"Risotto, but without the rice."

By Gowri Chandra
Updated March 02, 2020
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Like with any customer-facing industry—hospitality, retail, entertainment—chefs have some wild stories. Most chefs we spoke to got into this business because they really love people, and cooking food for people, but every once in a while a customer comes along and tests that.

While waiters, delivery drivers, and baristas have strange tales of their own, we chatted with current and former chefs, as well as perused ChefTalk in horror, to find the 11 orders that they are doomed to remember forever.

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1. Outback Steakhouse shrimp 

“A customer asked me to get Outback Steakhouse shrimp for their appetizer and have it ready and elegantly plated when they arrived. No joke, this was in my four-star, James Beard Award-winning restaurant.”

2. A defiled filet mignon

“The guy ordered filet mignon medium rare and sent it back saying it wasn't cooked. So I seared it again and brought it up to medium. He sent it back and asked us to hand grind a filet and press it into a burger and cook it well and serve it on a bun. He wanted me to take an $18 steak and turn it into a burger, and he had us waste one by overcooking it first. The whole time I was cooking him his filet burger I was thinking, 'The guy would prefer a burger, why is he insisting on defiling a filet? Also, there's not enough fat in a filet to be a burger, so this is gonna be dry.’ After he ate it he told the waitress it was overcooked and dry. This is a major reason I have not used my culinary degree professionally in a number of years.”

3. Hollandaise without yolks

“Lady asks to see me during brunch. She tells me she wants a low-fat eggs Benedict. She wants no yolks. At all. I try to explain that yolks are a key ingredient in the sauce. She tells me that a good chef should be able to make it happen. She got meringue-covered egg whites…” [Via ChefTalk]

4. The absolute worst bacon egg and cheese 

“Egg, cheese, and bacon, add lettuce and tomato, on a chocolate chip bagel.”

5. A 'vegan omelette'

Actually.

6. Food from home

"When I was chef de cuisine at a New American/French restaurant in St. Louis, we had a family of four come in for an early seating. When the server greeted their table, the mom began talking and gesturing quite a bit. We had an open kitchen, and I remember the server looking up at me a few times totally perplexed as she listened. The mom tried handing the server something—some sort of parcel. The server backed up and raised her hand as if to say ‘hold on a moment.’ The waitress said, ‘Um, that lady brought food for her kids she wants you to prepare for them.'

I stared at my server a second and then looked at the table. The woman was looking at us with a crooked neck. Her kids were behaving, and I remember thinking they seemed to be old enough that they would probably be fine ordering off of our dinner menu. I expected the kids might want to sub something, which I was totally fine with. I questioned my server—surely she misunderstood. ‘She brought bags of pasta and vegetables or something and she wants you to make a butter sauce for it.’ I looked over at the family and the woman had placed the food filled ziplock bags on the table.

‘No. I am not putting food someone brought from their home into our pans. Tell her I’m sorry but I will not cook anything that my kitchen has not prepped themselves.’"

7. Box in a cake

“I cut out the bottom of a cake and installed a stealth Tiffany’s box for a guy to propose with. That was fun!”

8. A large latte 'without much milk'

“Just yesterday I had a man come into our coffee shop and request a large latte ‘but without much milk.’ I gave him a confused look and asked if he might prefer a cappuccino. Thankfully, he was satisfied.” [Via ChefTalk]

9. Rice-free risotto

"Diner: The mushroom risotto, what exactly is that?

Waitress: Well, it has a mix of sautéed wild mushrooms and some tarragon, sir.

Diner: I love mushrooms, so what is the risotto part?

Waitress: Risotto is rice, sir. Risotto is a rice dish.

Diner: Oh I see, can I have the mushroom risotto then, but without the rice, please." [Via ChefTalk]

10. Penne allergy-friendly pasta

"Can I get the special with fettuccine? I'm allergic to penne."

"You're allergic to a shape?" [Via ChefTalk]

11. Salmon that's not salmon

“The previous night, a customer ordered a scallop dish (scallops were done medium rare) and his wife ordered a stuffed salmon. The waitress brought back the ticket literally scratching her head. She hands me the ticket and it reads: ‘Scallops, cooked WELL, WELL done but not rubbery. Doesn’t like the taste of salmon, so don’t make it taste like salmon.’ I kind of scratched my head and we start passing the tickets up and down the line and everyone gets very confused but slightly amused. Finally, I call for the attention of both the waitstaff and kitchen and simply ask, ‘Okay, does anyone here know how to change the biological makeup of seafood?’ In the end, I cooked both dishes the exact same way but sinfully drowned both in sauce and he loved it." [Via ChefTalk]

Answers edited for length and clarity.