Fussy Sydney chef hates her customers, says US expert

An inner-Sydney chef with notoriously strict rules about who could eat at her restaurant has drawn criticism from an American blogger in the hospitality industry. Surry Hills Japanese restaurant Wafu is closing, with the owner Yukako Ichikawa lambasting Sydney diners on her website, saying they were greedy and inconsiderate. The restaurant serving “guilt-free Japanese cuisine” has been described as Sydney’s most exclusive restaurant because only members, which include those who attend an “orientation”, can make reservations.

But American blogger Penelope Tsaldaris, of ServeMeWell, has weighed into the debate saying Ichikawa’s obsessions “run contrary to everything, I’ve ever been taught or practiced in our trade or even the practice of rudimentary politeness”.

Yukako wrote on her website: “First, many potential customers, and even some members, have entered Wafu without doggie containers. I could not accept such inconsiderate people. The refusal of this most simple, basic request shows that Wafu’s ways are not respected. Intolerable. Further, I found it distressing when, after eating, with obvious self-satisfaction, people said, ‘SO FULL!’.

“Perhaps this was meant as a compliment, but to me it meant that the utterer had deliberately damaged their body by wasting food through over-eating. It meant also that the utterer did not understand Wafu’s ways, and had not bothered to make the effort or take time to find out what these are. Wafu is viable, as a business, if I continue to accept inconsiderate, greedy people. But I couldn’t do it. Wafu has always been, and will remain, more to me than simply just another business.”

And so on. But the fussy Sydney chef may have met her match.

“Her views drip with customer loathing or she’s just a smart ass, vying for publicity,” Penelope told Taste for Travel. The audience for her blog is American chefs and workers in the hospitality industry. “Customer satisfaction is what drives business through the door, and remains the highest priority to survival. Even if you serve still water, serve it well,” she says.

Customer satisfaction is what drives business through the door, says blogger Penelope Tsaldaris

Of Yukako, Penelope says: “I guess she didn’t get the memo about our trade being referred to as the hospitality industry. Without question, the guest is the goose who lays the golden egg. They feed us, after we feed them.” But Penelope also gives Sydney diners a serve for putting up with being scolded.

“What intrigues me more, is what pathetic, moronic nincompoops would allow themselves to be treated in such a manner when paying for a meal, or even sign up for an orientation? At night when she cashes out the register, she must be laughing her head off at all the very shallow people who allow themselves to be degraded with her emotional ass-whipping.”

The sign outside Wafu has a list of the rules which include: Wait to be given permission before you sit down; sit up straight and relax; share meals; rest chopsticks after moving food into your mouth and while chewing; never play with the table settings; never speak loudly on your phone; never waste any food. Apparently Wafu’s doors will remain open to members, or anyone willing to bring their own doggy bags, while the restaurant is up for sale. Wafu’s food is described as: gluten and wheat free, egg free, no refined sugar, organic, with vegan and vegetarian options.

Comments

  1. Peter says

    I really have to wonder about this one. It looks as if the Japanese chef cares about her food a lot and cares about the experience that her customers have. But… and it’s a big but…. to be scolded and told how to eat… instructing diners like they’re children who know nothing… is all wrong. The customers PAY. Who is going to visit Sydney and want to go to a Japanese restaurant with a list of stupid rules outside? If the customer pays then it’s up to them whether they want a doggie bag or to eat what is in front of them and how they eat it, is up to them.

  2. says

    Thanks for your opinion, Peter. The Wafu creed of dining has been hotly debated in Sydney, and it’s interesting to read how an American expert in the industry views the rules.

  3. Cynthia Dammerer says

    Like a house or a boat for sale, there’s always another one aound the corner. I for one would be incredulously shaking my head and walking around the corner as soon as I saw the rule sheet. Fortunately we all have choice

    • says

      Good point, Cyn. We are spoilt for choice. I do wonder if diners have voted with their feet and that’s one of the reasons it might be closing? Sydney seems to be going through a downturn of upmarket eateries at the moment, with new closures every week.

  4. Leonidas says

    Diners need orientation before they can be accepted? This is one club I’ll never bother to join. Unbelievable. Sydney people are dumb.

  5. says

    I wish to sincerely thank you for this post, noting the comments I contributed.
    It meant a great deal to me and I hope that aka “Yuk” reads every single one of them. She’d be a smart girl to do so.
    Wishing you a brilliant Sunday afternoon…
    Pen

  6. Barbra Senior says

    Politeness matters to Americans. I thought the Japanese also placed the same value on courtesy. It seems not.

  7. Georgia Gerardis says

    Undoubtedly, such personalities do attract certain types of clientele and become more popular than they really deserve. If you cannot tolerate individuality do not open a serving place. You have chosen the wrong occupation. It’s one thing to have logical rules, such as a dress code, and another to treat your customers like little orphans of the 50s. The military might have been a better working field for such chef. On the other hand, it is true that chefs and restauranteurs come to face extreme behaviours that can be quite a challenge to deal with. But it is a package deal. You enter this field? You need to be capable of pulling it through or else just shut the business. I remember having to deal with many bizarre behaviours but the one that our serving crew couldn’t deal with was a retired general who had the bad habit to remove his false teeth and leave them on the side of his table. My husband’s advice, as well as mine, was to serve the man with respect and discretely cover his eating tool with a clean napkin. There is always a way as long there is a will, and patience to apply and set the right example. So, I say, YES, eating is not pnly about food but also about manners. Do you expect your children to behave themselves at the table when you as a parent act like a pig?

  8. Georgia Gerardis says

    Now, the big mystery question for you to answer is :Why would someone remove his false teeth at an ‘eating’ place?

  9. says

    Almost died laughing about the old dude who took his teeth out to eat. Never heard of that one before! You’re right – it is a package deal with give and take on both sides. Thanks for your input :) X

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