Monday, July 12, 2010

Grouchy Chef

(Some of my friends have already read this, but I thought I would post it here anyway.)

Oh, people, do I have a restaurant for you! This place is called Grouchy Chef, and specializes in French cuisine. It is located in an industrial part of Mukilteo, Washington, and is owned and operated by Mr. Takayuki Masumoto, a solemn-faced man with stern dark eyebrows and graying hair. If you didn’t know the restaurant was there, you would probably drive right by it. In fact, you probably wouldn’t be driving in that neighborhood in the first place, unless, like my friend Matt, you work for the engineering firm Electro-Impact, whose buildings can be seen from the Grouchy Chef parking lot. One might in fact mistake the building that Grouchy Chef is located in for another one of Electro-Impact’s ugly warehouse-style buildings if it weren’t for the tiny sign bearing the red faced Grouchy Chef logo on the side. When you walk up to the door, you see typed signs posted that read “Reservations Only” and “No Outside Food, No Outside Beverages, No Muddy Shoes, No Flip Flops”. When you walk in the door, you will see a quaint, dimly lit restaurant interior with little candles on every table. Takayuki Masumoto will growl, “What’s your name?” at you from where he is cooking behind the counter. If you don’t have a reservation, you will be curtly turned away.

You will be seated with menus, but you must go up to the counter to order, and you must prepay, cash only. Takayuki Masumoto will be buzzing around, doing all the cooking, dishwashing, cleaning, telephone answering, and table waiting by himself. While you wait for your meal, you can go over to the wall and read the typed signs and manifestos Takayuki Masumoto has posted there. One advertises the Grouchy Chef t-shirts and baseball caps that are for sale. It asks you to not touch or try on any of the items, and tells you that all money donated for these items goes to cancer research, in memory of Takayuki Masumoto’s sister, who died in ’88 from cancer. Another sign lists the etiquette expectations for the restaurant. The rules include things like: Don’t touch the dishes and silverware on other tables. If you use a napkin to blow your nose, you need to dispose of it in the bathroom wastebasket. You should take advantage of the provided knife and napkin for civilized eating. Prepare to deal with the consequences should you let your children run around and destroy things. Don’t stick chewing gum to the bottom of the plates. (He also advises you that chewing mint gum before a meal can interfere with your ability to enjoy the flavor of the food.)

Another sign reads “No tipping to the chef, please”. Another tells you that you as an American are probably already well educated on the legal rights of an individual, and you should therefore know that you need to respect his by not taking photographs in his restaurant. Another sign states that if you don’t like the food, you had better tell him to his face, and he will refund your money. Then you’d better find someone else to cook your food for you.

Then there are his manifestos, each of which take up two full typed pages. One is on Japanese-US relations, and how they relate to you and him personally. He tells you that he was born after WWII, and he therefore doesn’t want any Americans accosting him about atrocities that were committed against American P.O.W.’s during the war. By that same logic, he also promises to not berate you for the atom bombs that were dropped on Japan. His second manifesto is on American arrogance and the modern American public school system. He talks about his memories of admiring American success and products as a child, which was a time when Japanese products were looked down upon by the rest of the world. Then he talks about how America is now trying to emulate Japanese products, and about how the US public school system is basically crap, and how America needs to make sure it helps its children, so that it doesn’t become the hare that is beaten by the tortoise. My favorite line in this manifesto is the one that says something along the lines of America needing to allow teachers to spank kids in school, so American kids won’t grow up to be ignorant and spoiled.

Oh, Grouchy Chef, how I love you! (And the food’s pretty good, too. A little salty, but good. I liked the duck with cinnamon sauce.)

Here's a picture I found online that someone saw in the restaurant's restroom:

For more restaurant reviews on Grouchy Chef (some of which are pretty hilarious), visit:


  1. Wow, this guy reminds me of New York's famous Soup Nazi featured on Seinfeld! Living in San Francisco, I've heard rumors of a lady running a Thai restaurant in the Mission who will slap your hand if touch the plate before she's done setting it down in front of you. I guess these restaurant disciplinarians seem to know what they're doing--everyone keeps coming back for more!

  2. I recommended the place to my sister and her husband based on your review. Gregg and his family seem to know every fancy restaurant in the area. I don't think I sold it very well, though.