I decided that I wasn’t going to write anymore posts this summer, so I could focus some time on Chefs 4 Chefs. The truth is that I need to write about my life as a chef as a part of my therapy. I need to express my feelings, I need to vent, and I need to share my experiences especially since I’ve stopped seeing my therapist. It’s not that I don’t think I don’t need to continue seeing a shrink, I do. I know full well I do. I just never developed a connection with the person I was seeing and am in search for a new crazy doctor. I think a connection is important, I need someone I can get into the deep feelings with, so I can flush out some stuff that really has me in an emotional rut.
Anyway, that’s not what this post is about. This post is about a victory. A victory I’ve wanted to experience too many times and never had the extreme satisfaction until now.
Saturday was supposed to be a special night, and it was. A very sweet couple returned to The Wine Bar after a long absence because of serious illness. One of the couple has spent over a year fighting cancer and is now healthy. The significance for me is that I have seen the losing side of cancer too many times in my life having lost people very close to me more than I’d like to count. Let’s just say I know the pallbearer business as well as anyone.
I had been excited the previous week because I knew they were coming in. I made sure the staff was aware of the significance, I lined up a server that I thought would be right for the occasion, and I made sure they did not get a check. They came early as usual, sat at the bar for a Manhattan, then had a long leisurely meal like I remember them doing when was chef at The Wine Bar previously. It was an intense pleasure to cook for them. They have no allergies, they have no desire to write their own menu, they are not products of the food network crowd that thinks they’re educated chefs and are going to tell me how to prepare a dish. They appreciate good food prepared as the chef sees fit, and they appreciate the effort that goes into a well-crafted meal. They are a joy and I would cook for them and people of similar attitude every day for the rest of my life and be happy about it. The fact that they made a reservation for next week and requested the same server tells me we did something right on Saturday.
On the same night there was someone who had already decided either consciously or unconsciously that no matter what happened they were going to be unhappy. She ordered a dish and was deeply distressed that what we gave her was not authentic because it was not made how she (wrongly) claimed it should be made. She also added that she had been to culinary school and she knew what she was talking about. She riled up another table near here that also ordered the same thing and had them convinced that they too had been duped by the kitchen. They were duped alright. Well, I made an unprofessional mistake and tried to both convince them that they were in fact eating was authentic and that I would be happy to prepare something else. Unfortunately, due to some missteps and lack of due process, and my unprofessional approach, the situation became a bad customer service experience that could have been avoided had I not decided to speak to the table myself. It was hot, I was tired, and my feet were killing me. I should have been basking in the pleasure of our special table that night, but instead allowed myself to be egged on and had a less-than-pleasant conversation with a table about the authenticity of Margherita pizza. With 20 years in this business I should have known better.
I went home on Saturday feeling poorly for what I had allowed myself to get sucked into and how I handled a customer concern, and it spoiled things for me. I wrote this post that night but made the right decision not to post it right away. Since then I’ve considered my actions and have edited this post to better reflect my true feelings rather than my immediate emotions.
Yes, I’m passionate about my work, and the people I serve. I love almost all the people I cook for. I cannot be everyone’s friend, and I’m not going to please everyone. I’ve always known that, but sometimes a stupid act on my part is needed to remind me.
Saturday was a special night and I won’t let those who feel entitled, superior, or better suited to do my job to ruin my night and the significance of it. The night was a victory for me, and an even bigger victory for one person who won the battle against cancer.