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've got yet more stories of hilariously dumb customers, as well as an end to the armistice from the Great Egg War of 2014 (NEVER FORGET). As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
I've worked as a cook for a long time. I'm dicking around on the line one slow Tuesday afternoon, when an order for a reuben sandwich comes in. I make the reuben as delicious as I always do, but it gets sent back. Guy said I burnt the bread. I didn't, but, whatever, I'm a cook and therefore used to remaking food for frivolous reasons. I make a new reuben, extremely lightly toasted, and send it out. Comes back, guy said it was burnt again. I make a third reuben, this time applying absolutely no heat to the bread at all. Still comes back, guy said it was burnt.
Manager on deck goes out and speaks to the table. Turns out the man had never seen marbled rye before. He was taking one look at his sandwich and calling it burnt because the bread was dark. After things were explained to him, the man declared that we had 'bad bread,' and ordered a reuben on wheat which he ate with no complaints.
I used to work in a small deli/sandwich shop after school for a few extra dollars. We were especially known for our hams, which we would routinely sell out of around major holidays, as well as our catering business.
One Saturday, as we're closing up shop, our phone rings and our manager answers. She gives the standard greeting, then offers a "is this a fucking joke?" into the receiver. After apologizing, and backtracking, she hangs up and screams, "No, we do NOT have any Kosher hams!"
I was working in a neighborhood shot 'n beer joint when some customers asked for a round of shots. As I poured them, I emptied the bottle. Nearby was a regular named Albert.
As I retrieved a new bottle, the following conversation ensued:
Albert: "They should get that one free."
Me: "We don't do that here, Albert."
Albert: "You should."
Me: "I'm following the owner's rules here, Albert."
Albert: "A lot of places do that."
Me: "I know. But not here."
Albert: (excitedly) "You really should. I mean, how often does that happen?"
Me: "At the end of EVERY BOTTLE, Albert."
Albert: (even more excitedly) "Really? Ya think so?!"
I'm a line cook at a restaurant in Toronto serving up classic comfort food. My schedule has me working a lot of the weekend brunch shifts. A few months ago we had a group (of 4 I believe) come in for brunch. What everyone ordered I can't remember, but one guy in the group ordered up a standard 2-egg classic breakfast — 2 eggs any style, choice of bread, choice of bacon or sausage, and home fries. Nothing crazy. When our server asked him how he wanted his eggs done, he said "mixed." She said, "I'm sorry," having never heard of mixed eggs before. He said again, "mixed." She said "So...like...scrambled then?" He looked her right in the eyes and shouted, so about half the restaurant could hear, "MIXED!"
She came back to the kitchen after punching in the order with a substitution of 'mixed' for his egg type. Our chef swore a bit and we speculated as to what mixed eggs were. I pulled out my phone and googled the phrase "mixed eggs" and it's not a thing. We cooked him up some regular scrambled eggs and our server dropped off their order. She asked him if everything was ok and he indicated that everything was perfect. They ate and left a garbage tip.
(Editor's Note: RE-COMMENCE HOSTILITIES IN THE GREAT EGG WAR)
I worked at an A&W and one of the dumb customer stories that has stuck with me was the one where a man asked me "How long are your guy's FOOTLONG coneys?" I promptly responded back with "Metric or Imperial?"
About two years ago decided to add another job onto my full time expediting position at a wine bar in Seattle. I saw that a small, boutique cheese store was hiring a counter girl and figured that what would be better? Not much, actually - the job was great and the benefits (getting paid in cash under the counter & paying wholesale for cheese) were awesome. The customers were typical Seattle, so pleasant enough.
About three weeks into this job, this older lady walked by, stopped, then did the standard browse of the counter. After a minute or so she turns to me and asks, "Do you have any calcium-free cheese?"
I balk for a moment. "Pardon?"
"Calcium-free cheese, I'm allergic to calcium."
"Um, it's cheese. It's a dairy product."
She then turns to her companion, "I need to find me some calcium-free cheese!"
At this point I'm red in the face and trying not to laugh, so I do my standard 'let me grab my manager and see if she can help you' routine, and then literally collapse behind the counter laughing hysterically.
We have a seasonal beverage on our menu called a "Chaider." It's chai and cider steamed together. Due to much confusion and in hopes of making the ordering process more efficient I chose to change Chaider to: "Chaider (chai+cider)."
For most, this made understanding this beverage much easier. One could imagine hot chai and hot cider and then make their best judgement. But once in a while I get:
"Hmmm…what's a Chaider?"
"It's Chai and Cider steamed together," as I gesture at the written words on the board.
"So, it's Chai…and Cider…together?"
"Yes, it's quite good."
"But, what is it?"
A customer came up to the drive thru Starbucks window and asked for a few moments to look over the menu. After a long pause, they asked, "What is steamed milk?"
I replied, "Um...It's milk that is steamed...?"
Customer, "Is it hot or cold?"
Me, "Since it's steamed, it is served warm."
Customer, "Can I get it iced?"
Me, "We can pour you a glass of cold milk, but we can't make steamed milk cold. The steaming process makes it hot."
Customer, "Can I just have a Cappuccino?"
Me, "Sure! We'll see you at the window."
The customer arrives at the window, and when we served her her Cappuccino, she squinted and said angrily, "I wanted it iced!"
I work at a Brew Pub which has a very large patio which is open for seating in the summer. One day I was working and a party of forty people came in without a reservation. Despite the fact that this is a fairly common occurrence where I work, it is always a little off-putting to cater to a large number of people unexpectedly. This particular group of people wanted to sit outside, but insisted that we move ALL the umbrellas over to their very large table, so that the entire area be shaded. We, of course, complied, and covered their portion of the patio to the best of our abilities.
Maybe fifteen minutes later — as I'm trying to put in their massive order, which they want out in ten minutes — I'm called back to the table. I rush over and address the woman raising her hand. She then turns to me and says, "I was in the shade a moment ago, but now I'm in the sun. Is the sun going to continue to change position all day?"
Do you have a crazy restaurant story you'd like to see appear in Behind Closed Ovens (on ANY subject, not just this one)? 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!
Image via Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.