Perhaps the question is really: When did people decide that they should treat the restaurant kitchen like short order cooks? I have never worked in any restaurant. Lately, however, I find myself cringing at what I hear coming from the mouths of my fellow diners. I've begun to feel quite bad for many of the servers I see and have to practically stifle the urge to apologize for other patrons. I feel almost worse for the chefs who diligently create dishes only to have them conceptually disassembled by anyone who can afford to pay $30 for an entree.
I recently had lunch at a place that, at least by the critics of NJ Monthly, is considered one of the 25 best restaurants in the State. Now, admittedly, my inner Holden Caulfield was quite stirred up by the general vibe of the place and those who chose to dine there (Quick aside - When someone gets their "eyes done," does the plastic surgeon actually alter their vision so as to prevent them from being able to see how weird they look?). Mostly, though, I was struck by the fact that ours was the only table within the section that did not insist upon some deviation from the menu offerings.
The "on the side" dressing requests were practically a chorus. Look, its not Flo going back in the kitchen to pour half a bottle of Wishbone on some iceberg. Let the line dress the salad - they've created something to pair with the ingredients on the plate, try it. I know, I know, you like to control stuff, . . . you were, after all, the last at your table to arrive.
"Can I have the Onion Tart thingy without the anchovies?" Man, that was fingernails on the blackboard to me. The pissaladiere is prepared with three pieces of sharp goat cheese and three fresh anchovy filets. It's a very tasty dish. If you don't like canned anchovies, perhaps you should try the fresh ones on this offering. If you know from experience that you don't like any anchovies, perhaps you should select something else to eat.
I could go on, there were other examples, but I've probably already belabored my point. Isn't a big part of what's exciting about dining in better restaurants seeing what the kitchen's labors have resulted in? When you've learned that the chef grew up in New Orleans and trained for years in Boston and Madrid, don't you want to find out how she thinks a heritage pork chop should be prepared?
So, I ask you, isn't it time we moved past the "have it your way" mentality and treated chefs as professionals? Isn't it time we became respectful diners???