7 Things That Chefs Hate

A careless dinner order might make a chef mad. Learn about their biggest pet peeves and how to keep cooks happy.

December 6, 2017
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We all know not to make our servers mad (unless a spit garnish sounds tasty), but what upsets the most important person in the restaurant? Though we’re all used to seeing celebrity chefs yell insults at wannabes, it’s rare that we ever really get to know what makes them tick in an average restaurant.

Turns out that chefs have a wide variety of pet peeves. From little customer habits that would annoy anybody to outrageous requests most people wouldn’t believe, we’ve compiled all the things that chefs hate most.

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Before you read any further, please remember that chefs work hard. Really hard. It’s not all yelling at prep cooks and serving celebrities like TV shows would make it seem. According to KQED Food,

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In 2013, the owners of an East Bay restaurant emailed the San Francisco Chronicle for advice about latecomers. The restaurant had recently dealt with three people that came in three minutes before closing. When the diners were still enjoying dinner a full hour later, the waitstaff politely told them the restaurant was closing. Sadly, the diners freaked out, harassed the staff, and left a bad Yelp review. The chef wasn’t pleased.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, it takes at least an hour for the kitchen to clean up. So, if you show up right before closing, you’re forcing the chef to stay an hour after your last course is served.

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But this is not always the fault of the customer. The magazine advised the East Bay establishment to let late diners know that the restaurant will be closing soon. Sure, this might make some customers mad, but it’ll also ensure that the whole staff isn’t sticking around for hours on end.

In this situation, the chef gets mad at the servers and the customers for poor communication and wasted time. No matter who’s at fault, here’s the most important take away: Don’t show up three minutes before a restaurant closes.

2. Brunches

Anthony Bourdain is now an incredibly famous chef known for his love of daring international cuisine and hosting a million shows about food. But the thing that started it all was his no-nonsense book about the world of restaurants, Kitchen Confidential. In it, Bourdain spills a lot of secrets about life on the prep line. But one of the things that he, and other chefs, hate the most is brunch.

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Cooks hate brunch,” Bourdain wrote in his chapter on the in-between meal. According to the chef, the best cooks are employed on Friday and Saturday nights, since that’s when restaurants are the busiest. So, that automatically means you’re getting the B-team on Sunday morning.

If low level cooks (who usually don’t like working that early, according to Bourdain) isn’t bad enough, the brunch menu itself is a little shady. Bourdain said brunch tends to be made of cruddy scraps that the restaurant wants to use up by the end of the week. So, that Instagram-able plate is full of leftovers ready to go bad.

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Oh, and even if Eggs Benedict sounds like a good choice, don’t order them. “Hollandaise is a veritable petri dish of biohazards,” Bourdain wrote. The sauce is never made fresh, and it’s concocted from leftover butter. Yeah, butter from other dishes gets heated, and all of the extra food or dirt particles get strained out for the decadent brunch dish, according to the book.

After hearing Bourdain’s brunch tales, anyone might hate the midday meal just as much as chefs do.

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3. Hot Sauce

In general, all chefs don’t hate hot sauce. Some probably like it a lot. But many chefs don’t like a customer drenching their perfectly prepared dish in cheap, spicy flavoring.

In Fresh Off The Boat, chef Eddie Huang talks about his hatred for hot sauce. He prepares his food with great detail, perfect seasonings, and an ideal balance of flavor. So, when a customer asks for extra sauce, it’s an insult to the chef!

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Huang was especially annoyed by these condiment requests, so he started a “no hot sauce” policy at his restaurant Baohaus, according to his book.

Diners weren’t pleased. He got negative Yelp reviews left and right. But Huang didn’t care. He took pride in crafting a balanced dish, and he wasn’t going to let any hot sauce-loving customers ruin it. In fact, he starting posting his own negative reviews on Yelp just to make fun of diners’ hot sauce requests.

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All chefs aren’t as hot sauce hostile as Huang. But if you’re at a nice restaurant, the chef probably isn’t excited when a customer asks for ketchup for your steak.

4. Abusive Bosses

Most of us have had an aggravating boss or two in our lives, and nobody finds it enjoyable. But when chefs have a bad boss, it can get to some next level abusive behavior.

Author, chef, and catering company owner Rossi wrote The Raging Skillet to talk all about her tumultuous time in the restaurant world. And she detailed one particularly abusive boss: Jim.

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Jim was a loud, angry cowboy who frequently screamed at the chefs and front of house staff. In the restaurant world, according to Rossi, it’s not rare for head chefs to communicate only through screaming (Gordon Ramsay, anyone?), but Jim was especially hostile to nearly everyone that worked for him.

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Some of the chefs would shout back (like Rossi), but the waiters took out their anger a little differently—on the food. “If Jim only knew what the waiters he mistreated did to his food, he would have dropped dead,” wrote Rossi. Those waiters were constantly gross with the food to give Jim a bad reputation. Even though Rossi wound up admiring Jim for his some of his non-screaming qualities, at the time, she and the rest of the staff did not appreciate his angry ways.

So hearing a screaming boss might be a cue to pick another restaurant.

5. Anything Slow

From a diner’s point of view, a restaurant usually seems like a friendly space filled with dutiful staff and servers. But behind the scenes, it’s a crazed, fast-paced world where there’s little room for patience.

Author Jenny Oh described her one night with Chef David Chang at the famous Momofuku Noodle Bar.

At the time, Momofuku had just opened and hadn’t become the renowned restaurant it is today. So, when Oh saw an ad looking for prep cooks, she decided she’d give it a try—despite having no restaurant experience.

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Her first lesson—go fast. As she tried to chop some scallions, Chang looked at her work and screamed, “NO, NO—you’re going too slowly. Do it like THIS.” His knife flew through the vegetables, and Oh tried her best to go even half that speed.

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When Oh was tasked at making the family meal (the meal made for the restaurant staff), she was again chastised for going too slow.

It wasn’t just Chang who had a need for speed: All the cooks in the kitchen chopped fast, cooked fast, and worked fast, all shift long.

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In the end, Oh quit after her first night. The restaurant business is tough work and no chef can tolerate any slow moving parts to their crazy, but well-oiled, machine.

6. Outrageous Last Minute Demands

As we found out in the hot sauce section, chefs make their food in a very particular way on purpose. So, if someone has a bunch of outrageous demands for their food, they get mad.

Customers contact me and say things like, “I want a replica of the White House by tomorrow.”

Pastry Momofuku Noodle Bar

chef Charlise Johnson gets hit extra hard by special requests. She prides herself on her work at her boutique bakery Intimate Eats. “Because I design and create very intricate specialty cakes, I really hate last minute requests,” Johnson says.

Now, Johnson’s not talking about people wanting their grandma’s name on a Happy Birthday cake or any such simple request.

“Customers contact me and say things like, I want a replica of the White House by tomorrow,‘” Johnson says. Yes, a customer actually thought it was completely appropriate to ask for a cake version of the most famous building in America with less than a day to make it!

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Johnson won’t shy away from a challenge, but she finds it very rude for customers to expect her to work miracles overnight. So, super special requests are doable, but make sure the chef has plenty of time for a potentially difficult dish.

7. “What’s the recipe?”

Johnson admits she has another big pet peeve: when customers ask for her special recipes. “This drives me crazy!” Johnson says. “I wouldn’t mind sharing if this wasn’t such a niche business. I only sell made from scratch baked goods. My recipes are essential to how my business makes money.”

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This is true not only for Johnson and boutique bakeries, but for any chef with a signature dish. When a customer asks for the recipe, they’re asking for the chef’s livelihood. Hey, if everybody started making their meals at home, they could potentially go out of business.

Now, I totally get that this simple request doesn’t seem that offensive to most diners. In fact, I’ve sadly done this myself. But I’ll never do it again!

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