Benihana, I Deserve An Apology


To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing this letter as a formal request to be readmitted to the Benihana Birthday Club.  The following is an in-depth account of the night of October 31, 2017, and the events that led me to be unfairly banished from the Benihana Restaurant chain.

I’d never been to Benihana before, but I’d recently gotten a coupon in the mail that told me I’d get $30 off my order if I ate there in my birthday month.  My birthday is in October so I went on Halloween because Halloween is fun, and my roommate told me the night before that if I ate any more of his Hot Pockets he was going to key my moped.  I don’t think he was serious, but I couldn’t take any chances that he’d scratch up my ride – it’s the reason I get most of my telephone numbers (I park it illegally, like a lot).  I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be my costume, but I ended up dressing as a Benihana chef, because I read in a book once that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery (I don’t know what that means, but the chef robes are really comfortable – ha!).  When I got to the restaurant it didn’t look like any of the other guests were in costume, but I figured they were hiding their disguises under their clothes to preserve the element of surprise.

As a newcomer to the wild world of Japanese cuisine, I asked the chef a few questions.  He told me that my food would be prepared directly in front of me on a hibachi style grill.  I consider myself a master googler, and it only took me a few minutes to discover that Hibachi is a Japanese company that used to make TVs and other electronics.  Maybe the grill was fashioned out of old television sets?  It didn’t sound very safe to me, but I decided to stick it out.  After all, Japan is responsible for a number of great things (sushi, anime video games, 10 time MLB All-Star and former American League Rookie of the Year Ichiro Suzuki), and I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.  I asked the chef if Ichiro had ever eaten there and he said no, but he probably hadn’t been there every night the restaurant had been open so how could he know for sure?  Pretty irresponsible of him to say Ichiro had never eaten there, when odds are he probably sat and ate in the same seat I was.

The chef made a tiny volcano out of an onion he was cooking, which I thought was cool until I remembered that a number of people (millions, probably) per year are killed by erupting volcanos.  What if someone at the table knew someone who died from a volcano?  Pretty insensitive of the chef to be rubbing their faces in it like that.  “Hey, do you like onions?  How about the fact that your loved ones are dead?”  Not the kind of conduct I’d expect to see from a Benihana chef.  To distract my fellow diners from this gross misconduct, I asked them to tell me what they most admired about Ichiro Suzuki.  They admittedly didn’t know much, but I could tell they were impressed when I described his MVP winning 2001 season in excruciating detail.  My new friends and I were just starting on what promised to be an engaging discussion of Ichiro’s unique batting style when the chef told me that if I mentioned Ichiro again, I would be asked to leave the restaurant.  That just proved that he wasn’t nearly as Japanese as he claimed to be, because Ichiro Suzuki is a national treasure to the Japanese people (much like Pokémon, and furry hats with animal ears on them).

My first visit to Benihana was not going as I’d hoped, but there was plenty of time to turn it around.  I got up to use the restroom, which was extremely confusing.  They had Japanese symbols on the doors, and I don’t speak or read Japanese.  Although they had the English translations directly underneath, I couldn’t trust those; they could have been planted by the extremely rude chef who was clearly trying to spoil my birthday and embarrass me in front of my new best friends.  To be safe, I opened both doors and listened, thinking that someone inside one of the bathrooms would speak and I could determine if it was a man or woman.  How was I supposed to know that instead of voices, there would be a loud and inappropriate noise erupting from one of the stalls?  The answer is that I couldn’t have known, and I shouldn’t be held responsible for that.

On my way back from the disastrous trip to the bathroom, a lady called me over to her table.  She complained that her steak was undercooked, and asked if I could throw it back on the grill for a little more.  Looking back, I should have known that she only thought I was employed by the restaurant due to my costume.  But it was Halloween!  If you go into Benihana on Halloween and assume that everyone wearing an authentic employee’s uniform is legally certified to cook your food, then who do you really have to blame?  Plus what am I going to do, say no?  Let the woman eat undercooked steak and potentially catch any number of diseases that can be transmitted by raw meat?  There’s no way Ichiro Suzuki would have let that stand, and neither did I.

I won’t go into detail over what happened next, because frankly I don’t believe it needs to be talked about.  Did some stuff catch on fire as a direct result of my involvement on the grill?  Sure, if you want to believe the “police report.”  Did I “brandish a knife in the general direction of another chef” when he asked me to move aside?  I don’t know, it was the heat of the moment and there were a lot of knives being pointed in a lot of different directions.  What I can tell you is in the end the steak was VERY well done; zero risk of getting sick.  I had the situation under control until the manager came over and made much too big of a deal about the whole fire thing.  I bet he was just jealous that I was doing a better job than his paid employees, and was worried that I was showing them up.

The manager asked me what I thought I was doing behind the grill, so I told him all about the woman asking me to help and the sort of responsibility that people like Ichiro Suzuki and myself feel for people who are being mistreated.  Then I told him that one of his chefs had been a jerk all night, and how he wouldn’t even let me talk about baseball with my best friends.  I voiced my strong opposition to the onion volcano, and the manager asked everyone at the table if they knew someone that had been killed or injured by a volcano – every single person said no.  Ten people at a table, and NOBODY knows someone that has been killed by an erupting volcano?  The numbers don’t add up, you guys.  There had to be some sort of hush money involved, and I for one am ashamed of my former best friends for playing into such a transparent corporate ruse.

I was asked to leave the restaurant by both the Benihana staff and the local sheriff’s department, who bit hook-line-and-sinker on the manager’s explanation of the whole ordeal and didn’t seem interested at all in talking about the important things (what actually happened, how I was a better chef than those hacks, Ichiro Suzuki’s unparalleled range in center field).

Ten days later I received a letter from the authorities telling me that I wasn’t allowed inside another Benihana restaurant ever again, which is why I’m writing you today.  This has all been a huge misunderstanding, and I’m sure that if one of your representatives was willing to meet with me, we could discuss both the incidents of that Halloween night and the enormous amount of respect I have for Japanese culture.  I have an Ichiro Suzuki Rookie baseball card, and while your rep can’t have it, he or she can hold it for up to 10 seconds as long as they promise not to fold the corners.

I have full confidence in the decision-making skills of the corporate team at Benihana, and I’m looking forward to receiving your reply restoring my full membership in the Benihana Birthday Club.  I will also accept an apology on behalf of the rude chef, and might I suggest looking into his criminal background; there’s no way a person of his moral character doesn’t have prior convictions.