Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. This week, we bring you more stories of fantastically dumb customers. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
You're also getting five stories this week, a) because I know last week's was really depressing, and b) three of these are shorter than average. Enjoy!
"I was waiting on a table of two ladies who were probably in their late 50's. They didn't come off as the brightest, but they were pretty polite. They decided to order the avocado dip as an appetizer. I brought it out, and they said they didn't need anything. After a couple minutes, I asked them how their dip was, and one of them said, "Ummm... it's cold." I explained to her that avocado dip is served cold, and she replied, "But, last time we were here, it was warm and cheesy." I explained to her that they must have had the spinach artichoke dip.
They both gave me this blank look and one said, "What's the difference?"
"Well, one is made with artichokes, and one with avocado."
"Are they different?"
The other lady goes, "Well, let's get the second one. I still don't get the difference.""
"At one place I worked, we used to do small dishes to have as snacks while you were having drinks at night; for example, bowls of olives, polenta chips, turkish bread with dips, etc. One of the things we had was tempura cauliflower, which is delicious when dipped in chilli mayo.
So one night, this guy called me over, pointed to "tempura cauliflower" on the menu and asked "what is that?" I assumed he wasn't familiar with tempura, which is entirely reasonable, so I went on to describe that tempura is a way of battering and deep frying veggies or other things and is Japanese in origin. He goes "No, I KNOW what tempura is, what's THAT?"
He was referring to cauliflower. I didn't know what to say. White broccoli?"
"During college, I worked at the local pizza place to pay the bills. One day, I had a customer call to place an order, requesting a large pizza with pepperoni and "jal-uh-peen-ohs." As I went to school in Oklahoma, hearing the most crackerfied pronunciation of the word wasn't shocking, but when he followed up with "I know most people say 'ha-la-peen-yos' but I say it the other way," I didn't much know what to do.
This person had identified the two most logical ways to say a word, one proper and the other improper, and decided that, given the opportunity, he would like to sound as dumb as possible."
"Overheard at an Arby's:
Customer: "The mozz... moh... those sticks, what are those?"
Cashier: "Oh, the mozzarella sticks? Those are, like, cheese... sticks?"
Customer: "What kind of cheese?"
Cashier: "Um, Swiss, I think.""
"While in college, I worked as a waiter at a local restaurant in Greenville, NC that had been in the community for years and was known for their steaks and wine list, which was supposed to be one of the best in the country according to Wine Spectator. It was a great place to get a steak and a good bottle of wine which could lead to a solid tip, but there was an ugly side to working there and that was THE LUNCH BUFFET.
The lunch buffet consisted of some mediocre meals warmed up with broilers and "free corn muffins," but a lot of customers still went for it. The salad bar was a well-known commodity, mainly because of some of the random objects it served (pickled watermelon rind, oysters from a can, etc.) and the ability to load a god-awful amount of cheese, bacon, and ranch dressing onto your green of choice for a "healthy lunch." As with any buffet, the tips were lousy (which I can completely understand), but you were required to work at least one shift per week if you wanted to work the far more lucrative dinner shift.
One day, a group of construction workers came into the restaurant for lunch and all of them ordered the buffet. Somewhere between refilling their sweet tea and refilling their desire for corn muffins, I noticed that the kale decoration that was placed around the ice on the buffet was missing. I asked around among some of my coworkers if we were shutting down the salad bar early — no one knew what I was talking about. It finally dawned on me that the table of construction workers had used the kale as their green for the salad bar.
That may sound like a healthy thing to do you, but you have to realize how the kale decoration worked. We would load and unload the kale into a trash bag every night and place it in the walk in cooler. It was not washed on a regular basis, if ever, and I know it was at least three months old when they consumed it. Every salad bar I have seen has something around it to cover the ice and it seemed pretty much common sense that it was not for consumption. There were also bowls of spinach and romaine in large serving bowls with tongs which should have triggered something in the brain that says "eat this," but I guess that didn't work for these guys.
By the time I had figured it out, they had already eaten their salads and left. No one complained to the restaurant, and there was no follow-up, to my knowledge. I guarantee those boys had a rough night that night, though; three-month-old kale just doesn't sit right with pickled watermelon rind."
Do you have a crazy restaurant story you'd like to see appear in Behind Closed Ovens? Please e-mail WilyUbertrout@gmail.com with "Behind Closed Ovens" in the subject line (or you can find me on Twitter @EyePatchGuy). Submissions are always welcome! In particular, if anyone has any colorful Chef stories, awesome customer stories, ridiculous co-worker stories, or just bizarre moments of food service zen (I have a GREAT one of these and no way to use it unless I get more), please, please send them in.
Image via Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.