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"Thank you, chef"

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We were dining at a restaurant (tasting menu $80), and the dishes were being served by waiters, with occasional assistance by men in chef's coats (not the star chef). At the table next to us, whenever the men in chef's coats would serve, the customers would respond with "Thank you, chef" as opposed to simply "Thank you". This sounded a bit odd to me. Then, I realized it was because the only time I'd heard this before was on Hell's Kitchen, when the contestants were being ripped a new one by Gordon Ramsay.

Is it customary in higher end restaurants to say "Thank you, chef" when being served by the/a chef ?

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  1. Well, it's not customary in my part of the world for chefs to serve food. That's a server's job.

    But even if they did, then I certainly wouldnt address them as "chef". It is a job title not a formality - except in some kitchens where the word is used to address the chef - whereas in other employment situations you might address your manager as "boss", "sir", "John", "Ms Harters", whatever. I'm a paying customer so don't have to conform to such practices. A simple "thanks" is fine - more is pretentious, IMO.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      I disagree. A proper greeting to a chef would include the world 'Chef'. A matter of respect to his position. Possibly no too unlike saying Mr. President.

      1. re: DallasDude

        But every cook in the kitchen isn't the "chef" . . . Chef just means Chief. The head person is the Chef. Anyway, it's kind of lame. If you're talking to a bank vice-president, you don't say thanks, vice-president. The whole chef thing is over the top. And why do these serving cooks deserve any more respect than the servers?

        1. re: DallasDude

          Huh...do you say thank you barber, thank you gas attendent, thank you bank teller.

          A simple thank you very much is perfectly proper.

          1. re: DallasDude

            "Possibly no too unlike saying Mr. President"

            Or possibly not.

            If the person is a head of state - a president of a country - it may be expected, although I don't know if other forms of address might be usual in particular countries. .

            If the person is president of a commercial organisation, charity or other body, then plain old Mister will probably do until we get on first name terms.

            1. re: DallasDude

              Did you just compare chef to president?

              1. re: joonjoon

                I hope he was kidding.

          2. Rolls eyes... they watch WAY too much TV. I would have just said "thank you" I do not get a "Thank you bartender" when I serve a drink, and I did not get a "thank you manager" when I gave one either. What next? Thank you grocery bagger who did not squish my bread with a jar of olives?

            1. It sounds as if the diners simply intended to show respect. It isn't unusual to include reference to a person's title in many professions, for example "Thank you, professor (alt. counsel, nurse, doctor, officer, judge)." It is a little different, and probably based off t.v. impressions, but if they meant well, what's the harm?

              EDITED: I don't mean to imply OP thought there was anything wrong with the co-diners' statements.

              1. I always feel somewhat embarrassed when customers do that... people who do that generally take the whole chef thing too far and have twisted notions of the profession. On the other hand, I guess it's better than being treated as second class citizens.

                1. Was the comment followed up with: " And you plated that protein especially well!'? I agree with gryphonskeeper -- way too much TV.

                  1. "Sir chef."

                    1. As someone involved in the restaurant business, I've addressed people as "chef" before out of professional courtesy.

                      This assumes that the recipient's achievements in his/her profession are remarkable.

                      1. I think it must be too much food-related TV. But when I met Hubert Keller I did that. It just came out; I didn't think about it. He didn't roll his eyes. In fact, he was lovely.

                        I used to work for the Governor of Kansas. He would not have objected if I had called him by his first name, but I always called him "Governor". Like medical staffs say "doctor."

                        1. Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode, where Kramer's friend insists on everyone calling him 'Maestro', because he conducts a local civic orchestra. Since then, I've insisted that my wife calls me 'Champ' at least once per week.

                          1. Addressing someone as "chef" is a custom that belongs in the kitchen, and is intended to establish a hierarchy among the people cooking, and indicate respect for the person in charge. I've always found it interesting that in Thomas Keller's restaurants EVERYONE is referred to as "chef," in an effort to reduce ego and imply that each person is an important part of the team.

                            In no way does this extend to the dining room. Customers should no more say "thank you, chef" than they should "thank you, waiter" or "thank you, bus boy." Anyone doing that has watched way too much food TV, as noted above.