Karachi-based eatery, Test Kitchen by Okra’s recent encounter with a desi Karen (or should we say Kiran?) has been the talk of the town since footage of it went viral recently. Reactions from all corners of the internet have branded the unidentified woman's behaviour as outrageous. However, what may look like a rare display of ignorance is actually an all too common encounter for Asad Aamir Monga, a chef at Test Kitchen and the man who was seen bearing the brunt of desi Karen’s tantrum in the video.
Monga told Images that what triggered the woman's verbal onslaught was the staff’s request to present her vaccination card as per the government’s directive. “When she entered the premises, she was asked to show her vaccine card, which she refused to show," he said. Things got worse from there.
"Who are you to ask me about my vaccination card?" the unidentified woman demands in the video, pointing a phone in Monga's face.
"You are in violation. You are in violation of me," she declares. "You are in terrible violation of the Constitution of Pakistan."
After calling him "an idiot" for wearing a mask, the woman declares that the restaurant staff are "asking me for my medical private records".
But this isn't the first time they have had to deal with a rude customer. “Of course things like this have happened in the past, he said. “Lots of people have misbehaved or been obnoxious with me and my team members. But they never get documented or caught on camera. This was the first time one of our crew members started making a video when the customer started making a ruckus. It became a great opportunity to shed light on what people in hospitality have to go through. Some people just want to make trouble.”
People in the service industry often bear the brunt of customers' entitlement and rudeness. “In the past, there have been other very unpleasant people with whom we've had to interact. They were unpleasant with the boys in my team, calling them names and cursing at them. We'd then have to speak to such customers, or ask them to leave,” he said. One incident that wasn't caught on camera was when someone wiped his chocolate covered fingers on Monga's mask after being asked to pay for his food.
Apparently, customers get particularly nasty when they’re asked to show their vaccination cards. “There have been other instances in which people think they are doing us a favour by showing us their vaccination cards. 'Just take our word that we've been vaccinated' they would say and are generally being difficult,” Monga explained.
The chef has made it a point to document the difficult behaviour he experiences as being part of the hospitality industry. “If you read some of the posts on my Instagram page, I usually try to highlight some of these issues,” he said.
“They do affect me and the people I work with — the people who are like family to me. I am spending more than 12 hours a day with these people and I try my best to train them or tell them that it is not okay to be treated badly by guests.
"The customer is not always right. You have to stand your ground. You, as a person, have your own integrity, which you need to keep. Since the pandemic, I feel like the burden of all civility or basic courtesy has fallen on hospitality professionals or other professionals who are in the service industry because people have become increasingly very, very difficult to deal with.”
Support for Monga and Test Kitchen online has been overwhelming. Everyone, from regular customers to celebrities and people who have never even heard of Test Kitchen, has been praising the team for their calm response and joining in on the Karen jokes.
Singer Natasha Noorani, actor Usama Khan, actor-singer Junaid Khan and even anonymous internet sensation Swineryy have posted about the incident, calling out the woman, not to mention a number of politicians and even the Sindh government spokesperson, Murtaza Wahab.
The video has even received the Swineryy and Ali Gul Pir treatment.
The chef is pretty overwhelmed at the support he and his team have received from people. “I have received an overwhelming amount of empathy from people and it has been extremely humbling to me to know there are so many people out there who were kind and very respectful and they really care about this incident that happened. They were genuinely upset by this lady's behaviour,” he said.
“I am very grateful that this entire thing got a lot of traction,” he continued. “A lot of people made memes about it, they are sharing it. This is good because it is creating a certain dialogue, it is creating awareness. People are talking about things which were previously in the shadows — like people being treated unfairly, especially in [the] service [industry]. I do wish this helps enable people to revaluate themselves or others and just be a little kinder to each other.”
Chef from viral Test Kitchen Karen video glad people are talking about unfair treatment of restaurant staff