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 draw six stories from that old, reliable, seemingly never-ending well: dumb restaurant customers. As always, these are real e-mails from real readers.
"I was working as the manager at this amazingly delicious Indian restaurant. Many white people do not understand Indian food, so I got used to white people coming in, looking at the menu, and then giving me a look of hungry desperation before asking me to just pick something for them to eat.
One day after the lunch rush, I was behind the bar when a middle aged white guy came and sat down by himself. He ordered a beer and then asked for a menu. As I was expecting, he glanced at it and said, "Oh hell, I don't know what to order. Get me something to snack on while I drink." So I ordered him the Pakora, which was battered and fried onion and spinach with Indian spices and chutney— super delicious. He ate all of it, had another beer, and then asked me to order him an entree. I ordered him the Chicken Tikka Masala - chicken in a delicious, spicy creamy orange sauce. I brought it out with naan, and he ate the entire thing. After he finished everything and I was dropping his check, I asked how he had enjoyed his meal.
He said, "I loved it! Absolutely delicious! But I have to be honest with you, that was the weirdest Italian food I've ever had in my life.""
"I worked at a fast food burrito joint in high school (first job) in the Midwest. Not a whole lot of effort was put into attempting to pronounce the Spanish offerings on the menu. I remember a guy coming up to the counter to order, and after asking him what I could get started for him, he responded, "Barracuda." It really took me a good minute to realize he meant "barbacoa," and I actually had to turn around to look at our menu to make sure *I* wasn't missing anything.
We were in Nebraska. No oceans with barracuda for hundreds of miles."
"I used to work at a English pub style restaurant, and our specialty was beer battered fish and chips. One day a woman came in with her young son during my lunch shift. The woman looked over the menu and then asked me if it was alright if she ordered the fish and chips for her son. I asked her what she meant, and then she looked me and asked "Like, will they get him drunk?" I explained that the alcohol in the beer batter cooks out when we fry the fish.
The kicker is, this lady was actually there as an undercover shopper (where is the screening process for these things?!) (Editor's Note: There is no screening process. Any idiot can — and usually does — sign up for that job). She gave me a bad review, which went to my management and I ended up getting fired. FIRED! I lost my job because of a lady who thought beer battered fish would intoxicate her toddler."
"I had a table of very friendly, very outgoing people come in one time. Everything was going well, their orders were all very straightforward, until the last person, who ordered a steak. She couldn't remember how she liked it done, but definitely wanted it tender. After much debate, she remembered "well" is how she liked it. I tried explaining that well-done is the least-tender way of cooking a steak, but she was insistent, so I put in the order.
Food comes out, everybody's happy, then she pokes at her steak and says it's not tender enough and to throw it back on the grill. I again tried explaining that cooking the steak more would make it less tender, but the customer is always right, so I took it back.
This happened four times.
After the fourth, my manager came out and explained that the longer you cook a steak, the less juices are left in the meat, the tougher it becomes. He then asked if she'd like us to cook a new steak for her, if this one wasn't the way she liked it. She got very angry, said no and that she'd eat it even though we were wrong...and then told us that if a customer wants you to grill a steak until it gets tender, you grill it until it gets tender."
"I worked for many years at a vegan restaurant with a menu specifically tailored for the crunchy-granola set (raw, gluten-free, no GMOs, etc). As you can imagine, our clientele was among the pickiest and most ridiculous in the city: enthusiastic yogis, newly-detoxing folks eager to share their political agendas, and rich snobs who were convinced they were on the cusp of figuring out how eating right might help them live forever. I swear to you I have weathered an amount of unsolicited and science-free medical advice that would make your head implode. Did you know that blenders can chop up submicroscopic particles? Did you know that waving a sword around will balance your life energy? Did you know that EVERYBODY HAS BRAIN PARASITES, and that taking black walnut pills will make them come out of your nose?
One of my favorites was the time a moderately attractive man (MAM) sits down for brunch with his lookalike brother on our garden patio. MAM spends just a few seconds looking at our menu since he is familiar with the restaurant, and decides to order the tofu rancheros. I bring him the dish; a couple of crispy corn tortillas topped with guacamole, sunflower "refried beans", fresh chopped salsa verde, bell peppers, faux sour cream, etc. I return to the table a few minutes later to check on them and MAM looks displeased. He tells me that he is allergic to the color red because it is inflammatory and could I please bring him a dish that does not have that color. Normally we tolerate lots of odd dietary requests but that was just too silly of a hoop to jump through. I politely let him know that I could have asked the kitchen to skip the red if he had asked me before the meal was prepared but that I was unable to accommodate him after he had started eating. MAM gives me the sort of look that indicates I am a moron and reassures me he can eat around the red things, but if I could remember for next time that would be great."
"At one point, I was managing a restaurant in National Harbor, outside of DC. The restaurant had a lovely private dining room for exclusive events. One night, we provided this space to a party of approximately thirty-five guests. Everything went extremely well over the course of the night and as the party finished up we presented them with the bill.
Naturally, we added on 20% gratuity for the waitstaff. The person in charge of the group looks over the bill and tries to figure out who owes what and when she gets to the bottom she says, "Who ate the gratuity? It's the most expensive thing on here."
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!
Image via Shane W Thompson/Shutterstock.