You know how to tell if someone loves (and are good at) their job? Ask them to do it for you. I mean, ask them to do it for you without guidance or instructions from you. Put yourself in their hands and magic can happen.
This is most true with service professionals who are used to fulfilling the orders of others instead of flexing their own creativity. The ultimate institutionalized example of this is omakase, or what you might consider to be “chef’s choice” at a sushi restaurant. Omakase is derived from the word ‘entrust’ and the meal is meant to represent the skill of the sushi chef.
Omakase is a wonderful concept and I try to extend it more broadly to see what happens, although admittedly still with food more than, say, my dentist. Back in october i attended a conference at the Fairmont Orchid in Kona and during my final breakfast, asked the omelet chef to give me whatever he wanted. The result was a large and most interesting combination of eggs, local vegetables and seafood. He was thrilled to have the chance to create something new — i assume most of his morning is cheddar and mushrooms — and was excited that i took an interest in his preferences.
Best meal i’ve had at Bong Su in San Francisco was when our group just told the waiter to bring the dishes he liked and pair it with some good wines.
Conversely when the bartender at a friend’s birthday party gave me the open-mouth dull-eyed stare after i suggested he make me his favorite drink, i knew that i should just grab a beer from the cooler. People who don’t want to think or try to impress you often don’t love their job.
So live a little by letting great professionals practice their art and I’m sure you’ll be delighted more often than not. Anyone have non-food examples of this working for them?