Where are the hospitable food service employees?

By Staff
Robert St. John / food columnist
July 28, 2004
Are we in the middle of a hospitality drought?
It seems that cavalier, don't-give-a-squat attitudes are becoming the rule rather than the exception.
Earlier this summer I wrote about one of the strangest waiter-customer interactions I had ever encountered. Yesterday, I had one of the strangest customer-cashier interactions I have experienced. It's spreading like the plague.
I took my family to a recently opened restaurant in my hometown. At this restaurant, customers order pizza from a cashier near the front door and then sit in the dining room and wait for their food to be delivered. That's easy enough, right? Not so fast.
In this restaurant the cashier had a strong aversion to anyone who places their money on the counter and not in her hand.
One would think that spending $46 on pizza to feed a family of four would warrant just a smidgen of hospitality. Not so.
I was reminded of the "Seinfeld" episode with the Soup Nazi and the specific procedures his customers had to follow when ordering soup. Any deviance from the norm warranted the reprimand, "No soup for you!"
One would expect this kind of treatment in New York, but we're the Hospitality State.
In retrospect the whole incident seems a little trivial. However, it was the Pizza Nazi's attitude more than her words. During the entire exchange I was never rude or inconsiderate. I never once raised my voice. As a matter of fact, I was almost laughing at the absurdity of it all.
In closing, I feel it is my duty to notify you, the reader, that the rules have officially changed: For now and evermore, when buying pizza, never place the money on the counter. Always place it in the hands of the cashier. If not "No pizza for you!"
Stuffed Eggplant
4 medium-sized eggplants
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
1⁄2 cup olive oil, divided
2 cups onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup bell pepper, diced
11⁄2 cups eggplant, diced
1 pound shrimp, small
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoons creole seasoning
1⁄2 cup green onion, chopped
1⁄4 cup parsley
1 pound crab claw meat
1 cup cracker crumbs, crushed
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 cup white wine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Use a paring knife to cut out the center of each half. Leave about a
1⁄2-inch thick barrier in the eggplant. Reserve removed eggplant for the filling.
Rub the flesh of the hollowed out eggplant with half of the oil. Combine salt and pepper and sprinkle it over the eggplant halves. Place in a large baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.
While the eggplant is baking prepare the filling.
In a large skillet heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Saut vegetables for six to seven minutes. Add shrimp and seasonings continuing to cook for five more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients (except for the white wine).
Divide filling evenly into par-baked eggplants. Pour the wine into the baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes, remove foil and continue baking for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve. Yield: eight servings
Robert St. John is the executive chef/owner of the Purple Parrot Caf and Crescent City Grill in Hattiesburg and Meridian. He can be reached at www.nsrg.com or www.robertstjohn.com .

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