I was asked to host a dinner for corporate executives and the company’s senior field staff, about 25 people in total. I discovered a steak house in King of Prussia that I really liked but before I committed to it for this dinner I invited 3 coworkers to confirm the choice.
One member of our little party is one of the most dignified and proper women I will ever know and she has a last name almost as old as Philadelphia itself, she was also a vegetarian. My friend was assured that everything she wanted would be strictly vegetarian. Before she ordered the sautéed mushrooms she really challenged the waiter on whether they would be prepared in a way that she could eat them. He assured her everything would be in edible. Dinner arrived and the mushrooms were clearly not vegetarian friendly, they were the mushrooms used to adorn the steaks. She shot me a look that she had learned from years of attending white gloved functions. I called our waiter over and as I began to explain that the mushrooms were not acceptable my friend raised her bejeweled right hand to stop me and with her left hand she silently summoned the waiter to her side. “My darling young man what part of I am a vegetarian did you not understand?” “How does sautéing mushroom in beef stock make this dish, which smells terrific and looks quite tasty qualify it as vegetarian?” “You do understand that just because a steak is not residing next to them on my plate does not make it vegetarian acceptable?” “Now dear, what else can you suggest for me to eat?” My friend never raised her voice, never showed any distress she just very calmly and succinctly demanded perfection and she got it. The meal was terrific.
The manager knew the purpose of the meal and offered to tour my guests around to see if they agreed that the location would work for a large private dinner. We all agreed that it would and met with the company President and Chairman the next day to discuss. I gave them the wine list they made their choices and I went back to the restaurant to plan the menu. I based it on previous dining experiences with the two bosses. I chose 6 butlered appetizers, a salad course, a soup course and 4 options for dinner; seafood, beef; chicken; pasta/vegetarian.
We arrived at the restaurant and the bosses liked the space and were charmed by the greeting they received from the manager and we were escorted to our private area. The wine was poured and the appetizers started. I stood in the corner and thought that things were going well. Out of the corner of my eyes I saw the President and Chairman looking over the menu. They looked up, found me and briskly walked over. I was expecting to be complimented….I was not.
These two me detested each other and rarely spoke to each other without the Executive Senior VP of HR and Cleaning Up Messes being in the room as well. But on this one night and on this one topic they were in complete agreement. The President was about my size but the Chairman was about 5’5”. They backed me up against a wall, one grabbed me by the knot of my tie the other rested his fist firmly in the middle of my rib cage.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” “Are you kidding with this fucking menu” “How can we trust you again?” “Perhaps you are not as sophisticated as you think you are” “Did you really think this would satisfy anyone?” “For Christ sake Flad how can you have embarrassed us like this?”
I responded; “What part are you upset about?” “You do realize that this place does not do banquets but made special arrangements to do this dinner?” “You can’t be upset with the quality of my choices? Can you?”
They did not mind the choices but “Why did you think it was a good idea to limit the choices my people could make?”
Me; “You wanted a cocktail hour(s) and you surely can’t expect people to order their own appetizers and still have them served like a party.”
Them “No, you smartass moron but the 4 choices for dinner will limit people” “I want an open menu and more appetizers and don’t tell me you limited dessert”
Me “You don’t think you’re over reacting?” “This falls within the budget I was given”
Them “Who gave you a budget?”
Me “I will see what I can do”
Them “Just fucking do it, this is quite disappointing”
And off I went to hunt down the manager. After a few tense moments in front of the broiler I assured him that it would be financially beneficial to everyone involved. I waited as he spoke to the head chef, I heard a loud bang. The manager came back and said no problem.
We came back out to the bosses to discuss the changes and the wait staff placed full menus at each place setting. The manager asked if he could speak to me for a moment. I followed him to the end of the bar, the head bar tender came over and the manager said; “I want my usual “fuck it” set up and give Mr. Flad here anything he fucking wants throughout the evening and if he brings the blond (my boss) out she is to get whatever the fuck she wants as well.” I ordered my usual martini and the manager just glared at me and looked to the bartender said “shoot him too.” We did a shot of the most amazing bourbon I have ever had.
The rest of the evening went well and the restaurant was treated very well by the bosses because they had a tip “pissing match.”
The Executive SR VP of HR and Cleaning Up Messes contacted me the next day to express the apologies and gratitude of the bosses. I hinted that a few extra shares of stock would heal my bruises, he hung up.