“This very soup would taste a lot better served warm!” she said…


I try not to listen to the bruised ego of our insulted chef, who has little understanding for these guests’ requests.

The restaurant where I work these days, happens to have at times tour groups. These are the VIP type. Any of these tour-guest may unrestricted order whatever he likes from our a la carte menu. Many of these people, who have paid several thousand dollars a person for a one week-plus Californian tour, have extensive travel experiences. They are world travelers, so they say.

Working one of these groups, I have a table of six, all mature adults, past retirement age. They order prawn cocktails to start with, soups, followed by salads, main-courses and desserts. I listen to their whining complaints about being forced to eat too much on this trip. I ask if they want me to bring them smaller orders. They tell me, “No, don’t you dare shortchanging us!” I still think they order too much food for somebody who is not hungry at all, but I don’t say it loud.

I bring their shrimp cocktails. They love it. I serve their soups. Four have the gaspacho. The other two have French onion soup, the kind with the bread-crouton and cheese floating above the rich broth and onions.
I take the cold soups first out to the table and make a second trip to the kitchen to get the piping hot onion soups. As I put the latter down in front of the guests, one lady, after tasting her gaspacho, starts to complain loudly about her soup being ice cold. “Ja, sure! Gaspacho is a cold soup!” I answer her, stating nothing but the facts.

She glances up at me, then looks down at her soup. I see her stirring the soup with a fork. She fishes for the vegetable pieces. I am sure she is analyzing the ingredients as she brings some chopped up vegetables to the surface. She does tells me her findings: “That’s tomatoes, chopped vegetable, water and give or take a pinch or two of spices.”

“Yes ma’am!” I agree a hundred percent with her. “I tell you what” she starts her lecture “This very vegetable soup would taste a lot better to me if it would be warm.” She corrects herself “Steaming hot I should say.”
“But ma’am we do offer it as a cold soup on the menu!” I try to get her to understand that there is a fine difference between hot and cold soups. She ignores me completely. Yet she says: “That’s what’s wrong with it.”
“But ma’am?”
“I tell you this soup would taste a whole lot better hot.”
“Yes ma’am!”
“And if you want me to, I show your fancy chef how to heat it up.” I make the grande mistake to ask “You honestly want me to heat your gaspacho up?” And she gets really mad at me. She is not kidding. Not only does she accuse me of calling her a liar, but she also says I refuse to take her order and to listen to her complaint. She has one of this tommy-gun mouths which is shooting acusations at me of which most I don’t understand. as she rattles my brain I hear her telling me off for not taking her seriously and calling her a joker.

She hands her soup to me and I leave the table speechless. I hear her voice telling the others, “This tomato-soup-concoction ought to be served warm in the first place!” I take it back to the kitchen. “Okay lady I say grinding my teeth. Lucky enough we have a microwave oven.

I serve her her soup hot. She loves it and I get to heat three more cups of gaspacho at the same table. These too, I serve boiling hot. I try not to listen to the bruised ego of our insulted chef, who has little understanding for these guests’ requests.

They finish their meal and sign the guest book. These six are very happy when they say “Good Night!” I look into the guest book. I smile and show the chef the customer’s remarks. These read “This was the best meal we have had on the whole California tour!” Another wrote “This tomatoes soup was out of this world!” And one mentioned ” . . . the chef’s hot tomato soup was excellent.” The chef mumble-jumbles something not suitable for print.

However, from this day on he changes the cold gaspacho to a hot tomato-soup with spinach “Florentine style” on any of the days when these tours are scheduled.

by helmut schonwalder