About our Head Chef – Nate Hines has done everything in the culinary world short of landing a spot on the Food Network. Schooled in classical French cuisine, he was the Executive Chef for Texas’s only five star hunting lodge, spent three years as a Private Chef, and he recently decided to change direction by starting his own place. It’s a cheese shop which also specializes in wine/beer, cheese, and local food pairings. He’s building it with his brother, and you can check their progress here.
“Why do you always send out a taste of something you are experimenting on to Larry?” This was asked of me by the restaurant manager one night in at a hotel where I used to work. Larry was not a regular in the restaurant. We saw him maybe once every two months, his bill rarely totaled more than $30, he was an average tipper, and if something was wrong, he mentioned it. It was also pretty well known that I was not the nicest cook on the line, disliked getting special orders (which Larry did on occasions), and I was pretty hard on the staff when they made repeated mistakes.
So why did Larry get a little extra attention when I knew he was in house? Because on his second or third time dining with us, he walked up to the line and said “thanks”.
He didn’t rave about how good the food was, he didn’t explain that he was a regular….he just said “thanks”. For that, the line crew often went out of our way to make his dining experience a little more pleasurable.
I am not going to lie to you. The kitchen staff can be a hard group of people. It tends to be a high stress, low paying job with little thanks and lots of complaints. Most of us have large egos and hate to admit a mistake. But getting along with them is pretty easy.
How to say thanks, and what NOT to say.
Give a genuine compliment. If it is an open line and they are slow, walk up and tell them, if it is busy or they are tucked in the back, ask the server to pass it on. Don’t exaggerate. I have been told “That was the best steak I have ever had”. If it was true then I feel sorry for the guy, we did pretty well on the red meat front, but our steaks were less than phenomenal. A simple “Tell whoever is on the grill my chicken was excellent” will suffice. And don’t ever say “My compliments to the chef”. A- You sound like a tool and B- chances are the chef is sitting in the office doing paper work or is on point and not cooking at all.
You want what?
Take it easy on the special requests. I am not saying don’t do it, just keep it reasonable. I have had a request to make a fish dish “just like the one I had last night at Café Pacific”. It’s one thing to change the sauce on your pasta dish, it’s another thing to totally rework a dish just to appease your palate at 7:30 on a Friday night.
Let the kitchen experiment. If it’s not busy.
Take an interest in what the kitchen staff is doing. This is a little dangerous. Save it for a night that the place seems a little slow, and save it for when the server recognizes you. You can always ask if the crew is experimenting on something they would like to try out on a guest. My favorite was a customer who would tell the server what she wanted for dinner and then occasionally add on “or if the kitchen is slow and wants to try something different”.
Consider tipping, but it’s not necessary.
Think about tipping. I am not a fan of tipping people who do not deserve it. The kid delivering my pizza in two feet of snow gets tipped. The guy that shines my shoes while I read the paper at the airport gets tipped. The woman whose only job is to run my credit card after my hair cut will not be tipped. 99% of the time there is no reason to tip the kitchen crew. But if they have gone above and beyond for you (or someone at your table) think about passing a few notes to the person responsible.
The quickest way to get on their good side? If you come across them outside of work, buy them a drink.