Welcome back to Behind Closed Ovens, where we take a look at the best and strangest stories from inside the food industry. Today we bring you stories about customers who really, really weren't supposed to eat that. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
"I worked at a la-di-da hotel that was definitely trying to be fancier than it was. We tended to cater to the single, traveling business man/woman who also seemed to enjoy acting fancier than they really were.
One evening, the dinner special was "Fish en Papillote" — the fancy French way of saying "fish poached in parchment paper" — which is how the menu described it.
I only had that one table that night, and the fancy business man made sure to educate my ignorant, unremarkable palette regarding our wine list. He then, of course, ordered the special with the most pretentious sounding French accent I've ever heard — and I've been to France.
The Chef had given me a pair of silver scissors, which I was supposed to use to dramatically cut open the simmering packet of goodness right in front of the customer, allowing all the aroma of fresh herbs, white wine and lemon to accost their senses. I did so, with gusto! If I was going to have one table, I'd better make it count.
I came back to quality check, but the fancy business man waved me away — his mouth full and him busily replying to very important work emails.
When I came back to clear his plate, I finally had my chance to ask him how his meal was, to which he replied:
"It was quite good...except that pastry....I found it extremely chewy!"
Shocked, I realize his plate was completely empty, with no parchment paper anywhere. I managed to blurt out "Ummm, that was the parchment paper they poach the fish in...the Papillote."
He got very embarrassed and shooed me away. When I went back to the kitchen and told the Chef what happened, we cried, we were laughing so hard. God, I love karma."
"I worked at a chain doughnut restaurant (I was a cashier) and we had a little box of doughnuts out on the table by the display case. It was supposed to show customers our special (dozen glazed doughnuts and a dozen assorted doughnuts), but oftentimes they thought they were free samples. Little kids would grab at them before I would tell them that no, they probably didn't want to eat them. They often sat out for a week.
One day I was working the front on a slow day and a teenage boy sort of sneakily looks over at me and then grabs a doughnut from the box, in what he probably thought was a discreet way. But I was staring at him the whole time, and couldn't quite believe he didn't notice.
So I went over and said, "Hi, did you just take a doughnut from the box?"
He's chewing his doughnut. "This? No, I just, ah, ordered this." I was the only person working the front, by the way.
"Oh, okay," I said. "That's good. The doughnuts in the box have been sitting out for days."
He stops abruptly. "Oh."
"Yeah, people try to take those all the time. Little kids have their hands all over them." Then, because I'm an asshole, I told him, "We spray them with a chemical to keep them looking fresher than they are" (not true).
He stared at me bug-eyed and laughed. "HAHAHA."
He didn't order anything, just left the store."
"I waited tables in Tennessee and sometimes worked the brunch buffet, refilling food in the self-serve metal pans set up in the middle of the restaurant. One Sunday, a rather stout lady seemed irritated that we weren't bringing out any more of "that delicious French Toast." I knew we never had French Toast on the buffet, so I asked her which pan she got it from, she pointed and said, "The one where the bacon is now."
"Hmmm, l think we may be out," I replied, even as I realized what she had done. We used wheat bread on the bottom of the bacon to soak up the grease. When the bacon was gone, she ate the bacon grease-soaked bread with some syrup and whipped cream.
I predict she had a heart attack soon after that. I never saw her again as much as she said it was the best French Toast she had ever had…"
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!
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