Occasionally we get complaints or comments on why we do not automatically put salt & pepper shakers on our tables at Pacific Grill restaurant.
The answer is very simple. I (like a lot of other chefs I know) want my guests to taste their food first. This is not a health issue--it is a taste issue.
I have a close friend named Charlene who always—almost unconsciously—salts her food the minute it is placed in front of her and she hasn’t even tasted it yet.
At dinner she would talk on and on relentlessly salting whatever dish it was, until I almost lunged across the table and shouted out to her to stop! This habitual, knee-jerk reaction is rude to the chefs that have toiled so long and hard to make a perfect dish. And especially rude to me since she was dining in my home.
When a dish leaves my kitchen it has been seasoned. It has salt and pepper, or soy sauce—or Thai fish sauce or some other seasoning particular to the dish and very carefully chosen. And hopefully it leaves the kitchen well-seasoned.
The only thing worse than over-seasoned food is UNDER-seasoned food!
Granted we sometimes make mistakes and under or over-season a dish, but please try the dish first, then if you would like additional salt please ask.
Many times when we garnish dishes, just before delivering them to the dining room, we add a final grind of a special exotic peppercorn blend, or we use an expensive finishing sea salt over juicy heirloom tomatoes, for example—if you then add table salt on top of the sea salt, you are most likely not going to like the flavor.
I had this happen to me many times where a guest returned a dish as being “too salty” with the waiter later explaining to me that they saw the guest flailing away with the salt before tasting it. A few restaurants ago I decided that I would remove the salt shakers from the dining room.
The worst example was once upon a time I had served a potato pancake with an ounce of expensive Beluga caviar on top. The guest told the waiter that it was too salty --when the waiter returned the dish he explained that the guest was seen salting the CAVIAR!!! (And the wholesale cost of caviar at the time was about $50/oz).
After that, the decision to remove the salt shakers from my dining room was very easy.