My vegetarian "Balsamic Egg" @ Melisse, with balsamic caramelized onions instead of the usual caviar
Why am I not surprised that a little twitter debate about foodservice turn into something like this?
Might as well take this straight into Godwin territory since I've been pondering on the idea of "(food) Nazis" for awhile and their "my way or the highway" idea of serving dishes, sooner giving potential patrons the boot rather than swap or omit an ingredient. And the diners who love them . . . are they devout believers in the chef's unwavering culinary vision? Or masochist flocks of sheep idly following whereever the sheperd leads them?
Like my views on most other things, I'm in shades of gray for this matter. Even when I was working in the foodservice biz, I don't subscribe to the "customer is always right" mindset (esp. when I was @ a coffee bar and people kept expecting me to make drinks just like S***bucks... a standard macchiato is not a mostly-milk and caramel-ladened beverage! RAWR! But I digress...) But on the other end of the spectrum, the notion of unilaterally refusing all spec requests just feels wrong--especially for an industry based on the idea of hospitality (rather than hostility.)
I'm not one who typically make special requests when I dine out (the vegetarian egg on top was a standard @ Melisse's meatless tasting menu,) but it just irks me to have that option taken away (something akin to how pro-choicers aren't actively seeking abortions.) And people who love (food) Nazis typically reply "if you can't deal with having it the chef's way, then don't go" and honestly, I'm disinclined to head to those places. But I just feel sad for all the first-time patrons who, not having done a little homework beforehand, get bluntly rebuked and then are saddled with ordering something less-than-ideal for them or having to find another place to eat at.
I get it took considerable R&D for the chef to create their dishes to be enjoyed as is and that spec. requests at the very least throws an annoying wrench into the cadence of things. I also get the "trust me" concept and have a certain admiration for a chef's ballsiness in doing that, but I also see trust as a two way street. Just like how diners are trusting the restaurant staff to prepare something delicious, why can't the staff occasionally trust a customer's deviant personal taste and honor their request to have something subsituted/taken out? Especially when it's something as simple as holding the pickle on the burger or for the dressing come on the side--and not as absurd as ordering a BLT but swap the bacon out for --- (yes, another WTF? order I'd gotten while working @ a sandwich/salad joint.)
There are varying degrees of appropriateness for switches and scraps, I'm not for catering to a picky eater's every whim, but not universally denying all requests either.
Despite pulling out racist card, Midtown Lunch does make an interesting analogy between chefs and artists . . .
. . . to which I rebut
because operating a restaurant is more akin to a live performance - with different & everchanging audience, vibe, etc. - and not just a one-off recording of a song or molding of a sculpture.
But at the end of the day, it is what it is -- given the great diversity of food scene here in LA, there's something to cater to every whim (or lack thereof.) Truly finicky diners who can't stop customizing everything they order can go to the likes of the have-it-your-way establishments, and (food) Nazis will still have their fanbases who are willing take it however it's dished out. And while I don't often dine @ places falling in either extreme of that spectrum, I'm definitely a lot more cautious before checking out places falling in the latter.
AND--having said all that, curious to see how everyone feels about the (food) Nazi phenomenon . . .