The Internet was quick to ridicule the Chinese student who went to the world-famous sushi restaurant Jiro without knowing what sushi was, and proceeded to ask for cooked sushi. The student has since returned to the restaurant and apologized for her “fish pas” and Jiro’s son reportedly said “Everyone makes mistakes,” in response.
But as it turns out, crazy customer interactions are a universal occurrence and par for the course when it comes to working in the culinary industry. We rounded up some of the best-known chefs like Jonathan Waxman and Michael Symon, and asked for their wackiest, funniest or most unbelievable customer stories.
Michael Symon, host of The Chew, owner of Lola— “This has actually happened a few times. A customer will order a rare steak and send it back because it’s cool on the inside. They literally want it raw and hot, and they don’t understand that that’s impossible!”
Norman Van Aken, Norman’s—“At my very first cooking job I remember a lady ordering our crispy fried chicken. When it arrived she asked for 'a large bowl of piping hot water.' She got it and proceeded to sink her fried chicken in that bowl. When it was soaked she peeled off the skin and sent said skin and the bowl of water back to the kitchen to be 86'd... and ate the skinless bird.”
Lydia Shire, Scampo Boston—“Whenever Julia Child dined in my restaurants, she would invariably order duck. One time she came in and she ordered duck. I sent out the duck and she returned it and said it was chicken! I was stunned (as it was duck ), then I did what I have always done if someone is not quite happy with their meal. I said, ‘What else may I do for you?’ (As a side note, I have all the most wonderful memories of Julia and time spent with her. We all miss you Julia!)
Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill, Xoco —“We specialize in Mexican sandwiches called tortas. One of the tortas is called the Choriqueso, it's basically queso fundido on bread. We had a guest ask to substitute lettuce for bread. She wanted the melted cheese served right over the lettuce. I described it to her like matter and anti-matter: all that hot cheese would wilt and destroy the green leaves. In the end, we served her queso in one bowl and mixed arugula and romaine in another. The bottom line was the guest was happy.” (as told by Arthur Mullen, manager of Xoco)
And finally…our favorite wacky customer interaction award goes to….
Jonathan Waxman, Barbuto—“At Jams one evening, a woman ran downstairs and asked if I would intervene because Milton Berle and Arnold Schwarzenegger had lit up two enormous Montecristo Churchill cigars. I replied, 'lady, if you want to tell Uncle Milty and the Terminator to put out the cigars, please do, because I ain't'.”
Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi