Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Miss a question? Go here.
The long, hell-hot summer may have many of us feeling a bit crazy from the heat, but that's nothing compared to the bizarre behaviors Valley chefs and restaurateurs have witnessed at their own restaurant -- or in someone else's.
Here, a few of them share their truth-is-stranger-than-fiction tales.
Chef Ephraim Gallor Taps Signature Cuisine & Bar
An elderly guest, after eating lunch, paid her bill, left the building, and then proceeded to drive her Cadillac into the restaurant -- yes, into the building. She then got out of her car (halfway lodged in the dining room) and apologized for forgetting to tip her server.
Silvana Salcido Esparza Chef and Owner, Barrio Café and Barrio Queen
I once had a guy, 6-foot-3 and around 250 pounds, follow a woman in her late 50s to the bathroom and try and pick her up. Then, from his table, he started making vulgar gestures toward her. I didn't wait for backup, I asked him to leave. He wouldn't. I took his hand, twisted it up in a manita de puerco and threw him out myself in a full restaurant on a Saturday night. That must have been a sight.
David Viviano Chef, The Westin Phoenix Downtown
At a restaurant I ran, we served rabbit ragout with pappardelle. A woman was brought to tears when she discovered we were serving rabbit. She went on to tell the server about her beloved pet bunny as she loudly wept in the dining room.
Chef Tim Fields El Santo Restaurant + Patio Bar
A ring-tailed cat fell out out the ceiling tiles and landed on a waiter tray of domed entrees in the Ventana Room [closed] in Tucson. The food was returned to the hot line and the surprise visitor scurried out of the kitchen and into the night.
Lisa Khnanisho Owner, Tryst Café
I wouldn't call this bizarre, but simply something I haven't seen before: a woman breast-feeding her child, completely exposed. There was no modesty generally seen by the use of a blanket. This woman created quite a stir.
Eric Flatt, Co-owner, Tonto Bar & Grill and Cartwright's Sonoran Ranch House
At Cartwrights, this lady marched in with a toy dog in one hand and a sign in the other that said "Service Dog." First thought was: Exactly what type of service does that dog provide? She walked around to every table, handed the dog to customers, and plopped down business cards to sell these dogs. We told toy-dog lady that she needed to keep her "service dog" to herself if she wished to stay for dinner.
Romeo Taus Chef and owner, Romeo's Euro Cafe
Some young mother got indignant when we asked her not to change a diaper on the table and in the middle of the dining room during a busy Saturday lunch. Go figure!
Jay Bogsinske Chef de Cuisine, District American Kitchen & Wine Bar
Long ago at a different restaurant, a homeless man stood in front of the windows and repeatedly stabbed a teddy bear with scissors and then urinated on a patio chair cushion before police came and escorted him away.
Chef Payton Curry Brat Haus
I was working as poissonnier [fish monger] in Napa grinding through a busy night, and in the middle of service, I see the female commis [assistant to the chef] square up to her male assistant and kick him square in the mis en place. His reaction was to punch her square in the face as he fell to the kitchen mat. In a quick call, chef yelled, "Two bags of ice to the line and shift." We ran with a "Thrive on 3" for the rest of the night.
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Michael Monti Owner, Monti's La Casa Vieja
We once had a woman who would go in the restroom and compulsively shred mounds of paper towels. We had to keep asking her to stop and leave.
Christopher Gross, Chef and Owner, Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge
Years ago, when I was married to Paola, who is still my partner in the restaurant, a customer told her he needed a table but did not have a reservation. Paola said it might take some time and asked if he and his party would like to wait in the bar. He said no and insisted he get a table, "because we know chef Christopher very well." Paola replied, "So do I. I sleep with him." They waited in the bar.