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Sending food back to the kitchen [moved from Boston board]

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[NOTE: We moved this from a thread at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/682670 -- The Chowhound Team ]

"I am not the type to send food back and did not say anything"... quite frankly, as a cook (who has nothing to do with this restaurant), this frustrates the hell out of me. Have you ever been asked to fix or redo something at work? How would you have felt if rather than someone pointing out your mistake and asking you to fix it, they told you that you did a great job to your face, then posted everything they felt that you did wrong (and just in general what an awful job they thought you did) in a forum on the internet that people actually read? Let alone one that other people would use when deciding whether or not to trust your professional services.
Also, not trying to be a jerk but black truffles from Europe are in season right now.

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  1. I have friends from 2 different ethnicities who strongly encourage me NEVER to send food back to the kitchen when eating at restaurants of their ethnicities. This isn't a case of one friend from each ethnicity either - it's multiple friends of each ethnicity.

    6 Replies
    1. re: dump123456789

      To which ethnicities are you referring? It sure sounds like your friends have a pretty low opinion of their fellow race members. It could be a cultural thing (which I doubt) that is most certainly not shared by the majority of the people on the planet.

      99% of these misinformed opinions come from urban legends or stories of friends of theirs that worked in restaurants when they were pissed off little teenagers. Regardless of the ethnicity, if you're in a crap restaurant where they hire people who don't want to cook and don't really care what they serve, sending a dish back probably won't yield better results even if they don't mess with it. If you're in a restaurant where they hire good cooks who want to be there and have a professional reputation to consider, doing something stupid like messing with a customer's food could be a gigantic blow to your career.

      In a fine dining restaurant such as Erbaluce in Boston (which this thread was referring to before it got moved), if someone was found to be doing something shady to the food, that cook would be hitting the sidewalk before the food ever hit the plate.

      1. re: muscles_marinara

        I'm with MM on this. If you respect a restaurant (and the poster on Erbaluce certainly liked lots of things about his meal) you should let them know when they've screwed up. I dont mean when you don't like something that you decided to try (it's nobody's fault if you want to try sea urchins or tripe and you hate them). I mean when the veal is dry, the dish doesn't have the promised vegetables, the food is off. If the restaurant doesn't want to know and the staff isn't trained to properly convey concerns to the kitchen, that's a sign the restaurant is not worth giving your dollars to. But a good restaurant wants to know and deserves your honest feedback (including telling them when something knocks your socks off).

        1. re: muscles_marinara

          The restaurants my friends are referring to are not at a caliber of Erbaluce (based on their website). My friends come from ethnicities in which most restaurants are of the paper napkin, plastic/Ikea chair variety. And while they may be simply passing on urban legends, I have no desire to test the veracity when I'm in a place where, from the dining area, I can hear the cook yelling at the busboy in the kitchen.

          And as far as how many people in the world share this "cultural thing", the two ethnicities combined total a significant portion of the world's population.

          Now, if I was in a place like Erbaluce, I would definitely let it be known if there was something wrong with my food. But, since I'm not a nitpicky diner, and places like that usually are on the ball, I haven't had to do this in quite a few years. The only places I've wanted to send food back are also places where that might not be such a good idea.

          1. re: dump123456789

            Your friends are either horribly misinformed, or they're just pulling your leg.

            Also, how many of these people from unnamed ethnicities are currently professional cooks? Would you trust any random american to discuss the happenings behind the swinging doors in any american restaurant simply because they're american? For example, you cite that the busboy getting yelled at is a good indicator of a low quality restaurant. Hate to say it, but damn near *everybody* gets yelled at in a restaurant periodically... probably more often in the higher quality restaurants because there's more important little details to mess up. It's a high stress environment and tempers flare. The fact that you can hear them is a *service* issue and has nothing to do with the quality of the people behind the doors or the quality of the food that comes through them.

            To imply that there is some sort of built-in cultural property dictating that any sent back food shall be messed with it completely absurd. High quality passionate cooks, conscientious chefs and concerned restaurant owners come from every ethnicity we've got in our species. I've worked in kitchens with people from just about every major nationality you could think of and they've all had the same high level of standards, because they've cared about what they've done. If it's a crap restaurant, they hire crap people (and that's usually why it's a crap restaurant to begin with). I wouldn't go to some dive greasy spoon and send back my burger because it was medium instead of medium rare. There are large percentage more greasy spoon restaurants in this country than fine dining restaurants. That certainly doesn't mean I'm about to say "Never send back food in an american restaurant".

            Why won't you say what the ethnicities are? I guarantee that I could come up with examples that would blow this theory out of the water in exactly 30 seconds.

            1. re: muscles_marinara

              While your cultural sensitivity is noted, what you're saying is also pretty consistent with what I said that you're disagreeing with.

              Most of the restaurants that my friends are referring to fall into a classification not far above your greasy spoon example. You wouldn't send food back at your greasy spoon places, and neither would my friends at their places. If there were more restaurants of their ethnicity (in the US) at the level of Erbaluce, they'd probably be less hesitant to send food back there.

              The reference to yelling in the kitchen is not to imply that it doesn't happen in fine dining places; just that they go to the effort to buffer the diners from it, because there's a certain attitude towards diners and the dining experience in that kind of place, which I expect would be reflected elsewhere in their operation as well. In a restaurant where they have no qualms about subjecting the diners to yelling, I would have questions about their outlook on other issues as well. You view it as strictly a service issue; I view it more holistically. (I've written before about avoiding restaurants because the proprietors were involved in some extreme political theatrics. You'd probably have no problems patronizing them; I do.)

              And the reason why I won't name the ethnicities is exactly your last paragraph above. I'm not interested in tarring and feathering all restaurants of those ethnicities, and I'm not interested in getting into a "flame war". I'm well aware that not every restaurant of a certain type is the same, so not surprisingly, there will be counterexamples and exceptions. That neither proves nor disproves anything, since I never made a universal claim about anything. I'm simply relaying comments they share when they are primarily around others of their own background. (In general, there is information people will only share with others of a similar background, and which they will withhold or deny in "mixed" company.)

              1. re: dump123456789

                i have no clue what "ethnicity" has to do with any of this.