How can a laminated steak card get you in trouble in Custer?
Published: Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
We were surprised last week to hear that Custer, S.D., had been mentioned on the David Letterman Late Night Show Oct 8. We watched the clip with Letterman and producer Barry Sonnenfeld at least a half dozen times and came away with the conclusion that maybe some people need to lighten up a little bit and concentrate on customer service.
Sonnenfeld apparently had problems with getting a steak prepared to his specifications at other restaurants in the past, so he took an unusual step. While flying from New York to Los Angeles about two years ago, Sonnenfeld came across an ad in a Sky Mall magazine with a picture of a nicely grilled steak. In fact, it was probably an Omaha Steaks ad, he said, and it was perfect, just the way he likes them.
So, he cut the photo out of the magazine and had the small steak photo laminated so he could carry it with him. “It was exactly how I like my steak cooked,” he told Letterman excitedly, while the latter laughed at this odd action. Sonnenfeld pulled the laminated steak card out of his wallet and the camera zoomed in on it. “I think it’s a great idea, fantastic idea,” Letterman said. It has served Sonnenfeld well in that when asked how he would like his steak cooked in a strange restaurant, he whips out the card and asks the wait person what the photo would be in this particular restaurant, medium rare or medium. Then he orders his steak so it will look like the photo.
Now in the Custer restaurant, Sonnenfeld orders wine and salad and a buffalo strip steak and shows the waitress the laminated card with the photo of his steak and requests that it be cooked to look like that. “Oh, that’s the funniest thing I have ever seen. Let me show it to the chef,” the waitress says to Sonnenfeld. “She came back with our wine and she was white as a ghost,” Sonnenfeld said. Thirty minutes later he and his wife had not received their salads. They were beginning to wonder what was going on.
“The maitre de came out and asked us to leave the premises. ‘We don’t have a cook here, we have a chef. He was very offended,’” she said. Sonnenfeld asked if it was the laminated steak picture and said the waitress thought it was funny. “The waitress is in the alley trying to regain her sense,” was what the maitre de, or hostess, told Sonnenfeld.
“We left and went across the street (actually down several blocks) to the Captain’s Chair (actually Table) and had fried shrimp,” Sonnenfeld said. Letterman quipped, “You can’t beat South Dakota seafood. (Laughter) That’s where you want to be.”
We’re glad that Sonnenfeld and his wife visited our community, but wonder why they couldn’t have been treated a little better at the first restaurant. Maybe some folks there thought he was just a wise guy trying to make trouble. He obviously wanted a good buffalo steak, but, when asked to leave, was resigned to settle for shrimp at the Captain’s Table. Maybe he was a little gun shy to attempt ordering another steak in town.
Just for the record, Sonnenfeld directed the following movies: Addams Family, Get Shorty, Men In Black, Men In Black II, Wild Wild West, and RV. He is reported to be one of the most sought after producers in Hollywood. We doubt whether he will be producing any movies anywhere near Custer, or South Dakota, for that matter, anytime soon.
He isn’t the only celebrity to visit Custer recently. Another local restaurant owner told us comedian and talk show host Chris Rock, his wife, and kids were in their place of business a few weeks ago and were recognized by a waitress. He didn’t say much. His wife did most of the ordering and talking. He probably wanted to keep a low profile, as do most celebrities.
The moral of the story is we never know who is visiting in our community. This is a good reminder that we need to treat everyone with courtesy, respect and dignity, just as we would want to be treated, because you never know when your place of business will end up on the Late Night Show. Maybe we should invite Sonnenfeld back to Custer and treat him to a great big buffalo sirloin steak, prepared just like in his laminated photo, and show him some real Western hospitality.
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