Special treatment at a restaurant
May 7, 2009 5:26 PM   Subscribe

If you know the chef and therefore get some special treatment, how do you respond?

I am dining out Sat night at a higher end restaurant. We know the exec chef who helped us get last minute reservations, but she is more of an acquaintance. I expect she will send us out some extras, etc and perhaps get a little nicer treatment because we know her, and I am wondering if there is a protocol for how to handle. Do we tip extra even though the gratuity will not go to her? Just want be gracious for the super generous and kind treatment. thanks.
posted by dublin to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you bring your own wine, be sure to send a glass back for them to taste. You should probably offer this even if you order a bottle off the menu, too.
posted by kcm at 5:31 PM on May 7, 2009

Yes you definitely should tip extra to your server...the chef is guaranteed to ask your server if you "took care of them" so make sure you do.
posted by vito90 at 5:43 PM on May 7, 2009

A sincere thank you, and sending a bottle of wine would be nice..... and...what could you do in return???
posted by HuronBob at 5:44 PM on May 7, 2009

I'd say sending a bottle of wine from the menu back to the kitchen would be a much better way of showing your appreciation. There's no way an executive chef will be drinking on the job and if it's an exclusive restaurant then bringing your own bottle would be declasse'.
posted by torquemaniac at 5:44 PM on May 7, 2009

second the sending back a glass of wine and yes, tip very very well since bonus things for you are extra work/pressure for the servers.
posted by lia at 5:45 PM on May 7, 2009

There's no way an executive chef will be drinking on the job

this made me laugh pretty hard. oh torquemaniac, what you don't know about kitchens.
posted by lia at 5:47 PM on May 7, 2009 [15 favorites]

Fulsome praise for the incredible meal, via the server at the time and/or the next day with a phone call. And what everyone else said!
posted by t0astie at 5:48 PM on May 7, 2009

This is something I'm really lucky to experience often thanks to a chef husband and his numerous industry contacts - whenever we go out for dinner a parade of dishes we didn't order arrive at the table.

When get VIP'd like this we:
• Heap praise - tell the wait staff to convey to the chef that the "X was incredible... just amazing!"
• Ask educated questions - "The trout was awesome - is it farmed or line caught?"
• Clean your plates. This could be a little bit of paranoia on my part, but chefs often send us out little tasty experiments they are thinking of adding to the menu, but at that stage are just for us to try. We eat every morsel, because we'd hate for the chef to ask the waiter "How'd they like it?" as they carry our plates back in, and not see a plate wiped clean.*
• Tip the wait staff generously - being VIP'd means the chef is sending them to your table a lot more frequently.
• Send a thank you card later

Personally, I would never pre-empt VIP treatment by showing up with a gift. It's better to just look kind of abashed and surprised, then thrilled by anything which comes your way.

*This can be utter agony if the chef is feeling generous. I have literally had to go home and curl up into the fetal position when I got home, holding my stomach.
posted by lottie at 6:52 PM on May 7, 2009

If possible, do a little research on the chef before you go (internet, read reviews). Don't bring up anything you read, but be aware of what you may say good or bad is about to be filtered through their critic filter...

As far as tips, top the waiter according to what you would pay had you ordered the item. For apps not on the menu, assume a median item price - unless it is obviously over-the-top (foie gras, white truffles, polyponesian left flippered sea horses).

2nding cleaning the plates of anything sent...

If the chef comes out to see you, thank them for the meal. Her taking time to see you is a measure of respect she has for you and a fair amount of difficulty and inconvenience to service if the night is booming. If she only comes out and visits with the table next to you, be gracious - you may be VIPed, but the person next to you may be the exec's financial backers - you can still be VIPed and small fare.

If it is an open line and the end of the night (or business is slow), thank the cheff, but also ask the chef if you can take a moment to thank the members of his brigade.

Send a tasteful thank you card 2-3 days after you eat. If they really went to the ends of the earth, send a gift basket
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:27 PM on May 7, 2009

The executive chef at my upscale restaurant frequently receives thank you notes and e-mails. I imagine if wine was sent back to him, he'd give it to the server or to the line cooks since he is (openly) on the wagon. Maybe if you knew the chef better - as a close personal friend, the wine would make sense.

Also, definitely tip on the free food - you probably won't remember the prices and they won't be on the bill, so you'll need to guestimate to make your calculation. But be generous.
posted by jenmakes at 7:40 PM on May 7, 2009

lottie has it right, imo. Since the chef is only an acquaintance of yours, I would tip a little more than usual (if the establishment is like most I know, the tips received by the waiter are distributed evenly amongst the whole staff), try absolutely everything, heap praises (even if they aren't particularly truthful), and send a thank you card. Thank you cards and letters are very common and appreciated.

Chances are, if the chef has a moment, she may come by your table and then you can thank her in person - depending on how long you stay and how the night's going. I wouldn't send a glass of wine back - or a bottle.

Tip, praise, try everything (remember, they get the plates back), and send a thank you card/give a call.
posted by RobertFrost at 12:22 AM on May 8, 2009

Sending a glass of wine back might be awkward, depending on the restaurant. Tip your server well, however, because the server will definitely have to spend extra time handling any special requests from the chef, and if you're getting free food, the bill (and consequently the percentage of it that would be used to calculate tip) won't be in accordance with the actual work involved.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:11 AM on May 8, 2009

There's no way an executive chef will be drinking on the job

this made me laugh pretty hard. oh torquemaniac, what you don't know about kitchens.

Ya rly.

lottie is basically spot on.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:35 PM on May 9, 2009

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