Friday, May 31, 2013

Coming out of working in the dish pit

Friday, May 24, 2013

Don't be "That Guy". Nobody likes "That Guy"

First of all, a shout out to small old Filipino ladies for telling off petulant customers.

I walked into a Panda Express late in the evening to grab some dinner for me and the wifey, not knowing that I was about to encounter a grade A douche bag. The line wasn't that long, but it wasn't moving because the chow mein had just run out. Whatever, I wasn't in a hurry. Besides, fresh chow mein is always worth the wait.

Not for a guy in front of me apparently.

This guy.....he was a piece of work. He starts loudly complaining to me and another guy about how the service is so bad and how we're being made to wait an eternity for the chow mein. Should they have started making another batch of chow mein sooner? Yes, but it's not like I'm eating at The Chef's Table or anything. This guy, we'll call him the Jerkwad, then starts proclaiming to the restaurant that everyone waiting in this long line (apparently 3 people is a long line) deserved a 10% discount. Suddenly, I found myself being thrown together with this guy with the looks we were getting. I immediately told the girl behind the counter that I had only been waiting 30 seconds, and I didn't mind waiting longer. If the Jerkwad has any British ancestry, they would be disgusted at his inability to stand in a queue and behave.

Then there was this poor girl behind the counter. She has apparently worked in the Cougareat (Cougar-eat) for a while, but not in a restaurant dealing with mostly non-BYU customers. The Jerkwad decides that he's going to demand a discount from this girl since it's clear that she hasn't been working there for long. After getting nowhere (because you know, EVERY employee can obviously give discounts without getting fired.), he decides that he's going to then go at the small Filipino lady.

Boy that didn't work out.

Jerkwad: I want a discount for being made to wait for so long!
Old lady: Not happening
Jerkwad: I'm a paying customer! I don't have to come here and deal with this!
Old lady: Ok then, good bye.

She then walked away with his food. That's it. End of conversation. She completely stopped the Jerkwad dead in his tracks. He then stormed out of the place, fuming at this injustice that life had dealt him.

Seriously, don't be that guy. Especially at a cheap fast food place. They don't get paid enough to deal with your crap.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bad service: Should you just get over it?

Short answer: No
Long Answer: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo 

If you haven't been following the train wreck that is Amy's Baking Company, boy are you missing out. Here's a page that will explain everything - Link. I've been keeping tabs on this since just before the season finale of Kitchen Nightmares aired with anticipation. Now that they've hired a PR firm to put out their fires, the madness has slowed down tremendously. I wonder how long the PR firm is going to stick around, since they have such a good Track record with consultants.

So this is an extreme case of what people do when customers complain. Did the customers have a right to complain? Absolutely. Is the customer always right? No. In this case, this restaurant is a perfect example of how NOT to deal with upset customers.

This will mostly address whether you should complain or not. Most people won't complain if there's an issue, and some who do aren't able to effectively communicate their problem.


If you're thinking about complaining about service, think about the circumstances. In an extremely busy restaurant that also happens to be understaffed, you're not going to get good service. This isn't some evil plot to ignore you, it's just a matter of fact that the staff are overloaded and are doing the best that they can. If you want faster service, survey how busy the place is and get a look to see if the servers are struggling to handle the load. If that's the case, either go somewhere else, or just enjoy the company of who you're with, and plan on staying there for a while. If you do decide to stick it out, by no means should you penalize them tip-wise. YOU'RE the one who decided to add to their load by showing up.

Now if the place isn't jam packed, or there are adequate staff to see to everyone's needs, then you can be more discerning. I've been seated at a table only to be forgotten while you hear the staff in the next room talk about their weekend plans. You need to communicate that it's not okay. How the restaurant responds to that complaint is another story, but you are well within your right to point out an issue. Any manager worth a damn will acknowledge that there's a problem, and work to fix it instead of appeasing you with free food.

If the attitude of the server is an issue, remember: you're paying for this! You don't have to put up with it. You can ask for a different server, or you can go eat somewhere else. If you want to avoid conflict, you can either fill out a customer service card, or don't leave a tip. DO NOT DEMAND FREE FOOD!!!!! This is a personal peeve of mine. Free food fixes nothing, and is just a way to get you to shut up. Fix the problem! don't just cover it up and hope it fixes itself.

To finish this off, let's talk about good service. If you get a server who is attentive, but not overbearing, knowledgeable, helpful, and a pleasure to be around, you should reward them. Good staff work their butts off to make you happy, with some going far beyond their pay grade as well as what the restaurant expects of them. This is America; reward good service. If you can't leave a very big tip, ask for the manager and complement your server to him/her. Fill out the customer service form and refer to your server by name in your compliment. It's not an easy job, and those who are good at it deserve praise and tips.

So remember, don't pay for bad service! But also remember to reward good servers and staff who make your stay more enjoyable.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

All Hail our new Overlords!

How are we all not dead?

Compared to a lot of other countries, the US has a decent track record of making our food supply healthier. Its inception was in response to contaminated and misbranded foods and medicine being distributed across state boundaries. Before then, if I wanted to make "TiChef's marvelous malediction medicine" (Patent pending), the medicine wouldn't have had to go through any rigorous federal testing or inspection for distribution. If I could sell the product well enough, then people would THINK they were getting a miracle cure. Instead though, it would just be an assorted concoction of liquids that were just laying around. If the sales pitch were good enough, placebo would kick in for early adopters, making them spread by word of mouth that my product was a miracle in a bottle.

After a while, especially if I didn't care about sanitation, people would get sick. Some would even die because of no oversight nor any real testing. I could just pack up my things, move to a different area, make the same thing, and just give it a different name! After many events like this, laws were put into place, with some of them being 25 years in the making! (And you thought congress got nothing done these days). Eventually, the FDA in the form we're familiar with was created in 1906. In 1930, it was given the name we know now.

So we're all safe and we're never going to get food poisoning again, right?


Due to an incredible lack of resources, the FDA only inspects about 2% of our food. So how come we're all not dead? In 2011, over 120,000 people were hospitalized for food borne illnesses, with just over 3,000 dying. I know that sounds like a lot, but realize that 3000 is only 1/100000 of the US population. Back in 1906, 1/100000 of the population would be 855 people. While the numbers wildly vary on this sort of thing, I would guess that far more than 855 people a year died from food borne illness 107 years ago.

With that in mind, the food industry has taken it upon itself to inspect their own food. I can't help but think it's just a slight conflict of interest, and there are already cases of it not being effective.

The Food and Drug Administration is the government institution that is supposed to keep us safe from food borne illnesses; yet it's hardly able to do the job it's supposed to. Why isn't this as big of a deal now as it was in the past? I have a few ideas on this.

  • Healthcare has improved to help people recover from food borne illnesses.
  • Believe it or not, poisoning people is actually BAD for business! Who knew? If you poison people, they just might not buy your product again. And then you go broke, woe is you.
Being that we're mostly still here and not dead from food borne illnesses, I'd say we could be doing worse. But we could be doing much better as well.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dear Society

I was discussing the whole Pink slime scandal with a relative, and I feel it warrants a frank discussion.

Dear Society

What did you expect?

Seriously, you make demands of the food industry to keep prices low while inflation demands otherwise. You want the price of that Big Mac to stay right where it is, and you want the taste to stay the same. Sure, nobody wants to pay more for something they were able to get for a cheaper price in the past, but let's be reasonable here.

Let's talk about a few side effects of the demands that YOU have made of your food industry:

Migrant workers and your food. You want low prices right? Well why not get a bunch of nameless migrants to go harvest the food? We hardly have to pay them anything, AND we get their children to work with them in the fields! That we we don't even have to see them while we cruise around in our nice cars stuffing our faces full. In restaurants, much of the work done in the back is done by low-wage immigrants, many of whom are here illegally. You don't get to see most of them, because heaven forbid you feel guilty for seeing what your expectations have led to in the back of the house.

So now that we've covered how we keep our labor wages in the industry criminally low, what about the food itself? Have you looked at Hershey's kisses lately? Those aren't even legally chocolate anymore! But what do you care? They're cheap! And then you act SO surprised when things like pink slime come along.

The point I'm trying to make here, is when you are blaming the industry for what's in your food, don't forget who demanded the circumstances for it to be there in the first place. You.

I'm sorry this post had less humor in it. Hopefully posts like this will be few and far between.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Anthony Bourdain AMA on Reddit

I absolutely love the work that Anthony Bourdain does. To me, he's the man who gave the Travel Channel the much needed kick in the pants. Now that he's left Travel, he's doing work with CNN and ABC. Recently, he did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit. It's basically just a glorified Q&A session, but it's also a lot more candid. In the AMA, he talks about his past as a drug addict, his work with television and writing, and his more recent ventures given his departure from the Travel Channel. Here are some of the more interesting questions asked by Reddit to Tony:

Q: What is something you never want to taste again?
A: Methadone

Q: What kind of person were you in your twenties? What were your goals and do you think you would have ever imagined you'd be where you are now?
A: I was a complete asshole. Selfish, larcenous, druggy, loud, stupid, insensitive and someone you would not want to have known. I would have robbed your medicine cabinet had I been invited to your house.

Q: You've said before that you are kind of overprotective of your daughter. If she decides that she wants to get into the culinary industry and become a chef, what would your reaction be?
A: Horror. Fear. Eventually pride that she'd want to do such a difficult thing.

Q: What does Tony Bourdain make himself for breakfast these days? What do you like cooking for your family?
A: I love cooking omelettes with my daughter.

Q: Which was harder to master? The art of cooking or the art of writing?
A: Cooking professionally is hard work. Writing is a privilege and a luxury. Anybody who whines about writers block should be forced to clean squid all day.

Q: You openly admit to being an ex-addict. Plenty of ex-addicts can't drink at all, because if they do it tumbles into drugs again. How are you able to still drink and continue to live your lifestyle without slipping? A: I am a VERY unusual case. You are correct. Most people who kick heroin and cocaine have to give up on everything. Maybe cause my experiences were so awful in the end, I've never been tempted to relapse.
Q:(A followup from the last question) What would you say your best/worst experience was on drugs?
A: Combing the shag carpet for paint chips in the hope that they were fallen crack bits. Smoking them anyway.

Q: How did you manage to get Alton Brown to a strip club, and then make him say "Make it rain"?
A: My proudest accomplishment. Watching Alton Brown at the Clermont. Im sure the people at Food Net were browning their shorts.

Q: Considering you and Ted Nugent are from pretty much opposite ends of the spectrum, what was it like to have him on your show? Did y'all joke around off camera?
A: I'm proud of the fact that I can be friends with someone with whom I disagree violently about absolutely everything.

Q: You seem to really hate Paula Deen, but do you like southern food that is not prepared by her? What is your favorite dish if you do?
A: The South is where the greatest American traditional food comes from. It's the cradle of American gastronomy. I reject the notion that what Paula was selling is traditional Southern food. Cheeseburger on a Krispie Kreme bun? Nobody's Grandma I ever heard of EVER made that shit.

There's a lot more that can be found here. I highly recommend reading his books and watching his shows. His book, Kitchen Confidential is a MUST READ for anyone considering going into the food industry.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Out of the Butts of Beavers

A friend on facebook posted an article from The Huffington Post that can be found here

You don't have to look very hard to find articles about food that shock the reader. And why shouldn't they be written? They generate a lot of views, and therefore ad revenue. Every now and then, they are also party to raising awareness on food issues that eventually lead to changes in the law. One of the "shocking" slides that particularly caught my attention was about Castoreum; a secretion from beavers near the anus that is used to flavor teas, juices, yogurts, etc.

What? Why beavers? Who thought of this? How did this discovery come into being? Who is farming this stuff from them?

Flavor Ingregients by George A Burdock claims that the industry consumes about 250lbs of this stuff every year, and that instead of being labeled as "castoreum", it's listed as "natural flavorings". What the hell is that supposed to mean? There's an endless list of what counts as a natural flavoring, and you just might be consuming anal secretion if that label is there?

At first, the HuffPo article got the intended reaction out of me, which was disgust. But after some thought, I wondered "do I really care about this?". No, no I don't. I already eat fungus (mushrooms), aged lactate from other mammals (cheese), snails, and I've even eaten crickets. Why not throw beaver butt juice to the mix?

On a side note, ladies, why not woo your man this valentines day with this perfume? The scent of beaver fruity vanilla will be irresistible to him.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Why Don't you Have a Rice Cooker?

I would like to start a series called "Why Don't you Have?", where I go over certain kitchen items that people, or certain groups of people should have.

 For the students out there. Why don't you have a rice cooker?

 Let's face it, students generally don't know the first thing about cooking for themselves. "But I can make a mean (insert what you think is edible food here)" you say! Even if you're good at cooking one or two things, you sure as hell aren't going to survive on those items alone.

One of the basics is having a starch with your food, and one of the simplest starches to make is rice. There are two main methods to use for making rice, and I'm not going to go over either one. Mainly because you're going to burn it and then burn your apartment to the ground. Besides, all you care about is if you're eating something other than cereal, right?

A rice cooker makes cooking rice so easy that I'm not even going to bother coming up with a creative adjective for it. You simply put the rice in, twice as much water as the rice, push the button, and then walk away. It will cook it, and then keep it warm for you. The best part? You can add whatever you want to the rice. Salt, pepper, some spices, a little oil, whatever you want really. Just make sure that you don't leave it out for a long time (2+ hours after it has finished cooking). You could make yourself ill, and your roommates will gag at the smell of your vomit.

"But that's cheating!" A snarky foodie may argue, but who cares? You have food, right? Besides, half of decent cooking methods can be considered "cheating". Later on, I'll go over other items like slow cookers and how you'll kick yourself for not having one.

So put the cereal bowl down, and go get a rice cooker. It's not going to give you a complete meal (most of the time), but it's a good place to start.

Where are the Posts?

Much of the blog has now been archived. I kept "it's Forking Brilliant!" because it's a piece a lot of people enjoyed. As from here on though, I will be posting a wide variety of things that are related to food. Food recipe/review blogs are very common, so my posts will hopefully be something completely different.