Q: Dear Chef,
My boyfriend is a local-food freak. When we go out to eat, he insists on interrogating the waitstaff with questions about where the food comes from. For every menu item he considers, the server has to run to the kitchen to answer his questions. My boyfriend isn’t normally such a high-maintenance guy, but in these situations he seems to think he’s Paris. How can I get him to calm down and just accept what’s written on the menu, and make his decisions accordingly?
A: In my opinion, you don’t need to calm down your boyfriend–you need to calm down, girlfriend. Although it’s possible your boyfriend thinks he’s some kind of spoiled brat, it sounds like he’s probably making these demands only partly out of self-interest, and in part because he wants to push the restaurant in a more sustainable direction.
Those who’ve worked in retail probably remember the mantra “the customer is always right.” Despite plenty of exceptions to this rule, when customers simply want a better idea of what might be going into their body, they have every right to ask.
In addition to receiving information, the customer is sending a message into the restaurant’s brain stem. The server transmits the message “another customer wants local food” to the powers that be, and hopefully the message is noted.
Before you spill any tears about how complicated your boyfriend is making the server’s life, remember: If the server has a memory, the next time this question is asked, inconvenience won’t occur—the server will simply remember the answer and provide it. Meanwhile, the server will hopefully learn that going the extra mile to answer such questions results in a generous tip. And if servers just roll their eyes and say, “I think it comes from the delivery truck,” your tip should reflect that lack of effort.