Maple Creme Brulee before sugar is caramelized on top//Photo credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty


Wait ‘til they find out what black pudding is

Food misunderstandings are pretty funny and really understandable. But mostly funny.

Black specks

I was working a catered business event once and the lunch portion was going well. All of the attendees were pretty happy with the food buffet and I even got compliments to take back to the cook from some of the guests.

I was in the kitchen taking care of some of the dirty plates when one of my servers came in like Kramer from Seinfeld.

“There is a very unhappy lady downstairs. You better come quick.”

Oh god, no. I really hated dealing with unhappy customers (I think most people do), but I put on my concerned face and went down to face the music. I thought maybe the soup had been cold, or they had found a hair, or something of that nature.

When I found the offended party I asked if she would tell me what was wrong. Everyone I had dealt with had been so happy so this was a disappointment.

“The Crème brûlée had dirt in it,” she said. “I was eating my bowl and right at the bottom there was dirt.”

This was a problem for sure. There shouldn’t be dirt in your pudding, but accidents happen. Sometimes a dish isn’t washed properly or something can fall into a dish. Who knows? So I asked her to show me the contaminated pudding.

“Here, look,” she said. She showed me her bowl. Most of the custard was gone, but there was some left in the bottom. There was a single spoon scrape across the bowl through the pudding. There under the custard was the unmistakable black peppering of real vanilla bean.

I needed to be gentle and diplomatic. I could always laugh later. “Oh, let me ask the chef,” I said.

I had no intention of asking anybody, but I find that if you play dumb too it doesn’t embarrass the other person as much. I took the bowl with me to the kitchen to ‘show’ the chef. I went and chatted with some of my staff for a few minutes then returned to the dining room.

“The chef tells me that the black specks are actually vanilla bean. He uses real vanilla rather than extracts.”

There. That should do it.

Boy was I surprised.

“Don’t be stupid,” she said. “Vanilla doesn’t come from beans. And I’ve checked every Crème brûlée on the buffet and they are all dirty.”

She checked every bowl. She took a spoon and dug through a dozen desserts. She ruined the remaining desserts looking for one that didn’t have “dirt” in it. Sweet baby wheezes!

I did the only thing I could do.

“I am so sorry ma’am. Thanks for letting us know. I will let the chef know.”

My staff didn’t mind making sure the remaining puddings were okay.

About Rod Weatherbie

Rod Weatherbie is a writer working in the hospitality industry. He spent a number of years in Toronto as a member of the financial press before returning to PEI. Rod has published one piece of short fiction, one book of poetry, and has had work published in Red Shift, the Antigonish Review, Mitre, and the Toronto Quarterly. He has also recently co-produced, co-directed, and acted in a stage production of old television shows.

He also likes writing about food. Go figure.

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