Ordering "off menu"

The majority of customers eat from the menu.They book a table,turn up on time and order from the list of options presented to them.

However,if one intends to run a successful food business,then some degree of flexibility is required.For example;diners with food allergies or medical conditions which I wrote about here.Or, as we don't provide a children's menu,offering smaller portions or improvising using the ingredients available to us as necessary,is appropriate.

First a little background information.Cooking in a professional kitchen involves each menu item being broken down into its basic constituents,ingredients prepped,some par cooked,ready to be put together as required to form the finished dish.An organised prep fridge will reveal a myriad of little containers all lined up like soldiers,ready for the onslaught.Mise en Place.A good chef runs his kitchen with military precision.Service is the battle, any deviation from the plan can result in devastation and chaos.

Then,there are those who wish to make that foray into the unknown and "order off menu" for reasons best known to themselves.

There are certain rules to observe if you wish to pursue this route and avoid incurring the wrath of the kitchen.

Firstly,choose from the selection of ingredients which are available on the menu i.e. if you don't see it on the menu its unlikely we will have said item lurking in the back of the fridge.And, if we did, you probably wouldn't want to eat it.Quelle surprise!if its not on the menu we surely ain't going to buy it in...Would you??
Its called making a profit.

Secondly,choose your time.Its polite to avoid a complicated list of special requirements on a busy Saturday night service.Whilst chopping fresh tarragon and whisking egg yolks to make a Bearnaise sauce, for example, isn't difficult, it may well be infeasible whilst other orders are piling on and the actual items on menu are being cooked.In the kitchen we like things"close to the wire",it makes it more interesting,but we don't want the wire to snap.
Its called having consideration.

Thirdly, don't take the proverbial.If you ring ahead and reserve a table the assumption is that you will be having a meal.Diners who reserve tables are given preferential treatment in the table pecking order and on some occasions,if their luck is in, may well hit the prime table jackpot.So,if all you fancy is a couple of bowls of chips,just chance your luck on the day.
You know it makes sense.

Lastly,don't turn up late then expect to order a menu which bears no resemblance to the one provided,thus resulting in diners booked in afterwards who have had the decency to arrive on time,suffering delays.As Chef says:If they want to write the menu themselves why don't they stay at home and cook it themselves.
Its called manners.

Today we welcomed the mothers of all "order off menu" diners,during a very busy Saturday lunchtime service.
They booked a table in advance(for four).
They perused the menu.
There was "nothing they liked"
Here is the order:

I kid you not.
Note the smiley face symbol.This is kitchen code,it means:Please don't shout at me and/or send me back to tell them they cant have it.

An order such as this solicits either or all of the following responses usually in this order:

Who are they?(So we can make note for future reference)
What do they look like?(Any obvious outward signs of Merrick style abnormality that set them apart from the mass)
Where are they sitting?(So that we might glimpse the abomination ourselves)

But no,they look quite normal.

On this occasion there was a split second of hesitation as Chef took in the order.Self:We don't have to do it...Chef:Lets just do it and get rid of them....

Later, when things weren't quite so hectic, Chef peered through the prison like glass slit in the regulation fire retardant door which delineates Front of House from kitchen territory.
Look at them..munching on their fried egg sarnies,sitting in the prime spot....The bleepers.

Beam me up Scottie..


love it. Been there done it. We are a service industry so we have to answer to the customers requests- "within reason." I was reprimanded by one of my waiters conveying a message from the customer that she had just witnessed the chef tossing her salad in full view with his hands, no gloves.Come on Jamie, Nigella, Nigel et al. Please wear gloves when preparing food in front of thousands of viewers!!!!
hello just found your blog love this post and I am going to read through more! Im fascinated with restraunts so i look forward to more snippits!!
Pavel said…
I've worked with several chefs that would have walked into the FOH and politely told them to fuck off. In fact I think I would as well, if there is nothing you like on the menu go somewhere else.
o coz-Yes agree within reason!

PP-Thanks for your comment!

P-Chef has been known to take that course of action in the past but is not so much of a hot head these days,I think when its you're own business you're a bit more tolerant(eek that's bad).Also it was just so busy, it was the easier course of action to take.Totally agree with you though, if there's nothing you like eat elsewhere!
There's nothing like a fried egg sarny !!!
Douglas Blyde said…
Beam you up Scottie, indeed. Most interesting a post, Northern Snippet. Might another one be on the fact low tippers occur at Christmas time (as per Twitter)?
Douglas-Absolutely.I have a wealth of material on that very subject..
Vivianne said…
Interesting. Found your blog by accident, altho' I'll be asking Alison Cross why she didn't point it out to me as she knows what I did for my prior life :D I found sales increased when we stopped taking bookings/reservations ...sounds bizarre, I know, but it worked: we only took bookings for Xmas Day/Boxing Day. ...

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