Anxious Deaf Couple Tries a Popular Restaurant – Realizes the Chef Has Learnt Sign Language Just for Them
This restaurant went above and beyond to give one deaf couple a memorable experience.
Dining out is all about the experience. Good food, a pleasant atmosphere, and excellent customer service is the trifecta when it comes to a special dinner date, a catch-up with friends, or a celebratory meal out.
So you can imagine how touching it was for one couple when they booked a special dinner, only to find out the chef had learned sign language for them.
An Anticipated Reservation
Earlier this year, Melissa Keomoungkhoun and her husband, Victor Montiel, made reservations for a unique tasting menu experience at Tatsu Dallas. The restaurant is a hot ticket — reservations only open twice a month, and all appointments must be prepaid if you want to experience the signature Sushi Omakase Experience.
According to Today, Melissa and Victor were super excited about their upcoming reservation. But they had some anxiety about it too. The couple is deaf and knew that part of the overall experience is having Chef Tatsuya explain his dishes to you throughout the night.
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“When going out to restaurants, we are usually prepared to accommodate the communication with the staff such as using our voices with American Sign Language,” Melissa explained to the publication. “We would use our voices while showing texts on our phones of what we need or want to order, or we would ask for pen and paper if communication gets too difficult.”
Still, Melissa emailed the restaurant ahead of time to explain her family’s situation and to see how they could still get the whole experience without being able to hear the chef.
After receiving the email, the restaurant emailed Melissa and her husband the tasting menu ahead of time so they could get an idea of what the night looked like in advance. They also promised a more detailed menu on the night of.
“They even sent us their beverage/cocktail menu for us to review in advance, only because they thought it was the best way to communicate with us directly!” Melissa added.
When the couple arrived they received an even bigger surprise: the staff greeted them in American Sign Language (ASL).
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“When my husband and I walked into the lobby room, we were greeted by Janice, the Beverage Director, Tatsu’s wife, and Tatsu in ASL,” she said. “With the staff signing at Tatsu, we didn’t feel left out even though it created some attention in the room.”
Melissa’s sister, an online food editor, shared her sister’s experience on Twitter. She explained that Chef Tatsuya Sekiguchi learned how to sign the entire tasting menu for the couple and had a printout to help him in case he got stuck.
“It blew her away and nearly brought me to tears,” her sister, Nataly Keomoungkhoun wrote.
“We talk about Tatsu almost all the time, and we want to go back again because they exceeded our expectations, nothing is overlooked, and we didn’t have to work twice as hard,” Melissa added.
Making Every Experience Special
Chef Tatsuya certainly received a lot of attention for accommodating Melissa and Brian. Still, according to the chef-owner, that’s the experience he wants all of his guests to have.
“My most memorable experience was back in NY, when a stage 4 cancer patient came to dine. He had a short life remaining and his dream was to go to Japan to eat sushi,” the chef recalled to Today.
“At the end of the night, before they left, his friend came up to me to tell me their story. We were all blown away,” he added. “My belief is every day, and everyone is special.” Now, he hopes the couple will return.
“I did not learn completely. I learned the phrases that I need to use during service,” he said. “We hope they will return so until that day we will all continue to study and learn ASL.”
Celebrating Our Differences
Melissa and her husband were so touched by their experience at Tatsu Dallas because they always have to work twice as hard to communicate with others. The staff at Tatsu helped alleviate some of that stress and gave them a relaxed and memorable dinner they’ll never forget.
It’s a great example of customer service and the inroads some establishments take to help their patrons feel special and at ease. But it’s also a story about kindness and doing something simple to make someone else feel appreciated and seen.
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You don’t need to learn another language to pass along those good vibes (although it never hurts to try). Instead, it’s about recognizing and celebrating our differences and trying to do small things to help others feel accepted.
For example, you could incorporate a dish from someone’s childhood into your holiday dinner. Or even ask questions about a friend’s unique experience the next time you go for coffee.
At the end of the day, celebrating and understanding our differences and what makes us each unique is a good feeling, and one that you can easily spread by simple acts of kindness — just like Chef Tatsuya did.