No, I Won't Cut My Steak and Tell You if It's Cooked Right. That's Your Kitchen's Job.

Categories: Complaint Desk

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There's a trend I've noticed Dallas dining establishments that I think is growing and am certain should come to a stop. If you're a frequent steak eater, you'll know what I'm talking about.

You order a rich, red California cabernet and a massive rib-eye steak -- not some tiny baby tenderloin; I'm talking a real Fred Flintstone cut, with the bone in and everything. You're sipping your wine and watching the people when a server slides a plate onto your table and asks: "Could you please cut your steak open, sir, so you can verify that it's cooked to your liking?"

There's only one answer to this question: No.

The first few times I heard the request I acquiesced. It caught me off guard, but I checked and the steak was cooked exactly as it was ordered, so I figured what the hell.

But an experience at Del Frisco's Grille was my breaking point. This time I cut my steak open and it was borderline. I always order steaks medium-rare, and this one was getting close to medium. Then the food runner pulled out his flashlight. He blinded the poor little steak while I tried to visually determine its doneness.

Now thoroughly entertained, and maybe a little annoyed, I impaled half the steak with my fork and held it up to the food runner's face and asked him: "How do you think it's done?" It was a show now, and the steak was the star.

I'm not a huge steak eater, so part of me wondered if this was just a new trend. Maybe restaurants all over the country had picked up the practice because they thought the steak-cutting request was the pinnacle of good service. But after emailing food writers across the country, none had even heard of the practice -- unless they'd dined in Texas.

Hanna Raskin, my predecessor and the food critic at our sister paper in Seattle, told me she'd never encountered the slicing-open command until she dined in Dallas. And Katharine Shilcutt, the critic at our paper down in Houston, guessed that maybe 30 percent of the restaurants in Houston engage in what I call steak bullying.

You don't really think this is about customer service do you?

My guess is it has something to do with restaurant's perceptions of the Dallas palate. We've all heard chefs complain about customers requesting their proteins over-cooked. I think these restaurants are turning that assumption into a preemptive behavior. With the flashlight blaring and your table mates watching, you've got to make a split-second decision if your steak has been cooked as you've ordered it. That's a lot of pressure, and under that pressure you're more likely to just say yes, sure, it's fine.

But here's the rub. While beef certainly displays visual cues that indicate doneness, you can't see medium rare, because it's not a color. It's a temperature (130 to 135 degrees, if you care.) Doneness should be tested when a steak is back in the kitchen with a thermometer, not table-side with a spotlight. I want my steak to rest easily on plate before I cut into it, end to end.

Instead of assuming steaks are cooked as a customer has requested, restaurants are putting the onus on the diner. Which, considering the price of steaks, is insulting.

So the next time your waiter tells you to cut open your steak to see if it's cooked to your liking, you should politely tell him you'd like to disassemble and eat your meal on your own terms.


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114 comments
SewardsLolly
SewardsLolly

Another article of why Scott Reitz absolutely blows. Could you be any more of a prick?

I am sure the kitchen is aware of what the temperature of a steak is. However, a MAJORITY of the people who order a steak, at least in Texas, have a much different perception of what "medium rare" is. That's why you are asked to cut into your steak. Not because the kitchen is too lazy or playing guessing games in the back. "Oh man, I really don't know what temperature this one's going to be Chef, lets watch the asshole cut into it with embarrassment!!" Yeah, right.

I don't think your hard labor of cutting into a meal you ordered to determine if it is to YOUR liking hardly qualifies you to shove a steak in a food runner's face. YOU are the bully here.

20YrSvcIndVet
20YrSvcIndVet

And I've NEVER seen any chef use a meat thermometer to determine the degree of doneness of a steak.

20YrSvcIndVet
20YrSvcIndVet

"Now thoroughly entertained, and maybe a little annoyed, I impaled half the steak with my fork and held it up to the food runner's face and asked him: "How do you think it's done?" It was a show now, and the steak was the star."

This is how you react to a question from an employee in a business that you volutarily visited ? You hold the steak up to the food runner's face? Really?

Louise Marshall
Louise Marshall

You cannot order protein overcooked.  You can order it the way you want it, and if the kitchen staff thinks it's overcooked that's their opinion.  I really get tired of chefs, waiters, etc. telling me than anything other than raw is "overcooked".

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Old school Texans and Okies didn't think their meat was done unless it was destroyed, cooked well done.

Maybe some of that still exists,  my guess restauranteurs got tired for throwing out meat because some the bumpkins.

Reda
Reda

Gee, I think next time I go out to eat I'll just stay home & eat a peanut butter sandwich.  

ObserverFan
ObserverFan

People are idiots and high maintenance. I would hate to be a waiter & deal with the douche nozzles that come in to order prime rib well done.

Willie
Willie

That's f-ing low brow.  Any halfway decent chef can tell the doneness simply by gently pressing on the meat....and that should be done in the kitchen after it has cooled for a couple of minutes.

Madmaxx
Madmaxx

I think the practice of asking for the steak to be cut needs to stop it is insulting to the guest which is why we are all here in the first place. THE GUEST. Hire cooks that can do their job and for what ever reason, if the steak comes back, your fault, their fault, the cows fault...whatever. Fix it to THEIR satisfaction. They are paying for their food the way they want it. They are eating it and you are trying to build up your clientel. No Guest no paycheck for anyone, stop trying to educate you guests ( at least while they are in your establishment).....you don't win an arguement with a guest. If I want a well done hockey puck of a filet with ketsup to bath it in...why do you care? Just my thoughts...I could be wrong. 

PORK
PORK

I need to know where Jonas Muster works--for he sounds amazing!

cp
cp

Seriously? A high-end steakhouse does this? 

sparechange
sparechange

1)only order steak rare(med.rare go to Whataburger)2)women shouldn't order steak(that's why there are salads)3)don't be a puss(if the food ain't to your likings, send it back!)

Allie Seago
Allie Seago

I recently went out to a "fancy steakhouse". My steak was laid in front of me and immediately I was asked if it was cooked to my liking. How was I supposed to know? I had just laid eyes on it! It was obvious that he was asking me to cut into it while he watched. I obliged but was rubbed the wrong way that I "HAD" to do this. I couldn't find a way to tell him to check back on me later with out being rude in those few seconds I had to decide.

Or is it really all that simple and not rude at all? Just ask them to come back and check on me in a bit? 

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

I have no problem with this; and 9 times out of 10 I send it back; and I don't feel bad at all. I want my steak perfect!  Just like I cook it.  Sauteed with mushrooms.  A little A1.  A touch of Chipotle Tabasco.  Loaded masher.  Fresh Broc w/fat free butter........MMMMMMM! 

ps-I'm going to TLC right now, and have Bill Bates sign my steak. 

Stew
Stew

funny i thought it was a California thing! I lived in SF and LA for 10 years. it seemed to happen every time i went out. I order med-rare too.

just figured it started out there. not sure if it's happened to me here.

Steve
Steve

Brothers be callin' a pink steak raw.   Now I ax you, what's up with that??!

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

I would refuse to cut it as well Scott, I let er rest and redistribute while enjoying the vino or beera and then start at the little end and work my way towards the bone.  Your letting out the juices/internal temp if you slice it down the middle.  I like mine medium rare, btw.

Chubby Kid
Chubby Kid

I don't ever send food back anyway.  I had a steak last week that wasn't only cooked incorrectly, it was the wrong cut of meat.  However, instead of a sirloin, I got a filet, so I didn't complain.  

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

What if she's hot with big fake knockers?

Ariadne
Ariadne

I have asked myself the same question. It appears he is a gun for hire and used to work at el Bulli and V bar (Thomas Keller's failed molecular concept) before moving to Dallas. He seems to be a City of Ate writer, too.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

That's not rude. Folks want to eat in peace; it's important to kind and firm. I basically tell the wait person that I want to be left alone....in a nice way. 

Amy S
Amy S

Allie, please do exactly that, there is nothing at all rude about requesting that. You are the guest. The guest is always right.

It would be so much easier if those in the industry could just read minds 100% of the time.

Guest
Guest

Wow, how about some ketchup too?

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

 What does Mrs Kergo think of your fresh broccoli?  And what do you think of hers?

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

A steakhouse that isn't doing the proper resting time in the kitchen before it hits your table shouldn't be patronized anyway. 

cp
cp

Then you're am idiot. 

Jonas M Luster
Jonas M Luster

Well, if the error is an upgrade that'd be understandable. But never be afraid to send stuff back. We're in the hospitality business, people don't have money they way they used to, anymore, and the least we can do is make them whole if we screw up.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

then Ill go there to eat the shittiedt wings in town (not really)  It always seemed that back in the day somehow my table would get the hooters chick with smallest tits in the place.

Jonas M Luster
Jonas M Luster

Funny what Google gets right and what it gets wrong.

Coleman
Coleman

 you have to understand, Kergo is mentally retarded.

Beda
Beda

If Kergo likes his steak with ketchup (or A-1 or anything else) he should be allowed to have it without snide remarks from you or from a chef who won't cook it beyond a certain temperature because it's the way the chef likes it.  It's Kergo's steak, your wife's steak, my steak, we paid for it and we should be allowed to have it any way we want it without commentary.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

I'm not FROM Texas....where ketchup is valuable commodity.  In fact, I hate ketchup, it is the condiment of rednecks!

Gipson
Gipson

 True, but I'm with Josh. I like to give my steak 3-4 minutes of "just in case" time.

Justin Julian
Justin Julian

People have been conditioned through popular culture, likely fueled by substandard restaurant chains, that sending a dish back is begging for some sort of staff-rage sabotage.  My wife and I get around this by having 'regular' places where we're known (you get better service that way anyway) but if we try a new place, we'll often just grin and bear it because of the fear that some bitter server or cook will spit in the food or some similar juvenile payback.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

and coleman is a hipstertard who walks with duck feet and a stick in his bum

Coleman
Coleman

I have no dingus-and I'm a man. 

Mervis
Mervis

John Kerry and his wife like this post.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

FYI, there are no crocodiles living in the sewers, either.

Jonas M Luster
Jonas M Luster

"Futhermore how is the chef going to know if the waiter spit in the food in teh first place unless they saw them."Restaurants are extremely closed groups of people. If someone does something like this I will know about it sooner or later. Either the bussers are ratting them out for a few bucks, they tell someone else on the floor who wants their Saturday shift and tells me, I see it, one of the cooks or expo sees it, or there's a complaint after.

Here's the thing - you might get by with doing it once. But chances are you will get caught doing it and - aside from ruining any chance at ever working hospitality again, the criminal matter at hand, the beating someone who does this will receive, and the fact that good restaurants don't create atmospheres in which someone feels the need or urge to adulterate food - that's enough to stop most from doing it.

cp
cp

Jeez... are we talking about "The Mansion" or about "Black Eyed Pea"?????????????

Storm_71
Storm_71

Ok I read your story and understand where you are comming from. I do have one issue with it. Let me first preface that do not send food back if it's wrong for fear of someone doing bad things to it. That being said I think it's very subjective to lable "good places" from "bad places". Futhermore how is the chef going to know if the waiter spit in the food in teh first place unless they saw them? I would like to think that sort of thing rarely happens but I would think it probably does. You said yourself "if someone spits in your food you probably deserve it" You did explain yourself and again I understand that. Also I would think that there are fine folks that are flipping burgers at Whataburger that are just as proud of there food as the chef at Bob's Steak and Chop House.

Jonas M Luster
Jonas M Luster

I started trying to debunk the "spit in food" myth a few years ago when a chap calling himself the "Angry Waiter" wrote a book that tried to be "Kitchen Confidential" for waiters and asserted, amongst other places, on Readers Digest's website that waiters spit in food.

I can tell you this. As a cook and chef I'd beat a waiter who disrespected my food in that way so badly I'd be in jail for a long time. And since my waiters (and many other places are the same way) know this they won't try to.

I wrote about this two years ago after I made a stupid and inconsiderate comment about "if someone spits in your food, you deserve it", meaning "you gave your business to the wrong place". Maybe this helps alleviate the fear of having your food adulterated a little: http://feastcraft.com/3753/the...

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