There are a few basics things to keep in mind if you want to truly enjoy your “dining experience” at a restaurant. Most of these things are actually up to the guest – but remember, if you do your part, we (your chef and servers) will do ours.
You can really tell a lot about a person by how they treat a waiter. When interacting with your server, don’t act like you are better than them. One of my former bosses used to say, “Servers are the hosts for everyone’s dinner parties.” They are your guides for the night. If you smile, make eye contact, and say please and thank you, I can guarantee that your experience will be better for it. Servers respond well to people who are kind and respectful, and if you treat them accordingly, they will go out of their way to make sure you are well taken care of. See how this works yet? You do your part, we'll do ours.
Be straightforward and clear about your likes and dislikes (it's like dating). Chefs take allergies very seriously. One small mistake can potentially put someone’s life in danger. If you just don’t like onions, don’t tell your server you have an allergy, just say “I don’t like onions, can you please not put onions on my burger?” It's that easy. If you are in a place that has any sort of integrity, then you won’t get onion on your burger. If you do get that onion on your burger, its not an assault on your character, it's just a genuine mistake. Bring it to your server’s attention and it will be taken care of.
Ok, let’s recap: So far, you've treated the server with respect and have received friendly and considerate service, you've been honest about what you would rather not have on your plate, and all is good. The last step (or maybe it could be considered the first) is to know that we, as chefs, have not just picked ingredients at random and thrown them on the plate. Adding bacon and cheese will not enhance your lemongrass-marinated chicken. So, please, trust us — a lot of care, time, and attention goes into each item on the menu!
Have more questions about how to pick the perfect restaurant, tell if tonight's "seasonal specials" are really just that, compliment your chef in a knowledgeable way, or just want geek out on good food? I’m here to chat!
Gawker's Better State of Living Conversation Series is brought to you with the assistance of State Farm®. Today, Chef Michael Franey, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, has taken a break from creating film-inspired cuisine at Nitehawk Cinema, to answer your fine dining questions in the discussion section below.