Dear Restaurant Chefs,
I think you guys are amazing. Most of you labored through culinary school (jealous!) and work crazy hours, all in the name of churning out delicious food. Your creativity inspires me on a regular basis. I love seeing the menus you write and tasting your unique flavor combinations, often copying them at home and on this site.
Allow me to tell you more about myself. I’m that customer you love to hate. The squeaky wheel who inquires about ingredients, makes special orders and very occasionally sends a salad back if it comes mixed with a smattering of bacon. I did politely ask the waiter to leave it off. I’m a vegetarian.
I really do try not to be a pain. I never ask you to create a special something just for me. Sides will do! I apologize for being picky. I tip your waiters well. Heck, I even wrote a post titled “How to Order When There’s No Veggie Menu Option” in an effort to make it easier on you guys when my kind comes to visit.
For the most part, you are incredibly accommodating. I’ve found that a majority of restaurant chefs actually get jazzed at the challenge of preparing a delicious meat-free meal. Ninety percent of you will, upon request, deliver a veggie plate that knocks my socks off. But then, there’s this:
That’s plain old spaghetti, tomato sauce and canned black beans, presented to me as the “vegetarian plate” at a seated dinner. This looks like something a drunk college kid would concoct. (In your defense, this was served at a university’s conference center and could very well have been imagined by a drunk college kid.)
Today, can I give you a few tips on dealing with the likes of me?
1. Put something without meat on the menu. Fish doesn’t count. I know, I know: How could someone possibly want a meal with no steak/chicken/shrimp? The fact is, lots of Americans are paying more attention to what they eat. You simply don’t need heavy protein at every meal. I’ve seen my meat-and-potatoes guy order a black bean burger over the beef version. If he’ll order it, anyone will.
2. Don’t lean on pasta. Beggars can’t be choosers, but I loathe it when the only vegetarian option is a simple pasta dish. I can make that at home! You’re charging $18 for something that costs $2 to make. Pasta primavera is a carb heavy cop out. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Avoid carb loading. My standard reply to a waiter who tells me their restaurant doesn’t have a vegetarian item is, “Can the chef use the sides to make a vegetable plate?” They are usually A-W-E-S-O-M-E. Check out all the colorful plates above. Those artful combos arrived at my table by ordering just this way. But several times, I’ve received a plate that was straight carbs. Once, I got three kinds of potatoes and a tiny portion of green beans. Potato + small salad + mixed vegetables = easy.
Now then, I’d like to close by saying thank you. If you make the teensiest effort to accommodate me, I’ll be the most grateful customer you have all week. I’ll tell my friends about you. I will come back time and time again. I will bring family and clients to eat at your establishment. Heck, I might even mention you on this little blog. (Thank you Bottega, Chez Fon Fon, Highlands, Hot + Hot and Cafe DuPont for being special order veggie plate rockstars in my hometown!)
I’l go ahead and thank you all in advance for your efforts to accommodate vegetarians, the health conscious and those who had a big fat steak with lunch and don’t want the same for dinner. Restaurant chefs, we appreciate you!