As someone who works in the foodservice industry, you’ve undoubtedly heard something like “Can I have Swiss cheese instead of American?” or “Could I get the barbecue chicken sandwich with no barbecue sauce?” Customers ask for menu substitutions or alterations all the time.
We all like customizing our food—and sometimes there’s a good reason for asking for a different ingredient. Food allergies seem to be more prevalent than ever, and I’m always happy to oblige an allergy-specific request. But when it comes to substitution for the sake of substitution, here’s my philosophy: If a chef creates a dish with a specific combination of flavors, that’s the way it is meant to be enjoyed. Making a substitution will alter the final flavor.
Sometimes, I think the best way to address a substitution request is to simply recommend a different dish. In my days as a restaurant chef, I would encourage substitution-seeking diners to try the dish as is, and if they didn’t like it, I would happily get them something else. If I had to estimate, I think seven out of 10 diners ended up liking the dish after all.
Talk to you soon!