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Style & Living Food and Drinks

The 7 Most Annoying Things You Can Do in a Restaurant to Piss Off the Chef

Want to start a food fight? Here's how. 

By Hilary Sheinbaum
8 Most Annoying Things You Can Do in a Restaurant to Piss Off Your Server

Eating at a restaurant is typically a fun, relaxing experience—but not necessarily for the staff. When customers sit down for well-planned meals, chefs are excited and happy to serve them. But when push comes to shove (not literally, we hope), some of the things diners do can piss off the creative souls manning the kitchen.

For the sake of being sweet, and not sour, when you’re out to breakfast, lunch, or dinner, *do not* attempt the following faux pas. Furthermore, these cooking and baking badasses happen to be handling sharp cutlery—so, let’s not tempt them… ok?

1. Changing This and That

“The biggest annoyance to me is major modifications. I’m not talking about ‘no onions’ or ‘extra sauce, please.’ Those are preferences that are totally fine. When a guest comes in and chooses one or two components from two to three different plates and creates his/her own new dish, that’s aggravating. Chefs spend hours and hours building a dish to be its best self; writing recipes, developing ideas, sourcing ingredients that complement each other. To have someone come in and tear your menu apart to build their own dish, it’s basically the same as saying ‘I want to eat at your restaurant, but I don’t want to eat your food.’” –Chris Coleman, Executive Chef at Stoke in Charlotte, NC

2. Smoking, and Name-Dropping

“Most annoying thing ever: getting up from the table to smoke a cigarette. I mean it’s 2017, who smokes anymore? The second most annoying thing: namedropping. ‘Oh, Peter here is a food blogger,’ really? That matters why? Does Yelp really constitute a blog? Want special attention? Say you’re a cook or a server. We always take care of our own.” –Anthony Bucco, Chef at Restaurant Latour in Hamburg, NJ

3. Giving Unsolicited Advice

“A pet peeve: When being told we ‘should’ serve or do something like someone else does, they had years ago, or like so and so’s mom used to do. Because of Instagram, the Internet, and explosion of food-centric TV, everyone is an expert chef that can run their own crew and business. I appreciate the enthusiasm, but oftentimes, it’s not quite the right moment to give ‘advice,’ especially if not coming from a fellow independent business owner.” –Matthew Gaudet, Executive Chef at Freepoint Kitchen & Cocktails in Cambridge, MA, and Chef & Owner of SuperFine Food in Manchester-by-the Sea, MA

4. Making Ignorant Cooking Requests

“Diners who assume they know their meat temperatures when in actuality they are clueless. More times then I would care to recall I have had fish, beef, pork sent back to the kitchen because Joe Knowsnothing thought he wanted his salmon cooked to a perfect, succulent, just cooked, slightly pink medium. Joe Knowsnothing receives this delicate beauty and then proceeds to cut one piece off the fish. His fork and knife penetrate the salmon; it flakes apart like butter, juicy and bright. Joe Knowsnothing quickly realizes his fish is cooked too beautifully for him and sends the salmon back to have the absolute s*** cooked out of it until it is dry and barren like the desert sands of the Sahara. My point being: know your temps. If you want me to kill the food a second time, I will, but please don't sit there and pretend you're not a Joe Knowsnothing. Just ask a question about temps if you don't know. We promise we won't laugh at you until after leaving the establishment.” –Colton Coburn-Wood, Executive Chef at Lower Mills Tavern and Yellow Door Taqueria in Boston, MA

5. Placing Chopsticks Incorrectly

“When using chopsticks, never place the chopsticks vertically in your dish, it is considered rude and a bad omen, as a bowl of rice is left at Japanese funerals with the chopsticks placed vertically. This is referred to as tsukitate-bashi. Place them to the side or on top of your dish, horizontally.” –Garret Fleming, Chef at Motto in Durham, NC and former Top Chef cheftestant

6. Not Showing Up for a Reservation and Arriving Just Before Close

“Nothing worse than a lack of respect to not even call the restaurant to let them know that you are not coming. That table could have been used for another reservation, or a walk-in customer. Margins are getting tighter every day, so every person counts to be able to feed and not waste food. At a busy restaurant, we are constantly asking the hostess, ‘Has the last diner arrived?’ Usually it's a ‘yes,’ and we start cleaning the kitchen, storing food away, packing our tools. Then a party of four shows up at the very last second, after the kitchen is shut down, and of course we have to re-open the whole line. At the end of the shifts, chefs and cooks are tired and want to go home.” –Eddie Brik, Private & Personal Chef, former owner of Hadaka Sushi in Los Angeles, CA

7. Eating the Meal and Requesting a Refund

“One time I saw a whole snapper go out, and it came back to the kitchen half eaten, and the problem was that that's not what they wanted. We are known for our whole snappers. I’m pretty sure you had enough details from the server about it. If it wasn’t what you wanted, then why would half the snapper be devoured? You seriously can’t expect to get this off your check now, do you?” –Felix Tai, Executive Chef at Polynesian Cultural Center's Pounders Restaurant in Laie, HI

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