Dear Restaurant Guru,
I love going to great restaurants with great chefs but what happened to the salt and pepper on the table? I understand chefs think their seasoning is perfect, and sometimes it is, but everyone likes their food differently. Recently, I asked for salt and pepper and the waitress was stunned; as she put it, “I’ll check and see if I can do that.” What? What’s happening? — Salt-n-Pepper Deprived
Dear Salt-n-Pepper Deprived,
About three years ago, I brought on a young chef for the restaurant. The first thing he said was, “Bro, let’s get those salt and pepper shakers off the table… stat.”
It was something I never considered before because I would also assume that chefs felt their food didn’t need additional seasoning. It may come off as arrogant. But when I asked the young chef to explain why, he gave me a well thought-out answer.
His reasoning wasn’t that his food is perfectly seasoned, though he still admitted it was. It was about a few things, such as real estate on the table, the quality of the salt and the intention of true hospitality.
“If we intend to put a flavor enhancer, such as salt and pepper, on the table, then why stop there? Shouldn’t we also put sugar, cinnamon, garlic powder, oregano and my favorite Sriracha sauce on the table too? I’d rather have another plate of food, a glass of wine or simply some open space on the table. Instead, let’s offer freshly cracked pepper, and sea salt and whatever else a guest may want throughout their dining experience. It’s our duty to serve the guests’ needs.”
So, there’s no excuse for the server to be unaware about the availability of salt and pepper, but the dining table should only consist of necessary items. True hospitality encourages that type of mentality.
I agree with the chef, as salty as that answer may be to swallow—keep the shakers off the table.