Feeding back at the table
We’ve been working hard on food maker ‘pitching’ as part of our Silver Chef collaboration – Holy Shiitake.
One of the peculiarities of this format is that everyone who signs up is submitting themselves to feedback. They’re offering up ‘drafts’ of their pitches, and hoping to improve them.
There aren’t many forums in the food world where people stand up and say ‘critique me, please’ and can expect real feedback.
As the giver of feedback, saying ‘it was good’ serves only ourselves if it wasn’t good. But we say these three words all the time, particularly when sitting at a restaurant table.
Being served food made by another’s hands is so personal, so earnest, you can sense their tender beating heart on your plate. And so when they ask you, ‘did you enjoy it?’, generally people think twice about sticking the knife in. It’s just too bloody intimate.
Instead you say ‘yes, it was good thank you’, which could mean it was good, but is just as likely to mean ‘please just go so I don’t have to lie any more. And btw, I’m never coming back, in case I’m faced with this discomfort again’.
Which is why asking if someone enjoyed something should only really occur if you’re absolutely sure you’ve served them something that was sensational. Never expect the truth at the table unless it IS the truth. You’ve just offered them up the absolute best. You’ve worked at it, you’ve improved on it, you’ve tested it out on different people.
Instead, ask for feedback on your food when it’s still ‘a draft’. Offer people tastes when you’ve put effort into something – it’s great from your view, for sure – but the person opening their mouths knows they have room to effect change. That if they feedback now, they will be contributing to your improvement. In this context, don’t ask ‘did you enjoy?’, but ‘how can I improve?’
And once you’re truly ready to ask ‘did you enjoy?’ (because you already know the answer), it will give the diner much pleasure (rather than pain) to respond.