Sunday, November 25, 2007

Chopped Onions & Chili's

Bob and I stopped in for a quick bite to eat at the Chili's Restaurant in Camden on Friday evening. Bob got his BBQ ribs that he was hungry for and I ordered a bowl of chili and a side salad.

"The broccoli soup?" the waitress asked.

"No, a bowl of chili," I said.

"Ok, so you want a cup of chili?" she asked.

"No," I said, "a bowl of chili."

About 20 minutes later she delivered to me a bowl of pale, speckled and congealed goop.

"I'm sorry," I said to her. "This doesn't look like chili and that is what I ordered."

"Oh, I'm sorry!" she said, "I thought you said broccoli soup!"

I finally got my almost room-temp bowl of chili (the cheese wasn't even melting) and I took a chance and requested some chopped onion. Off went our waitress, returning a few minutes later to proclaim, "They said we are out of onions."

"Oh my!" I exclaimed. "I feel so bad for anyone ordering a cheeseburger, then!" (Yes, I can be a smartass but it was totally lost on this girl.)

"Well," she explained, "Those are purple onions on the burgers."

Patiently (I promise you) I asked, "Well, can you please ask "them" to chop up some of those for me?"

"Well, I'll ask," she said and off she went.

She came back (the only thing hot about my chili by now were the spices) and proclaimed that she had talked with the manager and he found me some chopped onions, and with a flourish she presented them to me.

I tried not to think about whether or not the kitchen staff (who couldn't figure out that chopped red onion is still onion) was maintaining safe food handling practices in the kitchen; i.e. safe holding temps for food like my chili. I would not allow myself to speculate if our waitress (who seemed to have no listening or reasoning skills) perhaps washed her hands BEFORE using the restroom instead of after. I ate most of my chili because I was starving and forced myself not to think of all those disturbing things.

Now I'm thinking about them and I'm pretty sure that these questions are something relevant to all the chain restaurants like Chili's, whose staffs are minimally trained, whose food arrives in the kitchen mostly prepackaged to be heated or just dumped into a bowl, and whose managers probably work themselves silly to overcome the pitfalls of a high turnover waitstaff.

I think I'll make Bob his ribs at home the next time he's hungry for them.

No comments: