Is the Chef Comfortable?

When I worked over on west 18th street, Elmo was heavily utilized by editors for agent lunches. (Yes, I mean you Heather!) I hadn’t been in a few years but was invited to gather for Chris’s 28th birthday [his fourth] on Decemeber 13th.

I checked out the menu beforehand and even though it seemed a bit tricky I thought a burger would be pretty straightforward. Well, I was wrong but kudos to the waiter and the chef who were on that night for communicating with me.

Here’s how it went down. After whispering my sweet allergic nothings in the ear of our very pretty waiter, I asked for a burger no bun, made in a clean pan, not on a fishy grill, thinking that would be easiest. He checked with the kitchen; they said their pans were pretty dirty as they also cook fish in them. I asked if they had any clean pans; logical question, right?

When it came time for everyone to order, and I hadn’t heard more on the clean pan sitch, I ordered a burger adding only if the "chef feels comfortable" that the pans are clean. The waiter came back and discreetly whispered in my ear that the chef felt very uncomfortable about cooking in the pans and recommended the steak, cooked in the oven, no pans, no grill.

Now steak wasn’t what I really wanted to eat and was a bit more than I wanted to pay but I appreciated that the staff was communicating clearly about possible cross contamination issues. So I had the New Zealand skirt steak with a plain side salad and all was fine.

I wonder about Elmo--was my positive dining experience based on the attitude of a conscientious waiter or a smart line cook? Is that the stance they usually take with their patrons or did I just get lucky? I don’t know. Would I run back to Elmo? Eh. But if I were in the area and if that waiter were there, I’d stop in and try again.


Heather said…
Oh, Elmo and the days of the moderately priced agent lunch. Haven't been back since.
Anonymous said…
One has to wonder about any restaurant where the chef isn't comfortable with the cleanliness of his pans. And I do realize that you're talking about being extra clean because of allergies, but that would still worry me, with or without that concern.

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