Thanks, Sua, for bringing it up.
My usual responses* to the pepper thing:
[li]“I don’t know; I haven’t tasted it yet. Will you leave the pepper grinder, or come back in a minute, please?”[/li]
[li]“Why, isn’t it properly seasoned?” (If I’m feeling bitchy or the wait-person is annoying)[/li][/ul]
*Yes, it embarrasses some of my friends. No, I am not going to “cooperate.” It’s a stupid question.
To answer you real question, I think the situation varies from one restaurant to another. I imagine that the better chefs know that fresh pepper will be offered at the table (in fact, it’s likely their instruction to the wait staff), so they would under-pepper the dish in the final stages of preparation.
The benefit to the customer is that they get a bit more say over how much/little pepper is used, and they get the full aromatic blast of just-now-freshly-ground pepper, instead of the slightly weaker effect of the freshly-ground-two-minutes-ago-in-the-kitchen pepper…:rolleyes:
To be fair, there are times when the chef might think fresh pepper is a great idea, but wants to let the diner choose, as some may opt out. For instance, some people like it on salads, while others don’t.
Still, I think it’s just stoopid to ask anyone to make the pepper decision before they’ve tasted the food. Set it down, go away, come back in a minute with the big ol’ grinder, I say.**
I’ve always thought that the not-so-fancy places just do the pepper grinding thing to give the impression that they’re “classy.” Much harder to guess here whether the food really needs it or not.
**Same goes for the freshly-grated Parmesan. And if you can’t leave me the grater thingie because you think I’ll steal it, just bring me a bit of cheese already grated, and let me apply it as needed, willya? Or be prepared to come back with it again, because when I get past the top layer of pasta I’m definitely going to want more cheese!