Do Kids Belong in Restaurants?
For chefs, the Michelin Star rating system serves as the gold standard approval of their passionate work. Stars are to chefs as Academy Awards are to Hollywood. Restaurants boasting these stars create a unique fine dining experience, which usually costs much more than the average restaurant meal. "Experience" is the key word here because these chefs use their exceptional talents to create something incredibly delicious that you will remember for years to come.
It stands to reason that when a certain chef in a Chicago Michelin-starred restaurant took to Twitter to bash a couple's decision to bring their 8-month-old baby to his restaurant (and contemplated banning children altogether), the resulting debate in online forums turned vicious. The baby, as the story goes, wailed long and loud enough for the to hear it in his kitchen.
The question presenting itself is: Should we as parents take our children out to restaurants?
I have taken my own children out to eat since they were born. I want for them to be able to grow up with the normalcy of dining out, and I also have to take them to public places if I want to see friends on a somewhat regular basis. Introducing kids to the rules of eating in public creates the basis for future dining experiences. They'll learn that the behaviors they may get away with at home may not be appropriate at a restaurant.
Conversely, if I am paying hundreds of dollars for the experience of eating in a Michelin-starred restaurant, I would prefer it be worth my hard-earned money. Forget about the feelings of the Chicago chef presenting the food; I think about all of the other diners whose evenings were compromised because of a baby's crying. While I truly empathize with the panic I see in other parents' eyes when such an episode occurs, I think I would have been less forgiving had I been in that Chicago dining room. I think it simply comes down to knowing your children and what they are capable of in these types of situations, as well as being able to cater your choice of restaurant to support these capabilities. There should also be a family understanding that if your ideal dining scenario doesn't work out, your Plan B most certainly includes running for the door with a doggy bag in one hand and your screaming child in the other.
I think that whatever side of the ring you stand on, there is ultimately one point we can all agree on. That is the fact that with absolutely certainty all children are unpredictable. The charming behavior they display 365 days of the year may not be the behavior they display when you go out to eat.
Even so, things could have been much worse for the patrons in Chicago. When anyone goes out to eat, she runs the risk of having a fellow diner treat the waitstaff poorly (I hate that), or worse still, be seated next to person glued to their cellphone. It's all relative in the end.