One of my pet peeves, as both a professional (I'm Chef/Owner of Ken's Place in PDX) and as a diner, is many restaurant's attitude towards salt and pepper.
First, it seems to be a trend these days among some upper end restaurants (Tabla I know, Ripe's restaurants, Fife and others I've heard do it) to not put salt and pepper on the tables. This is extremely arrogant on the part of either the chef or the owner, whoever is the instigator, and they need to get over themselves and remember that the restaurant is about serving the public, not their own egos. Taste for seasoning is a personal thing, and it's the chef's job to turn out the best food he or she can produce, seasoned as they see fit. Once it gets to the table, it is out of the chef's hands. If the patron wants to swallow the food whole without chewing, follow his fish with red wine instead of white, throw up the main course 5 minutes after eating it, or douse it in salt before even tasting it, it's none of the chef's business, scoff as he may (and we do scoff). To make the patron have to ask for salt, sometimes having to wait to track down the waiter while his food gets cold, and sometimes having the waiter give attitude about the request, and sometimes having to then wait again while said waiter tracks down the shaker, is rude, inconvenient and greatly detracts from the dining experience. This isn't art, it's dinner...get over it.
Pepper - At some other otherwise very fine restaurants, you'll notice a shaker of a pre-ground, usually inferior pepper product on the table. Then, as soon as your food has been brought, the waiter comes by with an oversized, somewhat phallic, grinder of the "good" pepper. What's up with that? Why put an inferior product on the table in the first place? And in the second place, why not treat your patrons as adults and give them their own little grinder? How do they know the food they haven't even tasted yet even needs pepper? And if it does, what if it needs more once they've eaten the top layer? And then you have to track them down again? Ridiculous.
I had one waiter (all right, it was at Tabla) haughtily tell me - after I quizzed him about why they don't put little pepper grinders on the table - that they were too much trouble. Excuse me? Uh, you fill them and wipe them down occasionaly.
Restaurants should be about diners enjoying themselves and the food, not about the chef or owner making a point at the diners' expense.
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