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Top 5 Menu Modification Nightmares: As Told By L.A. Chefs

Starbucks half-caf latte, 3 shots, 2½ spoonfuls of vanilla syrup, 130°, no foam.
Starbucks half-caf latte, 3 shots, 2½ spoonfuls of vanilla syrup, 130°, no foam.
C. Soudry

You've ordered salad dressing on the side, extra veggies, no veggies, extra crispy fries, non-fat instead of low-fat milk, mozzarella instead of Swiss, tofu instead of chicken. The list goes on. But some people take it to another level. You know who you are.

"It was a tall, half decaf-half regular latte, with a half pump of sugar free vanilla, half pump sugar free hazelnut, half organic milk and half soy milk, steamed to 130 degrees exactly," says one Starbucks barista of his most "unique" customer. After giving the order, the lady would then watch like a hawk to make sure they got it right and criticize them along the entire process, he adds. "I don't even think 130-degree milk is regulation. But we did it anyway."

Sure, requesting items off the menu might seem cool at a place like In-N-Out, but to most chefs who slave away like mad scientists putting together perfect dishes with precise ingredient measurements, it may not seem too cute. So the next time you order boiled okra instead of the way it's supposed to be prepared (sauteed or fried with aromatic spices) or, say, shallots cooked with fried rice, but then plated separately on the side, you might want to think twice.

Turn the page for 5 examples of patrons who almost pushed some of our most notable L.A. chefs over the edge.

Steamed okra
Steamed okra
Avlxyz via Flickr

5. Chef Kris Morningstar (Ray's and Starck Bar):

"I have a guy who comes in every day and makes up his own stupid food. I truly can't stand him. Today he ordered steamed okra. It might be the worst modification I have ever heard. It made me a little happy inside to give it to him."

You are either allergic or not allergic to fish, right?
You are either allergic or not allergic to fish, right?
Photo Credit: Anne Fishbein

4. Chef Jet Tila (The Charleston):

While running Wazuzu at Encore in Las Vegas, a party of 6 VIP high rollers arrived, Tila explains. Two of them want Wazuzu, two want Society, and two want Botero Steakhouse, but they must all sit under the Dragon at Wazuzu. "We made it happen," he said. In another instance, a guest requested XO Fried Rice and asked that the chef separate the dried scallops, but cook them into the rice and then plate them separately. Tila becomes most irritated when patrons tell him they are "kind of allergic" to something. Some claim to be allergic to fish, but not to fish sauce. "Dammit, you are either allergic or not!" Tila says.

Root beer float
Root beer float
Photo credit: Burger Lounge

3. Director Rory Odell and General Manager Adam Rinella (Burger Lounge):

Strange requests have included, "an ice cream float made with Chardonnay instead of soda and a quadruple lounge burger (four patties) with a Diet Coke." A woman ordered four rare beef patties with no salt for her two Great Danes. Another customer requested the triple threat burger -- one beef party, one turkey patty and one veggie patty. Other modifications include burnt beef patties, burnt buns and extra burnt grilled onions.

Quinoa burger
Quinoa burger
Photo credit: GRB

2. Chef Adam Levoe (Golden Road Brewing):

A menu item is typically vegan for a reason. "I get so many requests from diners to add bacon to both vegan and non-vegan dishes on the menu," Levoe says. Because of this trend, you can now order anything Brewer's Style, which means the cook will add a few slices of bacon on top of your dish. "It's become a trendy thing to do on the vegan fried A.L.T. sandwich," he adds.

Turn the page for the #1 most annoying customer request:

Is it time for our cocktail yet? (Ink drink assortment)
Is it time for our cocktail yet? (Ink drink assortment)
Photo Credit: Anne Fishbein

1. Chef Michael Voltaggio (Ink):

"When I was in Northern California, I had a lady once write her own menu and bring it to the restaurant. She was having a luncheon for six people and collected dishes from past and present menus. She then printed it on her own paper and presented it to her guests. I was so shocked I just cooked it for her, no questions asked!"


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