Should a Chef Alter a Signature Menu Item If a Customer Requests It?

Categories: Bites & Dishes

cookingsignaturedishes.jpg
The implied meaning of a signature menu item is that it doesn't change. And for restaurants who offer them, the message to customers is simple: If you come here, you can have this special item.

But what if the customer wants a signature dish with alterations? I asked Valley chefs and restaurateurs to offer their thoughts on changing their signature creations per customer requests -- here's what they had to say:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for RomeoTausBites&Dishes.jpg
Romeo Taus
Chef and owner, Romeo's Cafe

NO: The reason most of us do this is passion. We want to cook food that evokes a positive emotional response. If we're fortunate enough to have a few signature dishes, it's because in the process of creation we have achieved a unique taste profile that impresses us and our somewhat educated palate. This is what we want the guest to experience. This is what sets us apart from the next person with a set of knives.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for B&DRitaFrenchProvince.jpg
Rita French
Chef de Cuisine, Province

YES: Cooking is a collaboration and my guests play a huge role in my cooking. If you removed the guest's feedback from the equation, you would be doing a huge disservice to your operation. If I notice a trend in feedback, I will absolutely re-evaluate the dish and tweak as needed.


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for JamesPorterPic1.jpg
James Porter
Chef and owner, Petite Maison

YES: As a chef, I signed up to be in the service industry, and that means to serve as needed. If a guest would like to make a change, I'm happy to do it. That said, if it's a really odd request I may suggest not making the change. But then again, what do I know? If it tastes good to a guest, then I guess it is good.


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ShinToyoda.jpg
Shin Toyoda
Sushi master at Sushi Roku

NO: When they are altered, they no longer remain signature dishes. As a chef, the recipe was made the way I wanted it served, and it should stay as close to that as possible. Although, there is always a need to adapt to new palates.



Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for aaronmay.jpg
Aaron May, chef and restaurateur

YES: I'm a big believer that the customer is not always right but should always get what they want. If the guest wants to alter a signature dish, we will always accommodate them; however, sometimes with the caveat that the dish is not going to work as well. Obviously, if there's an aversion to the key element of the dish, there's a significant reason that the dish was created that way.


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
15 comments
Jill B
Jill B

Wow, I will be sure to avoid all of the "NO" restaurants, since they are basically saying, "I don't care if you weren't even the one to pick out this restaurant; my ego is more important than your food allergies."

Kenny Powers
Kenny Powers

First, earth to Romeo, you are doing it wrong. Stop with the ego and allow minor changes to your food. It's pretty good, but if I don't want onions on something, stop with the power trip.

Secondly, I like Raising Cane's, but is it weird that a fast food joint is being asked this question? All the other spots are legit dining spots, but fastfood? Does not compute.

Stevee
Stevee

If you don't like the dish ingredients or how its prepared then order something else on the menu. If you are eating at a fine dining restaurant you should respect the chef's recipe and preparation.  All of this the customer is always right bs doesn't work in this setting.  If you need to personalize everything then cook your own food.  This is another example of the narsacistic and  pervasive behavior that everyone thinks is acceptable and in fact is not.

azlefty
azlefty

So I see 5 Restaurants I will not dine at!

It is like putting  a "wing" on a pinto, it may not work  but the  customer is paying  for it  and it does not hurt anything except maybe your ego!

Julie Peterson
Julie Peterson

If I ask (which is rarely), it's for what I think is a good reason, when I suspect (in my ignorance) that it won't be extra trouble, at a place where I like the cuisine, and I ask respectfully and expect the staff to say no if they know it won't work. What if something sounds completely tantalizing except for a topping of something I really don't like? I'm seeking that experience. Sometimes it's easy to pick it off, sometimes not, and I don't like to waste food.

In real life, I've asked for an order of fries to be seasoned differently as a side to an entree than they typically were as an app, because it would have been gross otherwise, and I told the server, "If the chef would rather not do that, I understand." He fixed it up, no problem.

On the flip side, I ordered one of my favorite local Chinese dishes to go once, and the staff said one of the stir-fried vegetables wouldn't keep its integrity and taste on the drive home. I let them know I understood and would take the risk. They were right -- it wasn't as good -- but I still enjoyed it, they warned me, and because of communicating I stayed a happy customer.

Reed2hearne
Reed2hearne

I think this is a great discussion which reveals the wide disparity of exactly how restaurateurs envision the business they are engaged in!

Natasha
Natasha

Unless the diner loves the dish but is allergic to an ingredient should the thought of asking it to be altered ever cross their mind.

Thank you to those chefs that were honest and said 'no.'  

vicelord
vicelord

I personally don't believe in special orders at all. Look, you went to a restaurant and a menu of items was presented for you, if you don't like anything on it or feel the need to change it, perhaps you should be eating somewhere else or even at your own home. Why did you go to this restaurant if you need to change something just to be able to order it?

I think allergies are an absolute exception to the 'don't change it' rule, but even still the courteous (and probably safe) thing to do is to order something that doesn't contain what you're allergic to. I've seen many dishes at restaurants that have 5 things I love in them, yet one thing will set it off for me and rather than be that asshole who asks to ruin a dish or make some asinine special item, I just choose a different dish that doesn't have an item I need to be removed from it.

jliven23
jliven23

I could never imagine asking for an alteration to a signature dish. I guess if I had ordered it numerous times and found that one additional ingredient made it better for me...but typically it's that exact dish I go to a restaurant for. However, I do sometimes get annoyed by the chef who won't allow salt and pepper to grace the table because it somehow ruins the food. That is pushing it a little far and being a tad closed minded.

Vicelord
Vicelord

Why go to a restaurant if you don't want to eat what they serve?

Romeo
Romeo

Thank you for the advice.Contrary to popular belief, we make a lot of changes to our food to accommodate for allergies, gluten, all dietetic restraints.We offer a larger menu than most establishments, and I'm very protective about most signature dishes, NOT all dishes.If this is about power or ego is not from the chef's point of view, it's from the guest!
I'd like to be judged for what I do, not what I don't. If that's not good enough, we'll never deny anybody the opportunity to dine somewhere else. Onions were never a problem.....

jliven23
jliven23

Reading this just made me realize I'm having Raising Cane's today....had eaten there in Vegas a couple of times and just realized they are here now. Awesome.

vicelord
vicelord

And no thanks to the rehersed corporate puppet response from the Season52 guy.

Jill B
Jill B

This isn't a matter of just "not wanting" to eat something.

Unless someone is going by themselves to a restaurant, they don't have 100% of the say in picking a place.  Unfortunately putting walnuts and pistachios on tons of dishes seems "in-style"...  Some places will just happen to have a lot of nuts in items on their menu, and not everyone has the time to meticulously study every menu before deciding to go out for dinner.  I don't think it's "insulting the chef's genius" to at least *ask* if something can be made without ingredients that will KILL ME.  They can always say "no that can't be done like that" and I can just not order anything.  I'm fine with that.  But the attitude that I can't even inquire as to whether a dish can be made without nuts (or inquire as to whether it may have it as a hidden ingredient), lest I insult the chef, is ridiculous. 

Certainly they're free to run their restaurant like that ... and I'm free to not buy their food in protest of their crappy attitudes.  But it sounds like a bad business decision to not allow even *questioning* of your dishes. 

vicelord
vicelord

sounds like you shouldn't be leaving your home... It's not safe.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...