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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Truth In Service

Truth In Service

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
Winston Churchill

Truth or Consequences, a city in New Mexico or a game show or a life lesson? I know, I know, all of them. Well it is the life lesson we will concern ourselves with, truth in service and what are the consequences for either disobeying or obeying the truth. As a chef I will use my industry to be an example, but it holds true for all industries.

We are a"five star" restaurant states the manager to a guest, it's a lie. No one awards 5 stars, the best is 3 stars from the Michelin Guide, 5 diamonds awarded by AAA and Zagat's rates on a point system as does Wine Spectator. For someone to claim such, shows how little they know little about what they are talking about and if they can lie about their rating what other lie's may be found upon the menu.
Common menu lie's are over inflating the ingredient used, (farm salmon touted as wild or even Copper River salmon sold fresh in October (the Copper River season is mid May until July) cannot be true. Other menu lie's are the latest catch words such as sustainable, local or organic. These are the latest hot button terms in the greening of a restaurant, but do you really receive what they claim on the menu. Certified organic means there is a record to track the product, sustainable is a philosophy and subject strictly to to  the claims of the farmer or operator, local often refers to product farmed within 100 miles of the operation (something that can be verified but often is not.) Many restaurants use these terms without providing  the required documentation. I dined in a restaurant just today who made these claims,  in Canada, in winter you cannot get any fresh produce grown within 100 miles, the ground is frozen. So they clearly lie to the customer. There are times of the year when ingredients are simply not available within that 100 mile zone, strawberries may come from California or Florida or even Chilie. Apples are waxed and stored in the fall, getting a fresh one in May it simply doesn't happen although the apple from Washington State may be available year round it still may be last season's apple (which is ok as long as you don't claim it was just picked). In defense of the chef who actually goes to the farmers market (very few do) they need to be asking the right questions as well, the farmer may be getting what he is selling shipped in from elsewhere too. Many farmers will sell other regions until their own product is ready.
The restaurant operator must present what is stated upon the menu, so if they claim an ingredient comes from a certain area then it must: Scottish salmon; Atlantic salmon (can be both a type and a region); Crassostrea gigas or Pacific oysters; Bluepoint oysters raised in Long Island's Great South Bay ; PEI or Idaho potatoes; Bay scallops; Gulf shrimp; PEI Mussels, Smithfield ham; Limerick ham; Alaskan king crab; Long Island duck; Florida stone crabs; French white asparagus.
Leeway may be given for styles rather than districts, New England, Manhattan  and Boston style clam chowder, New York style cheesecake, Maryland style crab,New York or Chicago style pizza, Kansas City or New York strip is commonly accepted and most realize that it is a style of cuisine rather than a district, we all understand that Chinese food does not come from China but rather it is the preparation method of the food.
Often restaurants boast of servicing the" finest" and "freshest" ingredients however when questioned they use terms like IQF (individually quick frozen) to refer to the food ingredient, no matter what frozen is, it is still not fresh. I recently watched a TV commercial referring to bagels as "fresher than fresh" because of the IQF process, still frozen is not fresh, thus it is a lie.  Often compounded with the lie there is just out and out fraud. Veal cutlets made of pork, shrimp used instead of scampi, common beef sold as Black Angus, Kobe or Wagyu (watch out any restaurant that claims the burger is made of these) wild mushrooms must be wild.
Bar's who use well stock instead of the requested brand name knowing most people cannot tell the difference once mix has been added to the drink. How much more money can I get if my customer orders a Masterson 10 year old whiskey at 4.00 an ounce but I give him a Centennial 10 year old at 1.00 per ounce, if they add cola will they know the flavor difference.  The Masterson would sell for 25.00 per drink and the Centennial for 6.00 (at the bar 17% liquor cost) so if two drinks are served with mix I can charge 50.00 and only have a cost of 2.00 instead one of 8.00 (after all he will never know) so the bartender has lied, committed fraud and theft, (after all who is going to pocket the 38.00 difference in just those two drinks?
Truth will prevent the restaurant from using many canned and RTU items as well. Is that sauce on your steak Oscar really Bearnaise (eggs, butter, white wine, lemon juice, tarragon, salt and pepper) or is it something made of modified milk ingredients, palm oil, wheat flour, modified corn starch, monosodium glutamate, corn syrup solids, hydrolyzed protein (corn, soy, wheat), salt, onion powder, silicon dioxide, locust bean & guar gum, citric acid, spices, hydrolyzed casein (milk), hydrolyzed soybean oil, garlic powder, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, color. With  allergens of milk, wheat and soy. Would it not be far nicer if the cooks only knew how to make the sauce in the first place instead of relying upon a microwavable "something". The big factor here is most restaurants proudly declare themselves as MSG (monosodium glutamate) free zones, cooks simply make an instant product that calls itself Bearnaise sauce and states to the server no MSG because they have not read through the ingredients listed upon the package. Reading labels prevent's problems in the dining room as well, maple "flavored" syrup is not maple syrup for pancakes.
We may ask ourselves, how is that we are not speaking truth? This is so easy to answer, in doing so lets look at what a lie is. There are two kinds of lies, both wrong, both destructive. What there is not is what we call a big lie or a little lie, a lie is a lie. So what are the two kinds of lies, white lies and black lies.
Something white has always been thought of as day, light, beneficial, good, pure, not presenting any harm. Whereas something black is considered dark, night, destructive, very harmful. Other terms we use this comparison with: white and black magic, black and white ideas or choices, seeing everything in black or white, an agreement written in black and white.

So then a "little white lie" can't be harmful, can it? Most white lies are conceived to manipulate someone into a course of action that who favor the liar, not usually beneficial to anyone except the liar. In a restaurant my menu white lie manipulates the customer into buying an item at a cost higher than what I should charge or reassures the guest I am offering them what they want when in fact I knowingly am not. Morality says we don't lie, compromising our morals gives us the needed permission to tell little white lies.  We want our customers to think highly of us therefore we tell them what they want to hear so that our self-esteem or our confidence in our business skills do not come under question.

The little white lies are ok because we have not harmed anyone, right? Wrong for we have caused harm first to our sense of morality which devalues who we are, once caught in our lie we generally tell another and yet another cover of the first, it eventually gets lost in a maze of lies and our integrity is now gone. Some may believe that the telling of the white lie is really just being kind and showing kindness. To be kind is defined as being: useful, to lie to someone only serves you and has no good use ever. People want the truth regardless of the circumstance, you're not being kind to tell them anything less than the truth. If the truth cannot be expressed because of a possibility of harming sensitivities, just ask yourself what will be the repercussions be in the end? If they will be harmful (and they will be with a lie) then tell the truth. Everyone can be truthful, just word the answer in a way that holds integrity.

Truth is kindness, those who receive the truth have knowledge upon which they may shape their future, immediate or for the  long term.  "Is this the best thing you ever ate?" asks the new cook, when it was not so good at all,  the comforting lie would be a simple yes, the truth could be worded "there is potential for you to produce the best thing I ever ate if you will only do...." No lies and the cook gets a useful bit of knowledge. We place greater value on hearing the truth so we may move forward than hearing a falsehood that only strokes our ego.

No matter the circumstance there is never the place for the white lie, especially in service. We want to build relationships and to do so on the grounds of a falsehood will only catch us in the end and we suffer the loss of the relationship. What price have you placed upon your integrity.

A black lie of course is any lie spoken to cover and protect ourselves or out and out deceive another for our personal gain. We talked earlier about Bernie Madoff the King of the Liar's he did only that which pleased or made gains for himself, all based upon black lies. Be sure that the fall is great, I wonder what price Bernie had upon his son's life.

Most bartenders, like car salespeople, insurance salespeople are masters at the lie, telling the customer what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, that is the kindness we cans serve, speak the truth.
Service demands truth and if you want the best of your customer than give them the best you have, the truth. Many states, provinces and most city health departments actually have "truth in menu" laws, and the operator could be closed for misrepresenting their menu with lies. Homemade (house made) must be so, not a purchased product, using ingredients which are claimed to be not in the building (MSG), Most government law enforcement can enforce truth in menu laws and literally hundreds per year experience some punitive action for lies expressed on the menu.

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." Albert Einstein

"The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is." Winston Churchill

"Our duty is to encourage every one in his struggle to live up to his own highest idea, and strive at the same time to make the ideal as near as possible to the Truth." Swami Vivekananda

"Truth is a deep kindness that teaches us to be content in our everyday life and share with the people the same happiness." Khalil Gibran

"Tell me I'm clever, Tell me I'm kind, Tell me I'm talented, Tell me I'm cute, Tell me I'm sensitive, Graceful and wise, Tell me I'm perfect - But tell me the truth." Shel Silverstein

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. " John 8:32 Jesus The Christ

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