You Shouldn’t Be the Chef


I wasn’t sure if it was a dream or a nightmare. I was in New Jersey (no jokes) with my family (really, no jokes) and I scanned the American-Italian menu. The usual suspects appeared: chicken parm, eggplant manicotti, veal marsella. And then I saw what should be the biggest kitchen disaster: customers allowed to create their own meal. There were no guidelines. No suggestions. No boundaries. Just boxed-in text suggesting the customer be the chef.

Maybe without a price range this option could be lucrative. But all I imagine are bitchy, bossy, hungry South Jerseyans ordering outrageous requests. Triple lobster. No butter. No Salt. Extra crab. No fat. No sugar.

This can’t be a step in the right direction in restaurant-patron relations, can it?

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  • BS June 22, 2010  

    horrible. If I’m in the mood to create “my own signature dish” I’m not going to a restaurant! Isn’t that half the point of eating out? Not having to come up with what to make?

  • Benito June 22, 2010  

    I figure if I’m going out to eat, I’m paying for someone (the chef or the corporate test kitchen) to figure out a set of ingredients that work well with each other and produce a good overall dish. The problem with something like this is that people often have an idea of what tastes good, but end up with something unbalanced and nasty. Like angel hair, a gloopy Americanized alfredo sauce, and slices of steak. Ugh.

    I have a similar pet peeve with tacos. Set up all the ingredients and let a random person make a taco, and he’ll pile on four times as much meat as is necessary and then try to ram every other ingredient on the table in there, resulting in something that falls apart and has to be eaten with a fork. Use good quality, highly flavorful ingredients, and you only need a little bit of each to make something delicious that’s not too filling. Same goes for making pizza–people will treat a thin crust Neapolitan style pizza like a Chicago deep dish, piling on pounds of cheese and sausage.

  • erica June 22, 2010  

    i second the “if i want to be the chef i’ll stay home and BE THE CHEF” notion.

  • JoeHoya June 22, 2010  

    In the era of Yelp!/UrbanSpoon/Everyone and their mother having their own food blog this is a potentially horrible idea.

    If my masterpiece of chicken piccata, broccoli rabe and rigatoni alfredo tastes terrible, am I really going to own the fact that I ordered badly? Isn’t it more likely that I either a) complain to the server, forcing them to either absorb my mistake or stand firm and make me, the customer, angry; or b) suffer in silence, pick at my food and then go home and complain about the meal I had without mentioning that I was the culinary genius who invented the dish in the first place?

  • Cindy June 23, 2010  

    Well, I think it is a pretty novel idea that a restaurant is willing to prepare my recipe! This is an example of exceptional customer service! I love the idea.

  • TheGourmetCoffeeGuy February 3, 2011  

    The idea of a restaurant offering the opportunity for the patron to “be the chef” is interesting but probably best suited for small, specialty, neighborhood establishments that can offer such level of personal service.
    Imagine the choices would have to be extremely clear to prevent extravagant demands.
    In such context, “being the chef” could be a neat experience…

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