Don’t Make Me Ask For The Salt: A Rant

I really hate when restaurants don’t provide salt on the tables.

After dining at one of the fancier restaurants in town, I was annoyed when my meal tasted under-seasoned and there were no saltshakers on the tables. I searched online for explanations as to why chefs would withhold the salt and how other diners felt about the issue.

Some chefs do believe they season their food perfectly or that their customers could ruin the integrity of their dish by adding more salt. I was surprised to find a thread on Chowhound where even certain diners were bothered by the presence of salt shakers. Some complained about the nerve of those who add salt and/or pepper to dishes before they even taste them.

I was left wondering why on earth anyone should anyone care how a paying customer wants to enjoy their food? So what if a diner, or, even a dinner guest adds salt to a dish before he or she tastes it. I could care less if one of my dinner guests asked for salt or seasoned their food with 50 cracks of black pepper. Are my guests respectful? Are they having a good time? These are the questions with which I’m more concerned.

Some diners and chefs feel it’s fine to only provide salt and pepper upon request, but I think the act of having to ask for salt serves to intimidate diners. It can make customers feel bad for asking for salt out of fear they will insult the restaurant staff, or cause them to second guess their own taste and wonder if they don’t recognize good food. I always provide salt and pepper for guests so they don’t have to feel sheepish about asking for it and consider it part of hospitality.

No salt on the table can feel like, “I dare you to ask for salt.

No cook or chef is perfect and it’s arrogant for anyone to believe he or she is above human error. We are not culinary gods. And don’t make me ask for the salt.

5 Comments

  1. I don’t know. I think I have to disagree with you here. If one goes to a restaurant with a chef (as opposed to line cooks… though there’s nothing wrong with line cooks!) one is going to have them make you something special. That something special includes the seasoning. If you reseason what was made, you’re changing their art. You don’t go to a museum and add paint, do you?
    They’re not daring you to ask for salt, they’re saying you don’t need it.
    I guess what I’m saying is that people don’t come to your blog and tell you that you should add in a few more words here and there because it’s not to their taste. You create a product and you expect that people come here because they like the content you create. They shouldn’t try to change your product.

  2. Doc, First of all, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. An eloquent perspective. Most of the time I don’t want to add salt in fine dining restaurants, but there have been occasions I found the food quite bland but ate the (expensive) meals because I felt bad asking for salt. Next time, I’ll probably just ask. I know these chefs are more likely to properly season a dish, but sometimes they miss or possibly have a completely different taste than mine. Anyway, you thanks for some food for thought.

  3. Loved the rant, Jeni – this is also one of our pet peeves. As a restaurateur and long-time hospitality professional, I really have no tolerance for people in this industry who put their needs above those of their guests. First and foremost, our mission should always be to serve. Food is subject, and people have to eat every day, which means they develop habits – whether they are good habits or bad is not for us to judge. Any chef worth her salt (pun intended) should be prepared to meet the needs of her guests – whatever they may be – at no personal cost to himself. When a guest is made to feel awkward, stupid or inferior because their taste is not the same as the chef’s, or they don’t know the rules of etiquette, etc., then we have failed in our mission to Serve The Guest. As a fellow blogger, I enjoy the banter that can happen in the Comments section, and I can’t resist pointing out that it seems as if Doc above is adding just a little salt to your post. You’re so good, you even handed him the shaker. Cheers!

  4. Sarah, to be completely honest, I don’t even remember if Sarello’s had salt or pepper shakers on the tables! That means I wasn’t looking for them:)

  5. Everyone’s taste buds and salt intake are different. I think salt should be on the table BUT I think the patron or guest should try the food FIRST before they ask. I mean really, what if you add it and it already had plenty and now you have oversalted it? Now it just tastes like salt. As for my hubby he is low in sodium so he has to add to be sure she is getting enough sodium intake. I know it’s a rarity for Americans to have that issue but he does. So yes to on the table but whoa, check out the dish first!

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