Thursday, November 08, 2007

Confessions of a restaurant guy

"Savor" is the name of the section of the Wednesday edition of the News and Record that used to be the "Food" section. I guess that "Savor" gives the news and recipes a little more class. As a restaurant guy, I read that section every week. It's like watching a wreck, you don't want to watch, but you do anyway.

I am always fascinated by the stories about restaurants in the area. Next to restaurant reviews, I hate those stories the most.

Ken Blitchington, "my only friend", tells me that I'm a pretty picky eater for a restaurant guy. He may be right. After 37 years in the restaurant business, I can finally admit it, I hate to go out for dinner.

Right now, you are probably asking yourself, "Is he crazy?". I guess that you missed the name of the blog. For me, going out to eat is like going to work. After watching my employees at work all day, I now get to pay to watch someone else's employees.

One of my pet peeves is waiters or waitresses who come to the table and introduce themselves. We have all heard it. " Hi! I'm Sally and I'll be taking care of you tonight." First thought, at my age, if an attractive woman comes up and tells me that she is "taking care of me tonight", food is not the first thing that comes to mind. Second thought, having erased my first thought and realizing that "Sally" is speaking of my dining experience, is she doing everything? Is she taking care of the dishes, the restrooms, cooking the food, cleaning up, and everything else associated with my dining experience? Of course not, she's just taking the credit. If you complain about something, she will quickly point out that someone else caused that.

Last week my wife and I were eating lunch at the Red Lobster in Williamsburg and heard a variation on the introduction. The waiter introduced himself and then said "I'll be taking excellent care of you today." I fought off the urge to tell him that the quality judgement was mine to make, and even passed up calling him a liar on the way out.

The cure for this introduction is to do as I have done when dining out on my son's birthday. After the waiter finishes his introduction, do your own. " I'm Gilbert, that is William, that is Walter, this is my wife, Susan. We will be your customers tonight." Once your family starts speaking to you again, it is pretty funny.

Water. Since the diabetes came, all I drink at dinner is water. Have you tried to get a glass of water at a restaurant lately? I don't want lemon with my water. If I had wanted low grade lemonade, I would have ordered it. You have to tell them that you DON'T want lemon, just ordering "water" isn't enough.

Napkins. Why do waiters and waitresses keep making a big deal out of you bringing you "extra napkins"? The real story is that the manager is telling them not to do it but they think that giving out extra napkins enhances their tip. Yes, I am sure to leave an extra tip for the waiter who believes that I am such a slob that I can't get by with only one napkin. Maybe, I'll just drool all over the tip next time to show my appreciation.

Fads. Remember the pepper mills of the 1970's and the 1980's? When your meal was served, some guy came by with a pepper mill the size of a bazooka and asked, "Would you like some fresh ground pepper on that?" Most people were afraid of being assaulted with the pepper mill and consented. I was content to ask, "Do you just have a pepper shaker that I can use?" Now they have added salt mills that grind out sea salt or some such shit.

But my big complaint about restaurants today and the articles in "Savor" is the amount of bullshit that you must decipher to find out what they are serving. Let me break it down for you. I would rather eat a chili dog and some greasy onion rings at the Varsity in Atlanta than sit in a yuppie-filled restaurant and listen to some pretentious bastard introduce himself, and then tell me how all the subtle flavors in the wine accentuate the flavors infused into the organic food, grown lovingly by some peasant in the nearby countryside, delivered fresh daily, in an environmentally friendly vehicle, and prepared with an array of fresh herbs by the chef, who bases all of his cooking on recipes passed down in his family since they catered the barbecue of Joan D'Arc. Frankly, I don't give a rat's ass how they do it in France.

I don't care about the lineage of my meal and how it was treated before it arrived on my plate. I don't care if it was brought to the restaurant by handcart or by a smoke-belching 1953 Mack truck. I don't care about how the people live where it was grown or what kind of shoes they wore to stomp the grapes in my wife's glass of wine. I don't care if it is environmentally friendly or if serving twelve more like it will bring on Armageddon. My only real concerns are "Does it contain green peas, cheese, or olives?" and "How much does it cost?".

Tips for chefs. Don't waste a lot of time decorating the plate. I'm here to eat, not take pictures of your finger painting my food with the sauce of the day. All I really need on my plate is a slab of meat and enough vegetable matter to make my wife think that I am trying to eat a "balanced" meal. By the way, quit talking about "root" vegetables like it's new information. I'm from North Carolina, I know what part of the plant that I'm eating. I'm a carnivore. I didn't climb to the top of the food chain to eat herbs and a few vegetables. My primal urge to hunt and kill needs to be satisfied with a hunk of something that had to be killed to get it to the table.

Despite being a son of the South, my taste buds have moved past the stage where anything I eat has to be "Dirt grown or deep fried", I can do broiled.

Nick Nicholas, noted restaurateur and columnist, said it best, "Just give me some god damn food!"


Post a Comment

<< Home