanted the $35 fish special, is the chef going to turn that down?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: jfood
                    Frodnesor Apr 16, 2009 03:15 PM

                    We do this often particularly with stuff for our kids, because the bar menu is often simpler foods, and have never noticed anyone even quietly grumble about it. Plus, it's good training for the kids so they're ready to hang out in bars when they're old enough.


                    1. re: Frodnesor
                      Icantread Apr 17, 2009 09:38 AM


                    2. re: jfood
                      dvsndvs Apr 16, 2009 03:22 PM

                      As a rule no, you can always get the more expensive item. But I have experienced chefs who carry the "No Bar Food" to an extreem. I was at a casual bistro with my school age children, at about six. This is a struggling place, not at all full. The chef would NOT make the burgers on the bar menu ofr the kids. The place HAD a kids menu, but the burgers weren't on it! The place has of course closed. Quelle suprise.

                    3. goodhealthgourmet Apr 15, 2009 08:24 PM

                      requesting a steak done at two different temperatures *must* be a joke, albeit a bad one.

                      looking forward to the follow-up piece - “25 Things Diners Hate About Restaurants” - they're planning to run on Friday.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                        Frodnesor Apr 16, 2009 11:30 AM

                        This is not completely absurd depending on the size of the steak and whether the requested temperatures are at least "next to each other." Bern's Steakhouse in Tampa says on the menu that they can generally accomodate two adjacent temperatures on one larger steak, and will "generally" cut a large steak if one diner, for instance, wants medium rare and the other well-done. But this is a place that encourages diners to split one larger steak instead of making multiple individual steaks and likely does a good bit of the butchery to order.

                        (go to page 11 of the pdf).


                        1. re: Frodnesor
                          LindaWhit Apr 16, 2009 12:03 PM

                          An 18-page menu. Wow.

                          But I do love the temperature/color chart on Page 10 - a 3+" steak, cooked well-done, is described as:

                          Very Thick
                          Dark Crust. No Color.
                          No Juice. Dried Out.
                          70-90 Minutes

                          LOL! Although why anyone would order a 3" thick steak is beyond me. But the description is dead-on!

                          1. re: LindaWhit
                            Veggo Apr 16, 2009 02:43 PM

                            As Frodnesor indicates, Bern's does a great job of satisfying different preferences of cookedness from the same chunk of meat. The tapered tornedo from the tenderloin is arguably the most tender portion, but is first to reach medium or well done, ( a misdemeanor crime in my eyes). I'll happily settle for rare center slices from a chateaubriand.

                            1. re: Veggo
                              LPhila Apr 16, 2009 04:02 PM

                              Two of my close food-loving friends who eat out a lot dined at Bern's a year or so ago and still swear it was transcendent and their best dining experience. I want to go!

                              1. re: LPhila
                                alwayscooking Apr 16, 2009 04:14 PM

                                Always a well executed and nicely aged steak, a strangely funky environ, and antique waiters - but the kitchen and cellar tours are da bomb.

                            2. re: LindaWhit
                              queencru Apr 17, 2009 05:31 AM

                              I think that one is not recommended too. They tend to list that on the menu in case you could possibly think that this could be a good choice. Why, I have no clue.

                            3. re: Frodnesor
                              Fritter Apr 16, 2009 04:49 PM

                              Berns has a staff of meat cutters. This is one of a small handfull of restaurants where the double temp would be ok.........
                              Just as long as my half is MR! :)

                          2. Chris VR Apr 11, 2009 05:42 AM

                            To the point

                            "Don’t sit down at a table, look at the menu, and then get up and leave. The cut-and-run point is at the door, or better yet, the Internet before you arrive."

                            I would counter to the restaurant:

                            "Don't sit me at a table, give me a menu and then ignore me for 10 minutes or more. If you do, I will get up and leave."

                            The rest of this seemed to be pretty legitimate gripes but that one is dopey, IMO.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: Chris VR
                              Fritter Apr 11, 2009 06:31 AM

                              Agreed. I have zero problem walking after being sat and have done so several times.
                              Most recently we were on the road and went into a place where the lobby was separate from the dining room. We were sat at a filthy table and as another server walked by the fish was so rancid it made me gag. I think we may have ran out of that place.
                              Being sat and ignored for an excessively long time is a good reason to walk.
                              In most cases we walk when we see something so egregiously filthy that we wouldn't eat there if they paid us.
                              The "cut and run" cut off point IMO is after you have ordered.

                              1. re: Chris VR
                                jfood Apr 16, 2009 02:25 PM

                                jfood has done this so called "cut-and-run" wherever that phrase came from a couple of times. Walk down a street, look into restaurant, looks good, sit down, nothing on the menu looks good and leavr. Is it better to stay, have a bad time, not enjoy the meal? That's a lose-lose.

                                And to thepoint of the internet. How about when the menu at the restaurant is not the same? Is that jfood's fault? These things happen.

                                1. re: jfood
                                  sommrluv Apr 16, 2009 08:58 PM

                                  I've left after being seated once, and it was embarrasing..I don't know why, but there was that stigmata about it!

                                  The restaurant was recommended well, a kitchy mexican place that DH ate at a sister site often for lunch. (very casual, the sister site) It was in a strip mall, and had no menu posted.

                                  We had been at a friends house, after fishing all morning, so docksiders, shorts, t shirts, and I'm pretty sure I had a bandana tied around my head. Not only was I not expecting the white tablecloths, but multiple tables full of fine dressed patrons. I felt like steerage being seated in first class dining on the titantic...conversation stopped...people stared, lol.

                                  After seeing that the prices on the menu more than corresponded to the atmosphere, I dropped a few dollar bills on the table for my water and we took off...probably to the relief of our waitress.

                                2. re: Chris VR
                                  MC Slim JB Apr 16, 2009 03:27 PM

                                  On very rare occasions, I've done the cut-and-run when the menu didn't meet my advance expectations (I *always* do research first): prices or dishes have changed really significantly, or the restaurant had misled me on its ability to meet my parties' allergy or preference or other requirements. I once stalked out of the Julien Room in Boston after a host phone conversation had assured me of a wide range of vegetarian options but the chef refused to offer anything but steamed vegetables.

                                  I've also walked upon getting an ominous feeling about the service in a place, e.g., it's a dinner that looks to cost me $350 for two and I get no greeting at the door, no offer to take our coats, no menus or water forthcoming for a long time after we're seated, no drink order soliciation, no visit at all for a long time, especially in a not-busy dining room, etc. If their performance 10-15 minutes in is that amateurish, and I haven't yet ordered anything, I will say, "Nope, not going to do this." Above a certain price level, they have to hit their marks right out of the gate, no flunking the ABCs. It's not really hard to tell when a place doesn't have its act together on this score, and I don't think anyone should have to pay luxury prices for less-than-sterling service.


                                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                                    grant.cook Apr 17, 2009 10:12 AM

                                    I've watched a family do it - I don't think they realized it was a fondue restaurant (in a ski town) and the kids just weren't going to be able to handle it. I think the owners were relieved..

                                  2. re: Chris VR
                                    alwayscooking Apr 16, 2009 04:20 PM

                                    I confess

                                    I've gotten up and left after being seated
                                    AND I've looked at the menu beforehand
                                    AND there hasn't really been anything wrong with the place

                                    Sometimes after I'm seated, nothing on the menu really strikes me, the atmosphere is 'off' or just not within my mood, or there are indications that all will not be right. I leave before I order and tip a bit of course.

                                    I confess - but I'm not sure which horror I've committed.

                                    1. re: alwayscooking
                                      Caralien Apr 16, 2009 06:53 PM

                                      all things considered, if the place is busy, they shouldn't mind someone leaving after being seated. It's more real estate to sell. Otherwise, they should find out why people may be leaving that table (ie it smells of rotten things). If I can't be re-seated within a reasonable amount of time...Plan B.

                                      The only times I've left after seating and being given a menu have been when the service was so off that it was clear that the service would continue to be off, regardless of the menu. It's not worth my time to sit and wait, and wait, and wait...at that point, Wendy's nuggets sound extremely satisfying and good for a laugh if one is dressed to the nines. Ditto dive bars, diners, and hole-in-the wall places.

                                  3. Icantread Apr 10, 2009 09:26 AM

                                    although it's rude, I don't disagree with leaving if you sit down and realize you're not going to enjoy the place.

                                    One timing blows, but I do not think people ever do it purposefully. And if I have to ask for more water, I think the server sort of deserves it.

                                    I think tipping on free food is a big one, and always deserves mention, since some people take it for granted so easily.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Icantread
                                      Phaedrus Apr 10, 2009 01:06 PM

                                      I know a police captain, who often gets his lunches comped by the restaurants in his district. Since that is considered a bribe, he usually tips what his meal was worth, or what he estimate its worth and ends up reporting it. I don't know if the waiter gets the tip or not but thats a pretty hefty tip.

                                    2. s
                                      soupkitten Apr 9, 2009 05:43 PM

                                      ha! omg i think i may have been part of that discussion, or maybe it was after the fact. no-brainers all, and it's amazing how far a little civility and kindness on the part of the customer can go towards getting them into the good graces of their fave restaurant. which is a nice place to be, cuz you get to try the new cookies before anybody else does, for free, and stuff.

                                      1. Fritter Apr 9, 2009 09:01 AM

                                        That's a rather odd list. As a Chef I could care less if you snap or whistle at your servers. In fact at select times I might encourage it! (hehehehe)
                                        I thought I'd seen just about every split imaginable and I've spent a fair amount of time in steak houses. I've never seen a split temp request. There isn't a lot I say NO to but that would be one.
                                        Bringing your own food is a biggie. I've had to bounce people for ordering pizza delivery in the bar.
                                        I've had to deal with some sports celebs that were a major PITA. BB players are the worst. One very famous one could not keep his hands off my girls. And then there was the day I dealt with a 6'6" football player with roid rage yelling loud enough to wake all 225 rooms at 6 am. Lets just say after that my guys never found a B'fast request for alfredo, tenderloin and eggs unusual.
                                        But there is always the fun stuff as well like room service to The Playmate of the year. (Grin)

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: Fritter
                                          Phaedrus Apr 9, 2009 10:15 AM

                                          And did she tip well?

                                          1. re: Phaedrus
                                            Fritter Apr 9, 2009 10:29 AM

                                            Temporibus inserviendum! ;)

                                            1. re: Fritter
                                              LindaWhit Apr 9, 2009 11:56 AM

                                              :-) I had to Google it, but good man, Fritter, for that response. TPTB could very well have removed any other response. :-)

                                              1. re: LindaWhit
                                                Fritter Apr 9, 2009 12:13 PM

                                                Latin translated =

                                                I'm a married spud
                                                I'm a married spud
                                                I'm a married spud


                                                1. re: Fritter
                                                  LindaWhit Apr 9, 2009 12:58 PM

                                                  ::::Snort:::: You've learned much, grasshoppah. ;-)

                                              2. re: Fritter
                                                Phaedrus Apr 9, 2009 01:26 PM

                                                OK, that just fired up my imagination.

                                          2. bayoucook Apr 9, 2009 07:02 AM

                                            I was management in the food industry for over 20 years, none of it surprises me.
                                            I got to the point of praying nightly that bufoons and cheapskates would just stay home, where they belong. Really, if you can't afford to be gracious and tip, PLEASE stay home.
                                            I had to explain hundreds of times that if we paid the servers more money (so the customers didn't have to tip), then we'd have to pass that on by raising menu and drink prices, and in so doing, the servers would have no reason to do their best job. Thankfully, most people got it.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: bayoucook
                                              hotoynoodle Apr 23, 2009 09:16 AM

                                              i've worked in fine dining many years, mostly in chef-owned restaurants. none of them really cared what the servers or bartenders were tipped. in fact, most of them truly thought the FOH staff made *too much* money anyway.

                                              there was also an unwritten rule that guests were never to be questioned about the gratuity, unless it was absurdly high.

                                            2. Phaedrus Apr 9, 2009 06:49 AM

                                              Do people ask for their soup to be split four ways? Holy crap! And the half medium rare-half well done steak is interesting, which planet are they from?

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Phaedrus
                                                ktb615 Apr 9, 2009 07:01 AM

                                                Personally I've had to split a burger four ways for tables several times, a chicken three ways for a table, and more often than you would think, I have had split requests (burgers, steaks, seafood) with different temps for each half of the split. I've never had to split a soup by more than just two portions.

                                                1. re: ktb615
                                                  LindaWhit Apr 9, 2009 07:58 AM

                                                  That is just bizarre. Phaedrus's callouts were what stuck out to me as well - the steak split temps is strange, but the soup 4 ways is even stranger. I wouldn't dream of doing either.

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit
                                                    Withnail42 Apr 10, 2009 12:22 PM

                                                    RE: the soup.

                                                    If someone and hie/her three friends are THAT cheep don't eat out...but otherwise the idea is very funny.

                                                    1. re: Withnail42
                                                      soupkitten Apr 10, 2009 05:32 PM

                                                      faced with that request, i'd ceremoniously serve the soup myself----

                                                      i'd put on a clean jacket and put *one* bowl of soup on a cloth napkin-draped coffee tray (the smallest size round one). i'd put the bowl of soup down in the center of the table. then, with a flourish, i'd pull out 4 straws!

                                                      i'd curtsy slightly, murmur "bon appetit". . . and hopefully make it past the kitchen door before ROTFL ;-)

                                                      1. re: soupkitten
                                                        sommrluv Apr 16, 2009 08:51 PM

                                                        I love this, because all I could think when I read that was, have they never thought of using two spoons?

                                                        I'm the type of person who eats soup, gets full, and than two bites of my entree. However, I enjoy a good soup and why skip it if I like it? That's what my little foil swan is for -- the rest of my dinner!

                                                        I would never ask for a smaller portion than offered of soup! I'll often pass it over to someone at my table after eating half...is that such a social faux pas?

                                                2. re: Phaedrus
                                                  jfood Apr 16, 2009 02:21 PM

                                                  Jfood thinks the steak comment should go both ways. He was once told at Abe & Louie's in Boston that the only steak that the chef on duty that night could cook medium rare all the way was the boneless sirloin.

                                                Show Hidden Posts