Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How To Be VIP

Last night we had the unpleasant experience of needing to tell a group of particularly unpleasant young people it was time for them to leave. This brought about some reflection on my part that since kids aren't raised right anymore it is impossible them them to know how to behave when dining out. They feel far too entitled to even begin to know what is appropriate.

Face facts- all customers are not equal. There are people it is a pleasure to serve and there are people that you grit your teeth and bare it and then there are people you tell to get the fuck out- then hang the pictures you took of them with your camera phone up in the back so you will never forget who not to let back in.

The rewards of being categorized as "a pleasure to serve" are many. They include preferred seating, being bumped up on waiting lists, having your special occasions remembered, getting nice little freebies, being served items that aren't on the menu and having exceptions to policy made for you. Also, we in the industry chat amongst ourselves- if you dine out frequently you have a reputation. Your actions determine your reputation.

Here is how to be the customer that gets fawned over:

1) We are open to the public but a restaurant/bar is in fact private property. You are a guest in someone else's space. Be respectful of that.

2) Special requests are like sex- it doesn't hurt to ask but no means no. A request being denied is not bad service. It is policy. It is also fine to politely ask why a request is being denied. But don't make a stinkin' big issue of it.

3) It is fine to request seating other than where the host offers you. But again- it is their space not yours. If the host explains they can't offer you the space you want deal with. Working a summer at Dairy Queen does NOT mean that you understand the intricacies of the human Tetris game that is restaurant seating.

4) Being rude to my server will most assuredly not get me to change my mind about accommodating you. I promise you it won't. Not ever. My server is here because I respect how she does her job. She is more important to me than you are.

5) If you have been told that your request cannot be accommodated and you choose to stay anyway don't make us regret seating you. Being passive aggressive and loudly complaining for the rest of your meal is just an asshole thing to do. You chose to stay. Grow the fuck up or leave.

6) There are some things it is completely unreasonable to request. Such as changing the entire environment just for you. That means lighting, room temp, sound level. Your momma told you you are a beautiful wonderful unique snowflake. To her you are. But not to me.

7) Not catering to dietary requests is not horrible service. It is a business decision. Not every place is for everyone. Get over yourself. That said if Rob Zombie ever shows up at my door I will crawl on my hands and knees through glass to make him something vegetarian. Are you Rob Zombie? No. I didn't think so.

8) Do not EVER touch your server of grab her arm to get her attention. Not ever. Do not whistle or snap your fingers either.

11) Realise that while we are endeavoring to serve you we are not your servants. Treating the people who are waiting on you and cooking for you as inferiors is not only rude it is a deep seated character flaw.

12) This should go without saying but the golden rule applies. Treat people in the service industry as you would like to be treated. If you wouldn't enjoy having a 20something smelly hipster getting shitty and personally insulting with you over something that is either beyond your control or is simply a matter of policy then don't do it to my server either.

13) On that note- when you choose to write an amateur online review be circumspect. Do not lie. We read those things. When you lie about your experience you are admitting to the world, if not yourself, that it was in fact you who was the jerk.

14) Do not tell the people at a business what they "should" do. It is fine as a regular to tell them what you would like to see. There is a difference.

15) When dining at an "ethnic" restaurant do not start inquiring about the ethnicities of the staff. Inquiring about such personal matters of complete strangers is rude. In fact- respect boundaries in general. I don't know you. Do not ask me personal questions.

16) This is a new one since the widespread scourge of "foodie-ism". Do not loudly disparage a restaurant at a restaurant. We tend to know each other. You could be talking shit about the chef/owner's best friend. This will not endear you.

17) Do not mistake being high maintenance for being sophisticated. Do not put on airs. Anyone worth impressing will not be impressed. You get a mule all gussied up in racehorses harness but it is a mule nonetheless and you aren't fooling anyone.

18) Ready to order means that everyone at the table knows what they want. Do not hold your server (and hence the other customers) hostage making them stand there while you decide.

19) Do not go to Armani for a Harley bandanna and vise-versa. That a place isn't what you want it to be does not make it bad. Again- private property. You want to make decisions buy your own place.

20) Do not "camp out" at tables. You are hurting the business and most especially the server whose section you are hogging up.

21) Some big "Dos" here
Be courteous and receptive to courtesy.
Know what you want from your experience, choose the venue accordingly, find out if the place can accommodate your needs BEFORE you show up.
Remember you are a guest on someone else's property.
Realise that no one is perfect. Mistakes will be made. something can only "ruin your evening" if you are willing to allow your evening to be ruined.
Be respectful of boundaries with the staff. They are serving you for money.
Tip well.
Say please and thank you.
Understand that you are not the center of the universe. No, not even on your birthday.

This list is common sense really. All of this should have been taught to you by your parents or guardians. If any item of this list is news to you your parents brought you up wrong. Take it out on them, not me.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Year in Review

Ah... 2009. Mightily did you suck like an 82nd avenue ho with a detachable jaw.

There were high highs, low lows and rich creamy middles.

And I shall now enumerate them for whatever bored office rats that have stumbled upon this blog, most likely while they are on someone else's clock. Shame on you.

2009, in a business where so many fail in the first year I am happy and proud to say I am in my second year of business. Tanuki started primarily as a double dog dare I made against myself. Now, as I stand here with my tongue stuck to the proverbial frozen flagpole I take pause to reflect.

As I said, Tanuki was basically a dare. Having always advocated absolute laissez-faire capitalism and minimal government the challenge was to open a business being self sufficient, debt free and paying as I go. No fucking affirmative-action SBA loans.

Cash money and a 17k Amex Line of Credit. Four fast food tables, plastic chairs, built two bars out of Home Depot clearance bamboo flooring. A used Ipod, 2 suzy homemaker electric hotplates and a $3 cheapo kiwi brand knife bought from the corner Asian grocery. Oh yes, and a couple Sears 18 cubic foot fridges. Also, my wife not only enjoys counting shekels but is also good at it so no accounting fees!


How much did I learn? Honestly I learned less than I thought I would. Mostly this experience has just re-enforced what I already believed. It has certainly firmed up my contempt for those who whine and whinge for entitlements. I learned a bit about the flexibilty of my personality..those who've borne witness to the jackassery of the Nuki probably wouldn't suspect or believe that I used to be one of those ultra-serious no talking on the line "chefs". The Nuki is a shape shifter indeed.

The lessons of the year?

1) Bite off more than you can chew and chew like hell.
2) Dealing honorably does not mean you will be dealt with honorably. Trust no one...but don't tell people you don't trust them or they'll just get sneakier.
3) Ayn Rand was right about everything... except sex maybe..I still fall firmly in the "rape is bad" camp. Except for jokes. Rape jokes, especially in the kitchen, will ALWAYS be funny.
4) Don't open a business in a city with liberal policies towards vagrancy and panhandling. Just don't.
5) Owning a bar gives access to chicks much better looking than you would normally merit.
6) "Don't get high off your own supply"- excellent in theory, impossible to practice. My liver is now as large and as dangerous as a foamed mouth pitbull. I am the human foie...don't try this at home.
7) Call no one by their given name. Giving nicknames is fun and puts the help in their place..also, when you call them by their real name they know they're in trouble without you having to yell.
8) Being productive in this stage of the American experiment doesn't pay. You will spend your whole waking life casting pearls and not even getting a pork chop in return. If you don't love the work for its own sake do something else.
9) Be a good neighbor and a respectful tenant. Your momma shoulda taught you this but she probably didn't. You're welcome.
10) Nothing is so simple that is can't go horribly aft a gley in the blink of an eye. Take nothing for granted. Shit will still hit the fan but at least you won't be suprised.
11) There is nothing a person hates more than a business that says to them "actually, I don't need you as a customer". This can lead to hilarity, drama or hilarious drama. Either way... it's a nice way to go if you have the onions.
12) NOTHING in this world is free. Again, yo momma should have taught you that and probably didn't. Everything costs SOMETHING. If you got something you didn't pay for that means someone else had to pay for it. This goes for bread baskets, ice water, round on the house, and of course government handouts.
13) Be kind to the people that protect our way of life... write a soldier overseas a letter, buy a cop a beer.
14) Every good business plan includes planning for success..but also planning for failure. An exit strategy is built into every good business plan.
15) If you own a bar get your new employees very drunk early on. That way you know if you can rely on them even hungover.
16) That midget in Bad Santa? Best. Midget. Ever.
17) If you are comfortable in what you're doing you have gotten complacent. Rock that boat you lazy shitstick!
18) If it's easier than it looks you aren't trying hard enough.
19) The second amendment exists in case our elected officials ignore the first.
20) We are the sum total of our actions.When doing any given thing whether it be a work task or a personal interaction it is good to take that split second to ask yourself- is this something I want to become?

I hope soon to have leisure time to take up a hobby... outsider art seems a natch. I will start taking bids for my life-size statue of Nancy Pelosi made of rat teeth, ants and hobo feces.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Just Saying No To The House of Yes

The Theory of Relativity (as it applies to cooks)
"Put your hand on a hot pan & a second can seem like an hour, put your hand on a hot woman & an hour can seem like a second"
- LL Cool J as Sherman "preach" the cook from Deep Blue Sea

Was there ever, can there be, is there any Objective truth to cooking?
Because we, as cooks, produce something meant to be consumed and judged by others are we forever relegated to stumbling in a mist of subjectivity, relativity and doubt?

I've crossed the Rubicon now as far as my life goes. I've always done this thing and it has programmed and informed every behavior in my life, every personality tic and every choice. My cookness is evident in the way I hurry through everything telling myself that 5 minutes is really 1, the way I critique & categorize everything I see and the way that even when I seem to be still I'm either making lists in my head or trying to file new knowledge into places it will stick.

I went from a kid trying to be a cook to a cook trying to be a chef to a chef trying to be a cook... and now strangely having what I wanted, a place 100% mine I struggle for identity.

It is popular though these days to hold that there is some kind of "brotherhood of man" or "social contract" or "greater good". Perhaps it reflects poorly on me that I cannot believe these things. I see only single, sovereign entities that come into contact and go their own ways.

In the day and age of "yes-taurants", in a populist age filled with yearnings towards socialism and sublimation of self where does this leave a cook like myself, a restaurateur like myself?

Anomaly? Relic? A fool preaching an antiquated philosophy to the disinterested?

..and hence coming back to the Objective truth of cooking.

At some point one does realize that one can't please everyone. The part I've always had trouble understanding is- why do people who've realized this still try? Is it a survival skill? A maladaptive coping mechanism? Cognitive dissonance?

My conclusion is, for myself, that the Objective truth to cooking, like anything else in life is simply about integrity. One mind, two hands, a purpose and a plan. Objective cooking is cooking for yourself. Envisioning something in its totality and making it so.

When you deviate from that vision of the dish you wander into subjectivity... "as good as something can be w/out salt.. or eggs, butter," whatever...

More socially minded cooks will stand by the "I'm not the one eating it so I should give them what they want" line. Fewer will say they enjoy the challenge of coming up with something on the fly- and both are valid points.

But what of the kitchen that allows special orders, deletions, substitutions, takes temps of steaks and then makes fun of customers that take advantage of this allowance?

Some will always say "you aren't cooking for yourself, you're cooking for the customer!"

Really? Think about it..who ARE you cooking for? What is your prime motive?

Whether you take special requests or not it is my assertion that one must do everything in life for themselves. Anything else you open yourself up to resentment of whoever is the beneficiary of your largess.

If you take requests do it because you want to be that flexible, or because you want the paycheck and your market doesn't support chefly stubbornness or because you want to learn by improvising constantly.

It is a lovely platitude, the thought of the selfless artisan sludging away in anonymity playing "private cook" to the whole community.

But in essence it is the thing we do for ourselves that is sustainable. It is the thing we do for ourselves that we can do tirelessly, without thought of want for rest.

If you are doing it all for someone else you will come to resent that someone, and eventually it will show. It will put its mark on your work and in your soul.

That to me is the Objective truth of cooking. Cooking in a way that makes you whole, cooking to the truth of your own personal motivation. Cooking to that truth will attact people whose truth is similar to your own.

The best thing that any craftsman, artisan, or tradesman can hope for is when simply doing what you would do any way becomes something that others can enjoy as well- a thing of personal value beyond price.

And now, because the floor around me hasn't dried- the lessons this week held for Nuki&Bungle:

1) discount fake spider webbing is NO bargain sir
2) when setting up an abortion themed haunted alley at your restaurant get your doll parts FAR in advance
3) being prepared means no one will show
4) some customers would rather sit in a place that makes them unhappy than go somewhere else
5) Strawberry Shortcake pinatas are the world's best vehicle for porn
6) putting a cute lambchop puppet on your hand in a room full of carniverous drunks is just ASKING to get bitten- so stand by the cute chicks, yo.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Behold! Teh Pimphand! An Introduction, a bio, a killing of time

It was only a matter of time before Melissa's near endless harping induced me to write a new blog (I had a heavily trafficked one back in '04-'05 but the host decided my tone was offensive). Not that she thinks my unique style of anti-social caustic banter needed a wider audience than after hours at Tanuki could provide.

No, she simply would not let up on my politics "chasing off the customers" from the Nuki twitter account. So, here in all its majesty is my blog.

Lets establish this now-
Obama is a fucking Marxist, nationalized healthcare is a path to fascism & you liberal commies out there can fucking suck it for all I care. There. It needed saying. That said, if you are a Nuki customer I love you still even though you are obviously insane.

In later blogs I will endeavor to explain to ya'll why freedom, creativity and excellence can only exist in a free-market society. There will be recipes, gratuitous and frequent uses of "cunt" as noun, verb, adverb AND adjective. Food pictures, explanations of obscure culinary terms and products and drink tips.

There will be frequent references to a genre of movies known as "torture porn". Best add some to your Netflix queue or you just won't get it. Also, Lauren German is hot.

So there, first blog.