I have been toiling over this one since I was at The Wood Thief Hideout. I actually had to take a couple day break from all this burger stuff because of what happened after I found the hair in my burger...
I was the only person in the restaurant for my entire stay - with the exception of two different women who were just there to pick up their phoned-in to go orders. Simple, mellow, slow time in the restaurant!
Because there was no one else in there, I purposely left my camera in my bag so they wouldn't see it. I always want my food prepared as is, not food that has extra attention because they know it might be photographed or written about. I don't ever want presented food. I want what my guests would expect to get when they just randomly walk in the door...the honest presentation.
Leaving my camera tucked away until my burger was brought to my table turned out to be a good call because of the way things unfolded from there.
When they brought the burger to me, there was this one lone onion that was very distinctly out of place on its own on the plate. As soon as I brought out my camera, my server lady said, "you're taking a picture?!" I said that I was. She then said something about removing that onion, to which I responded...
"It's on the plate!"
That's all I said, but I did say it kind of abruptly, and without even looking at her. Not looking at her was partially because she wasn't in my small field of vision. (That whole thing of me not being able to turn my head and such.) The reason I was a little gritty about it was the whole reason I hid my camera...it was predictable. It showed that the only time they cared about the (plainly obvious) onion on the plate, was when the camera came out, and not before. My internal question to that was...
"Why would you have brought it to the table, not 'photo ready,' if that was the way you wanted it to be shown?!"
It spoke of the presentation in service not overly mattering to some regular schmuck like me, but all of a sudden, only mattered when it came to being presented in a photo. That was pretty lame.
The food any restaurant presents should matter every single time, not just when cameras come out. Presentation counts! You have to treat every guest like they are a gold star restaurant reviewer walking through the door, delivering the highest standard, coupled with consistency. That is a fair thing for a customer to expect from any professional kitchen.
The patty was definitely a kind looking one. It was seeping out from the overshadowed bun on one edge, and looked very inviting. I was psyched!
My first bite was a small one. I just nibbled off one of the outcropping pieces of the patty so I could taste it on its own. Right away I noticed it was pink...quite pink! I took a deeper bite into it because now the pinkness was my only focus.
When I did dig in further with that second bite, pink juices started trickling out of it quite readily. That made me go in for an even closer look.
I picked up the burger to squeeze a bit to see what would drip out. I watched my plate intently as I gave the gentle squeeze. Pink little droplets came quickly trickling from the patty onto the plate, but I also felt something on my thumb. I picked up my attention to that, and saw that it was their aji amarillo mayonnaise that had started oozing out from the top of the bun. I didn't mind that at all because it gave me a chance to taste the creamy sauce on its own.
I licked my thumb and enjoyed the nice smooth texture that the sauce delivered. It was hard to get a grasp on the complete flavouring though because the hot kick from the mayo slammed right into my senses like a tsunami. The lucky thing for me was that I love hot stuff, so I found it pretty stylin'! I was happy about that.
From a competition point of view though, I wouldn't have tagged it as the best choice. The reason I say that is because not everyone is a fan of such pronounced heat in their food like that, so it wasn't one that would necessarily be aimed toward enticing everyone's tastes...and when you rule out a good chunk of people, then it cuts down on the odds of crushing a competition for the win. This burger was definitely geared toward the hot n' spicy food loving crowd, so if that's your thing, this is a good one for you!
My main focus would not steer away from the pink of the burger though. I had just come from The Hume, where the patty was overcooked, and therefore dry and a bit tough because of it, and now this one has swung far in the opposite direction. It seemed to be teetering on the fine line of barely cooked or barely under by a hair. (Yes...pun on purpose.)
I was in heavy debate about it in my mind, and I just couldn't decide. I was looking at it from every angle, lightly squeezing it a time or two more, and was staring at it very intently. My server must have noticed, as that is when she came over to ask me if everything was OK.
I told her that I really liked the heat in the sauce, but was trying to decide if my burger was too pink or not. She simply asked...
"You don't like it like that?"
I wasn't able to answer though. I literally hadn't even gotten my first word out of my mouth when I saw what looked like a hair in my burger, so I stopped whatever my response was gonna be, and then both slowly and drawn out, I said something like...
"Well, I just found a hairrrr-rrrr, sooo..."
She watched me pull this long hair out from my burger as I was saying that. Naturally, she was kinda horrified at that. If it's not bad enough to serve someone a hair in their food, that must get stepped up a bit when it is to someone with a camera and laptop who said they write about food.
Not the best of scenarios, I would imagine!
Obviously, at that point, the meal was over. She sincerely apologized, and then offered me a new burger. I said I didn't want a new one. As per norm for something like that, she offered the comp., but I said that wasn't necessary, that I'd still pay, that I don't want things for free. I didn't make a big deal about it at all. I understand that kind of thing happens, but at the same time, in regard to a competition vote, if you serve someone a hair, the meal is over, and it DQ's the entry with a 0 out of 11 score.
I know I can be tough, and my whole burger tour had been trainwreck after trainwreck up to that point, but I was quite calm about it, because it just seemed like, "of course I got a hair in my burger, should I really have expected anything else with the way this Burger Month has been going?" It was the point past disbelief is what I am getting at. Things went off the rails though when I put the hair on my plate and grabbed my camera, when in a loud and pissed off tone, she said...
"YOU'RE TAKING A PICTURE OF IT?!"
I said matter of factly...
"Yeah. I have to write honest."
She stormed back toward the kitchen. I took a few photos of the hair, not even expecting them to turn out, and then wrote a thing or two more. That's when she came around my table in front of me, and in a very angry tone, said that I can't quote her, that I don't have her permission to do so.
Apparently she was standing behind me reading what I was writing. I didn't notice because of the whole "can't turn my head thing." I thought that was kinda creepshow central of her, but given the circumstance surrounding the hair, I'd let it slide, and not really put too much into it.
The quote she was referring to was her question of...
"You don't like it like that?"
She was mad. Seriously upset. I was baffled as to why. It was a harmless, very legit, fair, and genuine question to ask in regard to the situation of me saying that I was trying to decide if the patty was cooked too pink or not. She very assertively restated that I didn't have permission to write that, and that I didn't have permission to quote her. I told her that I don't need her permission, of to which she responded that she didn't say that. I said...
"Yes you did...that's exactly what you said!"
She then told me that I was taking it out of context, to which I responded...
"What context?! It was a fair, legit and reasonable question to ask."
Then I went on to say something along the lines of...
"...think about a steak. Some like it one second past blue, right up through to well-done burnt, and everything in between, so your question was completely fair. I didn't even think anything of it. I didn't even get a chance to answer because as you asked the question, that's when I found the hair, and that was the moment that the meal was over. Asking me anything along the lines of whether I liked my burger that was really pink was nothing...absolutely nothing."
I was in disbelief that that was her focus, because it was such a "didn't matter" kind of thing. In fact, it was the most obvious, and sensible thing you would expect your server to say to something like that...as if straight out of a textbook from Server School 101.
Her demeanor calmed down a bit from when I said that about it being a fair and valid thing to say. I tried to convey to her that I understood that she is probably horrified from everything with the hair, and me writing about it, but that the hair no longer even mattered, that it is just an afterthought, and that now I would have to write about all of this (implying the intense heat of conversation we were in). Then I told her that she was only making things worse by repeatedly telling me that I can't quote her, and didn't have her permission.
I actually felt kind of bad about it all, and it threw me off kilter a bit. I could see she was somewhat terrified (or the like), and I wasn't unaware of that, but I have to be honest in my writing, or I can never write anything ever again. It really played on my mind, which is why I went a bit quiet for two days in regard to the burger month stuff. One thing is for sure, I wasn't letting her silence me to save face. I was looking at the whole chain of things in my mind, from not caring about the onion until the camera came out, through to the hair and then telling me what I can't say. It was all a very clear indication that the customer didn't matter, but only how the restaurant looked. It was a total bummer.
Her repeatedly telling me that I can't quote her, that she didn't give me permission to do so, and me saying I didn't need her permission, it made me contact an old friend who is a partner at a law firm on the coast. I lawyered up just to be sure.
It never should have turned into what it did, but from her going to stand behind me to read what I was writing, and then storming around to tell me that I can't write it, kicked off everything. She made everything worse, way worse, and I tried to tell her as much.
I wasn't raising my voice like I could have, or perhaps, even should have. I mean, shit, when a restaurant raises their pissed off voice at you when you take a photo of the hair in the food they served you, that's some next level arrogance! The customer is supposed to be pissed off, and the restaurant is supposed to be kissin' your ass, not the other way around.
Repeating myself here, I realized she must be horrified about bringing me a hair in my food when I was there to write about it, but she no doubt elevated it from a bummer of a thing, and turned it into a full on situation that was needlessly blown out of proportion to the point where I actually lawyered up. I lawyered up over a fuckin' burger!
The big struggle for me is that it is not my intent to hurt anyone, but I have to write honest. I can't sacrifice that integrity, and I refuse to bend on that for anyone. I don't care who it is. When it comes to food, I am well known to be honest and objective. I've written awesome stuff for awesome meals, to the point where restaurants keep trying to comp me when I come in next because of what I have said.
(**I absolutely refuse free meals though because I can't even give the appearance of bias when I write, or I would have to stop.)
Conversely to the good food put in front of me, and what I write as a result, when garbage food is put in front of me (like the Uptown & Louie's burgers that made me sick for two days), my words are gonna reflect that too. I don't care if a restaurant gets their feelings hurt by it, they should have thought about that before serving the sub-par meal because I'm the one who had to put it in my body. I don't live in the world where the victim has to apologize to the perpetrator. Fuck that! Doctors can't just phone it in, neither can mechanics and pilots! Restaurants can't either because they are asking you to put their product in your body, so it better be done right. There is no margin for error on food. There can't be.
The sad part about my experience at Wood Thief is that the burger was kinda shaping up to be good. (Although I was both curious, and skeptical about the yams.) The borderline pink wasn't gonna stop me from eating it and making my way through it. The hair obviously ended the meal, but I saw the potential in the burger itself, and was likely to come back to take another shot at it near the end of the month. I had already processed that information in my mind in the very short time between finding the hair, and when everything kicked off with my server when I went to take a photo of it. She all but killed any sense of a comeback shot at their burger.
The situation should never have played out like that. My server took something shitty, but not out of the ordinary to happen in a restaurant from time to time, and turned it into a really bad situation. The hair became just an afterthought because of what transpired afterward.
Even after everything, I still asked for my bill so I could pay for it, and that I didn't want anything for free. No dice though. It was comp'd, so I just packed up and left.