Should a Chef Ever Modify an Order Without Being Asked?

It seems like more and more people are being diagnosed with food allergies and sensitivities, or are adopting diets that are restricted in one way or another.

The changes must be hard on those who work in food service, who honestly didn’t need the added stress.

This chef explains that there are protocols in place for whenever an order comes in from a table where someone has identified an allergy, intolerance, etc.

I’m 28F and I work as a chef in a local Italian restaurant.

We are extensively trained in matters like cross-contamination and we are very careful with customers who say they have food allergies i.e. we have a section of the kitchen specifically for preparing dishes for customers that can’t have nuts/dairy/shellfish or other common allergies.

He also goes into the details of pesto, which contains both nuts and dairy but can be made without either, or both, if a customer requests it.

We serve some dishes with pesto in them, which typically contains both pine nuts and parmesan cheese.

But pesto is fairly quick to make (basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan, bit of lemon juice, blend, done) and we’ve made nut free and dairy free pesto in the past for customers who have requested it. We don’t mind doing so if customers just ask for it.

When an order came in citing a nut allergy at the table and with an order for chicken pesto, he went ahead and made the dish without the pine nuts.

Last night a server puts in an order for a chicken pesto over pasta dish and informs the chefs that a person at the table has a nut allergy.

Okay, no problem, I begin making pesto without nuts in our allergy-free section of the kitchen.

Dish is ready, gets served, comes back.

The customer thought it tasted weird, and upon finding out the dish had been modified without his request, he pitched a fit.

Server tells us that the man who ordered it said the pesto tasted odd to him. I explain to her that I made the nut-free pesto since we were informed that someone at the table had a nut allergy. She goes back out, explains this to him, and comes back, saying that he asked for the manager. Manager and man come to the window, and the man says “My wife has the nut allergy not me, I wanted regular pesto.”

“We were informed that someone at the table had a nut allergy, we didn’t know who, so we prepared it in our nut-free zone.” I reply.

“You shouldn’t just assume that it was the person ordering! You don’t modify things unless you’re asked to.” the man says.

Was the chef wrong to assume he needed to keep everyone at the table safe? Or should the server have asked for more specifics?

I mean, was it a dumb assumption of me? Everyone else in the kitchen assumed the same thing I did and we were playing on the side of safety. Were we assholes to assume?

We did remake the dish and the server got badly tipped for something that wasn’t her fault.

Reddit is weighing in!

Most people thought the server could have asked for more information.

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But that the customer might be the a$$hole for other reasons entirely.

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Those who have the experience say that more information could have gone a long way, but you know, servers get busy.

Image Credit: Reddit

Even so, the chef was just being responsible with the information he had.

Image Credit: Reddit

Severe allergies are just not somewhere we want to take risks.

Image Credit: Reddit

As someone with a severe peanut allergy, I agree that the chef was right to err on the side of caution (and also that the husband doesn’t sound very empathetic).

Do you have a different view? Tell us what it is in the comments!