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Feb 6, 2014 06:05 PM

El ideas chef "gift"?

Going to El in March with another foodie couple. Really looking forward to the experience! Would like to bring something for the chefs that expresses our appreciation and respect for their work. Any suggestions?


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  1. If anyone in your party is travelling between now and then, an ingredient of some sort that is not available in your area. However, IME it is not typical, or expected, for customers to give gifts to chefs.

    7 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      TOTALLY agree. Afterwards a handwritten note would be the best thank you. So few people seem to make the effort any more.

      1. re: c oliver

        Just out of curiosity, how would the note hand-over work? Just hand it to them afterwards?
        I'm not disagreeing with you in any way! I think it's a great idea. I just don't know the etiquette for such an exchange.

        Or maybe I'm just an awkward individual :)

        1. re: Ausconsin

          Oh sorry. I was thinking in terms of mailing! You know, like that whole stamp thing :) (Something we rarely do!)

          1. re: Ausconsin

            One of the cool things about El Ideas is that they invite the diners to join the chef and the kitchen staff into the open kitchen to talk, ask questions, and occasionally to lend a hand (I got to plate one course).

            There would be ample opportunity for a personal thank you or to give the chef your note at that time.

          2. re: c oliver

            That is very true. Restaurants/chefs always appreciate a note of thanks the old fashioned way. I do this most of the time and I hear back that they read the note to staff and it is always nice if you remember certain names that made an impression upon you. For favorite restaurants that we go to frequently I find out what type of pets they have and if there are any food allergies and either make them treats or send on a toy for their pet at Christmastime.

            1. re: manomin

              The pet idea is a GREAT one! Thanks for that inspiration.

              1. re: c oliver

                You're welcome! So far I've made treats for dogs, cats, birds and rabbits! Chefs are always just so amazed and appreciative that someone thinks of their pets who often have quality time in smaller doses or see mostly other family members than the chef themselves. I've also made wine cork wreaths for restaurants which they like either for the restaurant itself or their offices. Once I did a painting of a signature hole at a country club that I know a certain chef is a member of for his 50th birthday.

        2. I think the intention is being misunderstood. According to the El site, and prior postings from those who have been, the chefs appreciate an offering, such as bourbon,craft beer, wine, etc. Was looking for thoughts from those who have eaten there.


          11 Replies
          1. re: tboner6


            Yikes! If I've ever seen anything tackier, I can't remember.

            1. re: tboner6

              It's your call but my feeling is that they are being well-compensated by payment for the meal plus tip, especially given the lack of front-of-the-house staff. I just don't get the need to provide a gift to strangers who run a commercial establishment. As between the booze and a bigger tip, I bet they'd prefer the latter.

              1. re: tboner6

                Really good Scotch. That is the answer and it's not tacky at all. But it has to be REALLY good Scotch, not some $20 bottle.

                1. re: mrsdebdav

                  Why is that not tacky? I guess I live in a different world.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    A gift is not necessary, yet is appreciated from anyone so inclined. This is a relatively new trend in dining by which the patrons and the staff interact. Think of it as the $20 handshake for the maitre d in the 1960's or 70's. For some people it is fun, and for others it is not. There are people who bring the equivalent of a hostess gift for staff, and some restaurants, such as The Publican, include it as an option on the menu. We brought bourbon for the kitchen staff at El Ideas, because we knew they like it and I'm from Kentucky, along with some chocolate for the reservationist who squeezed us in on short notice for my husband's birthday. And just to clarify, based on the statement regarding the "lack of the front-of-the-house-staff", Bill did an outstanding job when we were there, and the kitchen staff served the majority of the food, so it is far from a self-service restaurant. Yes, there is the option for patrons to serve, but it is not expected. Our baseline tip for decent service is 20%, and for special meals with outstanding service we have added $20-100 on top of that. Through that lens, a $40 bottle of whiskey is not costly or tacky (except for the part of me that was trained as a restaurant server to "never assume a tip"), just more creative and personal.

                      1. re: GourmetWednesday

                        I did not mean to suggest it was a self serve resto. When we were there the service was excellent, within context. Water glasses were always full, etc. I just meant that there is not a large number of employees whose sole role was to wait upon customers. We left a tip of 20%, which along with the price of the meal, seemed to me to be fair compensation for the meal. To me, I find it odd to treat a commercial transaction as though it were a gathering of friends even in the admittedly free-wheeling atmosphere of El Ideas. If we were regulars and actually developed a personal relationship with Chef Foss, then perhaps I would bring a gift.

                        1. re: masha

                          A "gift", maybe, if the customer feels like it. But not before ever eating there! That would be like tipping your server before ordering your meal.

                          A bribe - like the $20 in the maitre d's hand mentioned above - never.

                          1. re: chowyadoin99

                            Really, you've never tipped a host or given a gift before an interaction. Clearly you've never been treated to anything special. I once brought a bottle of whiskey to a wine tasting appointment once and that 2 hour appt turned into a 4 hour plus tour and tasting of the winemaker's personal stash and cheeses. Best $40 I ever spent.

                            1. re: jbontario

                              *I* never have. I don't bribe but it's fine if others do. Just not how I was brought up. I don't chew gum either :)

                          2. re: masha

                            I am 2nd-guessing my views on bringing a "gift" to the El Ideas staff as I just learned that they have moved away from a tip model to a set 18% upfront service charge.

                            The info that I just received (while confirming a reservation) states that: "We moved to a service charge model because the current tip law does not allow our culinary team, who serve our guests, to participate in a tip pool." So this suggests that it is not possible to provide a supplemental tip, to be pooled among the staff, above the 18% set service charge. Under those circumstances, bringing a consumable gift that can be enjoyed by the staff may be appropriate.