I understand my role as a chef is to make people happy, and take that role very seriously, but sometimes feel my hands are tied when a request comes back to the kitchen to alter a dish in some way. Food allergies, I understand. Picky eaters, let me offer some advice.

I am a professional. I cook food for a living. In the same way that you trust your car to a mechanic and your teeth to a dentist, consider putting your palette under my protection. By sitting at my table, you are driving up to the bay and saying, “Can you take care of it for me?”

That’s why we’re in business.

We believe you want to be taken care of, or you would have chosen to go elsewhere, or to cook for yourself. But dining out is an act of indulgence that involves more that just tying on the feedbag and waddling out the door muttering something like, “Geez, I can’t believe I ate so much!” Allow it to appeal to something more than just getting stuffed.

Last week a ticket arrived in the kitchen for the pasta entree without meat. We assembled it accordingly, sent it out, only to have the server return saying the customer thought it was bland. Yes, probably so, because the theme of the dish was altered in a way that took out a significant flavor component. I can and will stand by my dishes as I designed them, and if I fail to please, I take the hit and consider how I missed the mark. But if the customer tries to change the game plan, I can’t always guarantee the outcome. It’s like telling my mechanic to change the oil, but asking if he can substitute half the really expensive stuff with the cheapo kind. He might look at me kind of funny.

Consider the pot roast dish we designed last night. We put a lot of thought into making all the traditional flavors work together in a creative, cohesive unit; Beef, carrots, celery, onion, and potato. Serve the carrots as a sauce instead of whole, use celery leaf powder to lend a bold aromatic element (akin to what dry hopping does to ale), present a seared, braised leek for the onion, and a thinly sliced, layered potato cube to complete. If someone asks if we can leave off the carrots, there goes one-fifth of the dish.

If you will, allow me and my kitchen staff to address your culinary hindrances. Let us be your gastronomic psychologist, to guide you beyond your aversion to asparagus or why beets make you queasy. Trust us as food pilots to transport you to places you would not go on your own, but you’ll be glad to know you arrived safe and sound and already look forward to the next trip. And if after trying, you really just can’t go there, we’ll understand.

We’ll set the table; you bring the conversation. It’s more than a slogan.

A Word About Substitutions