It’s no wonder an entire television series was created to poke fun at office life. Work can be strange—and funny, and just plain awkward sometimes. The stories we tell each other about what happens during office hours often entertain us around the dinner table. But, what happens when your work is the dinner table? We asked some of our MICHELIN Inspectors for a few of their weird on-the-job moments that made them wonder, “what just happened?"
“One time, the reservation system I used signaled to a restaurant that it was my birthday, which it was not. At first, when I checked in, I didn’t think much of the well wishes. But when dessert came, they brought it over with a single lit candle. The restaurant was tiny, and tables turned and raised their glasses. I immediately realized that everyone in that room must have thought I was alone on my birthday, celebrating with a tasting menu. I wanted to sink through the floor.”
“Early on in my career, I learned how food really is the Michelin Guide’s only criteria. While dining at a heralded Three Star, a server knocked over a full glass of Champagne onto my lap. He cursed, stood the glass up, and gave me a new napkin. That was it. Nobody refilled the wine, removed the empty flute, or even apologized that I would be eating with soaked pants for the next two hours. And yet, I was still impressed by the cooking.”
“My first course arrived along with a roach that decided to scurry across the table. The gentleman working in the front of the house was very nonchalant and said he must’ve come in the front door when I did, and then when I asked to cancel the rest of my order and leave, he still expected me to pay full price. The worst part was I was headed to the airport directly from that meal, so I had to endure the entire flight desperate for a shower.”
“In the middle of the pandemic after things started opening up, some restaurants thought it was a good idea to stage mannequins throughout their dining rooms to make them feel fuller since most were still at a limited capacity. It was definitely a creative work-around, until they decided to seat myself, a solo diner, at a table for four with two mannequins already there. I had no objection to them in the dining room but making me sit at a table with them only made me more conspicuous and I felt like the butt of a joke. When I ordered my meal, which is normally more than the average, single diner eats, the server tried to gently suggest that maybe I over-ordered. I gestured to my dining companions and said, “well, this order is for three people.” They did not enjoy my jest.”
“I was driving to a remote restaurant, and I was on a very windy mountainside road with a straight drop and no guard rail. I was 2 ½ km in when I found out that the road was closed due to construction after a rockslide. It wasn’t wide enough to turn my station wagon around so I drove in reverse those winding kilometres. I had sent a spreadsheet of my hotels and towns I would be visiting to my family--just in case they didn't hear from me, they would have a starting point of where to look--but of course this restaurant and this town were not on the schedule. All I could think about was falling off the side of this mountain, and them having no idea where to find me. After telling the story to a coworker he said he would have left the car and made the rental company go fetch it.”
Hero: Cathy Mayer / @cthartica
All illustrations by Cathy Mayer / @cthartica