Chef explains why you should never ask a restaurant to make exceptions for you

@earlypete/TikTok Jullius/ShutterStock (Licensed)

‘None of which was on the menu’: Chef explains why you should never ask a restaurant to make exceptions for you

'Happens at my work ALLL the time, and I hate it.'


Phil West


Posted on Jan 5, 2024   Updated on Jan 5, 2024, 11:57 am CST

If you think making a special one-time order at a restaurant is no big deal, a former hotel restaurant chef is here to tell you otherwise.

TikTok creator and chef Early Pete (@earlypete) took to the platform on Dec. 29 with a video likening special requests from restaurant customers to the famous children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. For those unfamiliar with the premise, Pete notes that it starts with a mouse requesting a cookie from the person he’s living with.

“If you give a mouse a cookie, then he’s going to ask you for a glass of milk,” Pete says. “And if you ask him for a glass of milk, he’s going to ask you to, like, tuck him into bed, and it just goes on and on and on with more things that this one exception or this one idea gave him.”

In Pete’s case, he says the mouse was a regular customer at a hotel restaurant who was a picky eater and only wanted Pete to cook for him despite other chefs at the restaurant following the same standards.

He clarified via email to the Daily Dot that the hotel was a Marriott-affiliated property in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Pete then reveals in the video—which gathered more than 387,000 views and 40,000 likes in its first week up on TikTok—that he made what he thought would be a one-time exception for this customer.

“We had a steak on the menu, but he didn’t really like the mashed potatoes that came with the steak,” Pete says. “So just as an exception one time, he asked, ‘Hey, would you be able to take some, some regular potatoes and just do, like, little roasty, little roasted potatoes for me?’ And we said, ‘Sure thing, buddy. No problem at all.'”

Pete says the next time he came in, the customer not only requested the roasted potatoes but also informed the staff that he wasn’t very excited about the cut of steak they used and wondered if they might have some tenderloin lying around. Well, that happened,” Pete notes. “We made that exception once because we had some leftover tenderloin from a function. But then my chef was like, ‘Well, this guy’s such a regular client. I guess we better get a couple tenderloins around for when he comes in, and we’ll cook them up.'”

By the end of Pete’s tenure at the restaurant, he says the customer was requesting and getting “filet mignon with a scratch-made demi-glace, roasted baby potatoes and baby carrots cooked in butter … none of which was on the menu.”

To conclude the video, Pete quips that if you’re a customer like this, “You’re really a mouse asking for a cookie, and we just can’t have mice in our restaurants.”

@earlypete If you give a customer a cookie, they will ask you for a glass of milk – why restaurants really don’t like making exceptions ESPECIALLY for regulars ##resturantlife##storytime##kitchenconfidential ♬ original sound – Early Pete

Commenters shared their views on Pete’s monologue.

“It’s basically if you give an inch they’ll take a mile,” stated one commenter.

Pete responded, “Precisely.”

“I don’t mind exceptions like no cheese and what not but it’s infuriating when the customers think they can just make up their own entrees,” someone else observed.

That simple comment set off a long argument in the comments section when a commenter named Zak_Tod responded, “Why is it infuriating,” adding, “you realize they came to pay someone to cook.”

Another commenter said if you want someone to cook precisely what you want, you should hire a private chef, but Zak_Tod dug in, defending customers’ rights to order whatever food they might want.

Someone else recalled, “Worked at a place where any guest request was accepted. Gotta love prepping off menu items in the middle of service.”

Pete, responding to the Daily Dot via email, notes, “It’s a very interesting debate. Part of the reason my story was so exceptional was because we were a business-focused hotel that needed repeat clients. These are the kind of people who are on the road 200 days a year, and because they had visited the city so frequently, they didn’t really care to go out to local restaurants as they’ve been to them plenty of times. This is why we were so accommodating to the point of literally keeping items we didn’t use on our menu in stock just for one guest.”

He then added, “I think the problem with that is if you try to do it at a normal restaurant, you essentially treat all your other guests poorly because of your insistence to make exceptions for one. You have to respect all your guests equally (in my opinion), and that means being accommodating within reason, but not to the point where [it] compromises your ability to efficiently and quickly serve other guests.”

He also made the point, “Most restaurants aren’t set up to be able to make off-menu dishes on the fly, and don’t have the staffing levels of a hotel kitchen that also runs banquets.”

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*First Published: Jan 5, 2024, 3:00 pm CST