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Revisiting a touchy subject (tchef's food intolerance thread)  

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
I'm sure we all remember this thread:

Anyway in tchef's defense, I was just looking at his uploaded pics in the photo gallery yesterday and today. Everything in his kitchen is precisely formulated to exact specifications. There is no room for messing around. I've never worked in a kitchen like his before, but I remember when I was restaurant chef in a hotel, there was hardly room for changing things around. We cooked with butter and duck fat, but because we were a hotel with many outlets, we could accomodate a lot of different needs. No, we really couldn't change the Caesar salad, but we could pull iceberg lettuce from the banquet side.
post #2 of 28
Is tchef still around? Granted he has some rough edges, but still I enjoyed the thread and his contributions.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #3 of 28
I am pleased this has come up again as I missed out on the original thread. Clearly TChef is in charge of his kitchen and possibly in charge of the establishment. As Head Chef, surely he has the right to run things as he sees fit. While some people may not agree with his actions he has his own circumstances to deal with and the running of his kitchen to consider. He posted on March 19th, a Wednesday and refers to “last night’s service. This is obviously a busy restaurant being nearly full on a Tuesday night, the guy must be doing something right.

Most of us bleat on about how hard it is, how little we get paid and that we only do it because its our passion etc. etc. so why do we cater for the fussy, rude and obnoxious people who blight our establishments? …because we have to! Most of us need the business or work for a company that needs the business, if you really had the choice would you do it? Marco Pierre White used to throw them out.

At this point I would say that yes, there are people who suffer with allergies and I do sympathise with them, they usually phone in advance, they are courteous and almost apologetic. I have no problem cooking for these people and I have catered for a variety of conditions, happily. But in my experience a large percentage of them are fake attention seekers, (EEK did he really say that???) yes he did, the diabetic who asks for sugar when their partner goes to the bathroom. The person who can’t eat dairy and orders pomme puree every week, you know them well.

A Chef’s role is a demanding one, he has to think on his feet and make important decisions in a split second and when he produces a dish it is a supposed to be a perfectly balanced one. Every element on that plate is there for a purpose, it is created by a professional and it is damned hard work. So when somebody walks in asking for this and that to be removed you can understand the frustration it causes.

This is in no way meant to offend anyone suffering with an allergy of any kind, if you work with me I will cook for you, but I will not take any chances on your behalf.
post #4 of 28
The issue with his original post was his attitude toward the individual with special needs. He thought the person should apologize for gracing the establishment where he is employed. I have no issue with anyone employed by the restaurant politely saying to the individual, "I'm terribly sorry, but we aren't equipped to handle your special dietary needs."

If this person intended on creating an issue; perpetuating a fraud, they could have easily ordered something they thought would be acceptable, eaten a healthy portion, then decided the entree was poorly prepared and loudly ordered the waitstaff to remove the offending food, then ultimately announced, "You really aren't going to charge me for that mess!"

Yes, there are those who create special needs, but they are far more rare than the couple who order entrees with accompaniments; devour breads, salads or soup, and inevitably complain that one of the entrees is poorly prepared, then utter, "We're pressed for time. I'll just sample my husband's/wife's entree and we'll have to go. Certainly, you're not going to charge us for the inferior meal!"
post #5 of 28
I think, and I have posted before, it's all about the timing. With some heads-up time, many things are possible, but the customer didn't provide any advance warning/notice. Why?

I have witnessed day care workers going through EVERY kid's lunch/snacks, EVERY day, I have seen people with some pretty strict diets make every attempt to protect themselves, and this usually involves phoning ahead, or researching a little about the place they want to visit on blogs, newspaper articles, or word of mouth from others who have the same ailment.

Why did this customer not take these precautions? Why did this customer automatically assume that the kitchen could provide his/her needs with no warning?
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 
Maybe it's a lack of understanding about the way commercial kitchens work. Everyone has a kitchen in their home, some people assume they are very similiar.
post #7 of 28
i had someone approach my carvery station a few days back... accepted the meat, the chippolata... refused the yorkshire pudding and the stuffing
"allergic to dairy im afraid" was the reason loudly provided
"ok then i advise against the mashed potatoe, the new potatoes, the creamed leeks and the carrots as they all have butter on to protect against the hotlights drying them out" i offered to steam some fresh, free from contaminants, she refused as is her right
"its ok, ill just have the others" which is fair, there is still a range without those items.
however, i do have and use pheripheral vision to monitor the held food, look for people tipping their plates, listen to people questioning others around them
"are these chips or parsnips" i always answer for them, saves time and complaints
i notice that the woman who is dairy allergic and forewarned of their unsuitability to her dietary condition places a healthy portion of both carrots and leeks onto her plate.
alas, it is another case of faux allergies. if she didnt want to eat the yorkshire, just tell me you dont want them im not offended.

similarly (but differently) i was asked to provide a carvery for a celiac sufferer. i am myself a sufferer of said (at least to a certain degree) she agreed, followed my advice, avoided what i told her, the waitstaff brought out the gluten free gravy we had procurred in the 30 mins before she ordered where she asked if we had some (tesco's is close by and suprisingly well stocked at 8:30pm on a sunday) we are now listed on some celiac sufferers website as a restaurant capable and willing to go the extra to provide.

i have once told customers i would not serve them as i was not confident i could provide food free of contaminants because of their extensive allergen list, i did however provide a few quick recipe suggestions to try at home to reproduce the two items they were particularly interested in and provided directions to a comptetitor restaurant whos kitchen is better equiped to handle those with specific dietary requirements (a 100% fresh kitchen 1 mile down the road) and bid them a good evening

i cant do more... but then... i dont need to
post #8 of 28
Ok, there are a lot of fake "allergies" out there, but as chefs and business people we need to take them for their word. The consequences are dire if we don't. Don't whine about it, use it as an opportunity to explore and experiment a little more. I am sorry but no place is that busy that the chef can't take a little time out to accommodate a customer, and if the chef is that busy then I really have to question if that chef is running his/her kitchen properly.
post #9 of 28
I've never really had to deal with the allergy problems much. I have tweaked things to accommodate a special diet (removing chicken skin for a heart patient, etc.) and don't mind doing it. My pet peeves are the people (and there a a LOT of them) who order an item but they don't want this or that and they want this, this,and this instead and could we cut it in half and plate it for two people one wants their half on bread and the other one wants their half on toast. At which point I will say no, I'm not doing it. I work in places whre the volume is high and the labor force is low and there's nights when I just want to tear my hair out. Do they think the menu is a suggestion? Pretty soon you have a board full of orders and you're wasting half your time just reading all the slips with special preps, and it's all down hill from there. It slows the kitchen down and then the same people who caused the problem start complaining because it's taking too long. We also have a problem in this area (and probably everywhere) with people thinking their food should come up in fast food time. The point of this rant is when you start trying to accommodate the picky eaters, (allergies not being considered as picky), you wind up inconveniencing the other people by making them wait longer than they should. Where do you draw the line? I'm at the point where I just want to tell people if they don't like an ingredient either pick it off or order something that doesn't have it. Bad attitude, I know, but people are getting totally ridiculous with what they expect from restaurants.
post #10 of 28
Greyeagle, I can really identify with your rant and frustration. I had the opportunity to work in one place that had a hndle on the situation you describe:


Any item requested to be split was charged a $2.50 fee, subsitiutions the same, plus a caveat at the begining of the Menu stating that the kitchen will endeavor to comply with any diet requests, PROVIDED that they have a minimum of 3 hr notice.

Those things seemed to help somewhat. Of course the waiters got tipped more on account of the upcharges though......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #11 of 28

Hospitality Industry?

Remind me why they call this the "hospitality industry." Or is that bordellos?

"Lactose intolerance" is one of those things -- you don't necessarily go into anaphylactic shock just because you have a little butter -- but overload your system and you're in for an uncomfortable time. Depending on the individual, many other food related allergies are similar. More generally, unless you know the individual's medical history, try and retain some sense of the limitations inherent in your diagnosis at a distance. I think it's in our best interests to accept others' allergies as they're presented.

Similarly, if someone decides they won't or can't eat some ubiquitous ingredient, and we can't cater to their whim, that doesn't give us license to insult them. It's not a matter of business, some people get rich insulting customers. It's simply good manners. We all get tired, and the business is incredibly stressful. It's easy to lose one's temper. Been there, done that. This isn't a swipe at TChef. That being said, tolerance and good humor are attractive traits. The idea that there's a large bunch of people claiming an illness for the sole purpose of making your job more difficult is either the smug superiority of ignorance and/or a tinge of paranoia -- neither an attractive trait.

Just sayin',
post #12 of 28
Deleted because of duplication

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #13 of 28
Man, did you ever hit the nail on the head Boar!:cool::

I have a hunch that these cases appear more prevalent than they really are because these issues stand out among the day to day prep and service that makes up the food service day. They are more the exception than the rule.

Making a big fuss about one or two exceptions is kind of analogous to this cartoon I saw in the paper recently:

BTW, nothing like having a husband who is employed by Bear Stearns to change your perspective on things.:eek::beer::confused::mad::cool:

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #14 of 28

Hospitality you bet

I love responding to this type of thread as a person who changed from "screw you hit the door" to how can I make you happy to be here.

We are a caterer, so we don't comp at all, since we are paid 14 days prior to the event whatever we produce is what they get and with no outstanding balance they have little leverage to make a false claim.

That said about five years ago when the special diets starting showing up I was in the "Show them the Door" camp. Especially since we are a caterer and don't usually have a full on kitchen at the location.

But I started listening to people and found that if I could pull something together we got good "word of mouth" out of meeting the accomodation. So I take my butane burner, copper saute, and a large portabella along with a nice piece of salmon to every function. The times I have had to pull it out and use it in one year maybe numbers 12 at most.

But the reaction from the requesting party is fantastic. They are so use to being told to pound sand that it floors them I can put a plate together for them.

To me, it is my job....... it is what I do..... and I like doing it so I won't insult a client, I will meet the need anyway possible. And I cook on the fly well enough to pull it together on a butane with no problem.

If you think the allergy thing brings a reaction..... let me tell you about my work to perfect the "Well Done" steak. You can not believe how many pros rant about cooking well done. It ruins it..... well maybe if you are incompetent at cooking it ruins it, but I started working with the steaks and created a technique that turns out a moist well done steak. And I have the letters to prove it makes them happy that a chef actually took a professional interest in producing a professional quality well done steak.

Laugh.... but I am banking the profit from people who recommend us cause I did not go on the "MANDATORY" chef ego rant about well done steaks. Now when one of the chefs starts ranting, I tell them... move over let a pro do it..... :bounce:
I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
I am a reduction of my youthful mistakes mixed with the roux of a few adult successes
post #15 of 28

i have a food allergy

that is not life threatening but i do mention it if i need to at a restaurant. Im allergic to kiwifruit, it makes me break out in painful hives from just one slice. If i am ordering at a restaurant i ask the waiter about the meal, and i mention the allergy if needed especially if im ordering a dessert/fruit saladand if there is any hint of kiwi fruit then i will order something different. So it makes me very conscious of food allergens in general and if there is some way i can help somebody else when im preparing the food then i will, if im not sure then i will tell them but i would never be rude to them and tell them to leave.
I cant use it in any food that i prepare and when ever i start in a new kitchen i mention it. Mindyou these days kiwifruit is not used nearly as much as it used to be thank goodness, for a while there it was like a compulsory garnish:cry:
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires
post #16 of 28
I do my best to accomodate people as we all should but what gets me boiling is the people who lie about it and thus put people who truly have food issues at greater risk or inconvienience. I have alot more respect for a customer who will say they don't like something what can I do for them compared to a guest who will just lie to get what they want.

For example I had a customer who stated she was allergic to chocolate ice cream which is fine but them proceded to get vanilla IC with chocolate sauce.
Fluctuat nec mergitur
Fluctuat nec mergitur
post #17 of 28
Being a caterer it is easier to accommodate food allergies and sensitivities. For the most part we get advance notice. However, I am particularly mindful of allergies because I grew up with them. I had a few that I “out grew”: a protein allergy to raw milk (not to be confused with lactose intolerance), chocolate and bananas. Those are gone now. Then I had allergies pop up that I didn’t have when I was little: seafood, peppers and artificial sweeteners. The seafood is the really bad one.
But, the big boogey man of my childhood was my brother’s peanut allergy. The neighbor lady’s opinion that it was a farce (she gave him some peanut butter candy to prove her point) almost killed him. He is not as sensitive as he was in childhood (when we were little trace transfer could have us in the emergency room) but eating something cooked in peanut oil will still kill him. Anaphylactic shock is no fun at all.
Years ago people (like the neighbor lady) were told by doctors that food allergies were a myth. If you didn’t have allergies you probably weren’t aware that some actual doctors didn’t believe. Non-belief was so bad my mother actually carried with her at all times a photograph of my brother she took in the emergency room after a neighbor kid washed his peanut butter covered hands off with our outside faucet and my brother came by later that afternoon and used the same faucet to splash water on his face, he looked like Rocky Balboa after a bad fight and that was just external contact. She used this picture at any restaurant we ate at to make sure the staff knew that she wasn’t kidding, and that a “white lie” for the sake of convenience could kill.
All that being said, from a business standpoint special needs diets are the largest growing market in the food industry. I read an article a few months ago that talked about it in depth. Keep in mind that “food industry” includes products marketed at grocery stores, etc. The restaurant industry is part of the food industry, so I’m not sure how this trend will play out for restaurants.
The trend is not so much due to growing numbers of new allergies but a greater awareness of them.
There is big money in accommodating special diets. How to tap into it in a restaurant situation, I don’t know for sure.
post #18 of 28

"get over it"

Ta Kuan,

Yes I’m still around, and the thread I started was closed, for which I’m thankful!, “much knuckles wrapped by admin guys”

With the greatest Respect to everyone who took part in the thread, I do have empathy with sufferers of any ailments, Special needs blah blah blah……and to answer your questions will be my pleasure.

I have received a number of comments from my web site, and to be honest with you I took of some blog not because it was offensive to some “public do Gooding ********” but it was jamming up my in box.

When I have an Idea, my kitchen is the first place I want to be no matter the time, it could be 3am, I will drive there and develop, work on it at make it precise, and unless I think that it will not deliver to my paying customers it will appear on my MENU…

I go down and spend time with some of the greatest people on earth my suppliers. We drink tea, smoke cigarettes and talk about life, at the same time I am in their environment, do I question them? Say, “ Jim you know that outstanding smoked haddock you do? Well did any Tree suffer in the smoking process? Or perhaps can you let me know if any members of your staff, their children and other persons you come into contact with have been eating NUTS.

“Hi Dennis me again, sorry to be a pain I know it’s the 10th phone call today but, the pea shoots and the Micros you delivered are the containers you grow them in, Bio, toxin free blah blah blah……..No I don’t, instead thanks for delivering the best produce when I need it.

“ You see my Craft involves a lot more than turning on the Cooker!!!!,

Yes my Employers back me 100% "its my cal Dummy"

No I’m not rude…but lack some patience with other beings “wouldn’t you”

MY kitchen is precise for the Dishes it provides on My Menu, no room to carry excess stock………”its all fresh”
Off course I can adapt:

1. Why should I
2. Adapt is a word for failing restaurants!!!!!
3. Consider other diners
4. Choice “Take it or leave it”
5. “I know your special, however you might consider that all my guests are…. they all work just as xxxxxxx hard ....go home your not WELCOME"

Kiss , Love & regards.
<edited to remove inappropriate language>
post #19 of 28

I Like Killing Flies

All of you should watch the independant film, "I Like Killing Flies" with Kenny Shopsin. This guy knows what to do with customers....
post #20 of 28
In my mind, it is pretty ideal when customers are able to voice what they want to the staff. I definitely encourage them to ask about things they want, or better yet just to voice their tastes so the server can link them up with what they'll like best. The worst that can happen is that we have to say "No, sorry."

Some people may strive to execute their product exactly the way they envisioned and that is the most important aspect to them. If that business model works then good for them. I endeavor to try to make people happy and get them to come back. I want them to be the regulars who will be adventurous on the menu. I want people to come in, have a couple bottles of wine, eat some choice food and enjoy the time spent with their friends and/or family. Impeccable food is a really key element to a great restaurant experience but I feel, in the end, it is more about a great social experience than it is a gastronomical one. The customers who I see returning on a weekly (or more) basis are the ones who know us all by name and can walk up to the kitchen after their meal and ask about the curing process for a leg of pig, or where we buy our rabbits from, or what farm sold us the parsnips they had.

I try to make the best food I can. I definitely adapt (75% of the menu changes based on product availability, so by nature it is in constant flux)
to the whims of the kitchen, the whims of the customer. I try to use sustainable, ecologically friendly products. Why? Because there are more important things in life than food. I'd rather serve someone a happy experience than a flawless one (although the two aren't mutually exclusive, of course) and above all else I strive to respect my staff and my customers as regular people and not judge people by their dietary requirements.

If someone has needs that cannot be met maybe we should go out there and explain why like reasonable human beings instead of being snotty and condescending as if they are incapable of understanding. That way they'll know better for future restaurant excursions and heck, maybe they'll tell all their friends about how awesome your restaurant treats people.
post #21 of 28


Maybe put one notice on your Menu, "Welcome to order from my Menu if you have one special requirements , but sorry Please leave and give the table up for one Normal person" have one nice day.....

kiss, love hugs:bounce:
post #22 of 28
We get it!
We all understand what kind of regard you hold for your customers.

Give it a rest and let's move on to a more edifying discussion.


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #23 of 28
I don't even understand what this means...Maybe a couple of single malts and a cigarette will get me seeing tchef's perspective.
Keep those fires burnin'
Keep those fires burnin'
post #24 of 28
Thread Starter 
Think if you visit him you can probably try plenty of single malts! :D

It's OK. He has his perspective, and it works for him. It doesn't work for some of us who live in, uh, "different" markets.
post #25 of 28

This thread should be called "Arthur 2, On The Rocks"

Hey foodnfoto, don't be annoyed, just imagine Dudley Moore from that movie "Arthur" every time you read one of tchef's posts and it all becomes very funny!

It works for me.
Keep those fires burnin'
Keep those fires burnin'
post #26 of 28
Yeah, I suppose you are right Psycho Chef.

He kind of reminds me of the acting work Al Pacino has been doing for the last 15 years-two notes and two notes only.

Note 1=quietly menacing with a slight hair and jaw quiver.
Note 2="The Yell" with wider eyes and large hair and jaw quiver.

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #27 of 28

Blah Blah Blah

tchef, this mean's......Tea Total, sorry to ruin your fun, are you understanding Professional Chef's Forum, but hey iv'e been arround and what you lack in one Kitchen, you make up in your HEADS.....thats Ritchards heads, ps whos dudley?

No Kiss this time:rolleyes:
post #28 of 28
This thread has deteriorated, yet again. Fellow ChefTalk members, please refrain from bashing, lambasting or otherwsie taking stabs at other members. It is called the Professional Chef's Forum; let us all be professional. Thread closed, again.

Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

My Author Page

Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

My Author Page

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