I am a firm believer that while every person has encountered difficult experiences with food service (either as a worker or customer), nothing can match having a chef or waitstaff going above and beyond their job description without reason. This feeling is only elevated by the hardships that restaurants have gone through during the COVID-19 pandemic, where face-to-face interaction between staff and customer was near-nonexistent. (In fact, I still have warm feelings when regarding the Gepetto Cafe in Pittsburgh, PA, which sent me a small treat when I informed them that I wouldn’t be ordering delivery anymore due to moving, not poor quality).
While most people may have these positive experiences, stories like that of Steve Chu’s, chef and owner of Ekiben in Baltimore, are few and far in between. When learning that a long-time customer of his restaurant was bedridden due to cancer complications and had been craving his food, Chu packed up his truck and two of his staff and drove over to make her a meal… six hours away. Chu declined payment and made enough food to offer the customer leftovers, turning right back around to return home after the tearful reunion.
This act of kindness helps to battle the server vs Karen narrative that has taken over the internet over the last few years. Be kind to the staff and kitchens that serve you, support establishments that treat you well (even on their off days), and hopefully we will see stories that reflect this kindness grow in popularity.
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