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20 December, 2008
Book Review: Playing with Fire Whining and Dining on the Gold Coast by Thomas G. Schaudel
Read and Reviewed for armchair interviews
Have you ever gone to dinner and had a bad experience? Maybe your food wasn’t cooked right, or you found something that shouldn’t be there in your soup bowl. Perhaps you were witness to one of your fellow patrons being extremely rude and pushy. However, what do you do if you are the chef, and the customer’s complaint is just too off the wall for you to handle?
If you are Chef Tom Schaudel, you write a book about those customers. Tom writes in his introduction: “By my math, I have fed over two million Long Islanders in the last forty years. One million, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and fifteen have been wonderful; eighty five have made this book.” Playing with fire introduces readers to these most memorable characters that Tom and the staff of his four restaurants have met over the last forty years of being in the business.
From the moment I saw the table of contents which is laid out to look like a menu and the illustrations beginning each chapter, I knew I was in for a treat with this book. Chef and author Tom Schaudel shares these humorous “horror” stories of some of his best worst behaved customers. From the woman who tried to walk out of the restraint with a Christmas tree attached to her pocket, a grandma who liked to flip the bird at everyone in the place when not helped fast enough, the awkward situations of the woman on a date who is so drunk she is passed out on the ladies bathroom floor, and the young married couple who tried to redeem a counterfeit gift certificate given them as a wedding gift, as well as many others. The stories are told in a light hearted way that make the reader see how sometimes the wait and kitchen staff just have to have a good sense of humor to survive the night. I appreciated the recipes scattered through the pages, and while I don’t cook a lot of seafood myself I did see one or two that I would like to try some night for dinner.
Playing with Fire is a lighthearted romp through the restaurant industry and those nightmare customers who frequent it, as seen by the man behind the scenes.