In restaurants, there’s often a big disconnect between what’s happening out in the dining room and what’s going on back in the kitchen. Unless you’re dining at a restaurant with an open kitchen, where patrons can watch their food being made up-close (as from the counters at D.C.’s minibar or New York’s Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare), odds are that you’ll never catch a glimpse of the controlled chaos going on as your food is prepared. But there’s a lot happening back there that you may not realize, and there are a few things that chefs wish you knew about what it’s like to run a kitchen.
"I would love to tell people about real professional cooks and what motivates them to work in kitchens,” Alex Harrell, the chef at Angeline in New Orleans, told us. “They come to work every day in difficult, physically demanding conditions at lower than average pay. It's not the money that drives them, but their love of food, desire to learn, and motivation to cook for people.”
Running a restaurant kitchen is no easy task, and chefs know that the vast majority of diners obviously haven’t gone to culinary school, so they tend to cut guests some slack when they ask for a weird substitution, for example, or have no idea how to order a steak properly. But there are certainly some things that chefs wish every diner knew, and when we asked some leading chefs for their opinions, they were more than happy to share. “If everyone worked at least one day in a busy kitchen, they would be better customers by having seen what it takes to get food out of the kitchen at the same time, hot and well prepared for multiple tables,” said Bill Peet, chef at New York’s Belgian Beer Café NoMad. “It is truly a well-choreographed dance."
Here are nine things chefs wish you understood:
They Wish You Wouldn't Lie About Allergies
When the kitchen gets word that a customer has an allergy, they have to take extra steps to make sure that the food that the customer is allergic to doesn’t come into contact with any of their other food, meaning that knives, cutting boards, and other equipment need to be replaced. If the customer is lying, that’s a lot of unnecessary work. If you simply don’t like something, just ask your server if it can be left out.
They'd Rather You Didn't Order Anything Well-Done
Because well-done meat just tastes overcooked, chefs tend to reserve the most prized cuts for those who order them cooked to a lower temperature.