Chefs are notorious for flying off the handle when it comes to criticism and rejection. It’s partly due to the fact that it takes vulnerability to cook food and set it in front of a customer. It’s the same feeling I got as a child in 4H club, entering a piece in the woodcraft category at the county fair. I wanted to return to the exhibit hall and see a blue ribbon on my entry, not a pink or white one, which was just an acknowledgment of participation. I wanted to know that the judges thought I did a good job.
And do we ever grow out of it? Of course not.
It’s simple human nature; we all want to be liked for who we are and what we do. If you like what we do, then you must like us, and that acceptance feels very, very good. This is important to understand; else we will make someone pay for our experience of unfound validation.
I put some things on our menu that are uncommon. From time to time you’ll see items such as rabbit, quail, chicken liver, and pork heart interspersed among the more recognizable beef, pork and chicken dishes. I don’t expect everyone to accept them all because everyone has a different palette. A woman once told me she abhorred goat cheese because of the smell of it that she remembered as a child. I can accept that. Those memories run deep. They represent preferences, of which I want to be aware.
When I set something in front of you, I need to be mindful of its quality as well as your preference. Did you reject the dish because it grossed you out, or because we cooked it poorly? If you are not pleased, we’ve not done our job, regardless of what we serve you.
If you’ve eaten at my restaurant, especially in the evening, you’ve probably seen me wander out of the kitchen and into the dining area to survey your reaction. I do this because I want to know if we are hitting the mark or not. And that mark is your satisfaction and happiness. I realize it’s sometimes awkward to have someone interrupt your meal to ask, “How is everything?” It’s not easy to say what you really feel in that moment, especially if the food or experience is subpar, but I invite you to let us know what you think. I really want to know if you are pleased or not.
When we catch the mistakes we’ve made, we can correct them on the spot. Recently we had a temperature error on an entrée, resulting in a delay of service; I took care of the customer personally. He thanked me and said ours is his favorite restaurant in town. I told him I want to keep it that way.