Cooking School Secrets: Get Off Your High Horse!

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To me, hospitality implies the caring treatment of strangers. And choosing to work in this industry should mean at least putting some effort into giving your customers what they want. After all, we want them to return for another visit...don't we?

Surprisingly, the school restaurant staff (read: my classmates and teachers) have less compassion for the guests than I expected. Equally true for those in the kitchen and the front of the house.

Guess I should have realized what I was in for when, on the first day of operations class, the chef instructor said, "The customer is usually wrong."

The lack of consideration and generosity continued. The menu reads, "Please no substitutions." And they mean it: A request for orzo instead of polenta (or was it the other way around?) was denied. (Needless to say, it would have taken no effort: they were sitting next to each other on the steam table.) A group of 14 asked if their tables of 6 and 8 could be pushed together. The answer? No.

I was floored by the tension between the front of the house and the kitchen staff when there's a special request - more sauce, for example. I actually hesitated (or should I say cowered?) each time I had to go into the kitchen with a guest's desire. And don't get me started on the chef's reaction to food sent back for more cooking - or an order for meat cooked medium well or well!

I witnessed the effort to meet the needs of a guest with a severe food allergy, but I was saddened by the lack of desire to maintain a supply of ingredients that would make serving those with allergies or specific food needs.

Will being a chef always mean being a hard ass? I hope not.

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