11 Things Chefs Don't Want You To Know About Eating Out
Warning: the following facts are not for the faint of heart...
Things happen in the kitchen of your favourite eatery that you may not want to know.
Most people have a sanitised view of kitchens, thinking that a Jamie, Hugh or Gordon are back there gracefully picking herbs in the garden and slowly basting their leg of lamb, but I wanted to share a few truths about kitchens that people don't really know.
How do I know this? Well, I used to be a chef, so I've first hand experience of how kitchens work.
These things don't happen everywhere but they do happen, so prepare for a glimpse into what happens behind the swinging doors of a professional kitchen...
1. You shouldn't eat fish on a Monday
Probably the most obvious one on the list, but most people don't even think about it.
Deliveries tend to come in on a Friday for the busy weekend, to give chefs enough time to get all their fish prepared. With no deliveries on a Sunday, that means that the 'fresh fish' you're eating on a Monday might have been sitting in the fridge for three days minimum.
Chefs are reluctant to throw out fish given its high cost, so you might just see it getting a little dusting of cajun seasoning or chilli to hide that slightly funky taste.
2. Don't order 10 minutes before closing time
Imagine the scene in the kitchen: it's 10.45pm and the place closes at 11pm.
The chefs have cleared the last table, cleaned the entire kitchen, and they're ready for their couple of pints. Just as they're starting to head out the door, in comes a lone business man who orders a starter, a well done steak and a dessert. What a fucking prick. That person has just put an extra 90 minutes on those chefs' evenings. Unpaid.
People ordering late really piss chefs off and are liable to get any old shite thrown out the door at them.
3. Specials are what need to be sold quickly
As a chef, if you've ordered a bunch of chicken or fish and have way too much about to go off in the fridge, then the first place you think to put them is the specials board.
Despite what the name suggests, the specials are anything but. Instead, they're just a bunch of stuff that needs to get used up, which a smart waiter will always push you towards.
4. Your food is full of butter, fat, salt and cream
Why do things like steaks, fish, veggies, and potatoes always taste way better when eating out than at home?
Well, because they're so absolutely laced with the above ingredients that anything would taste good.
Healthy options are getting better, but if you saw how much fat and salt went into your food in a restaurant, you'd weep.
5. Veggie options aren't always vegetarian
Even Gordon Ramsay has fallen foul of this old one.
Chefs don't like cooking for vegetarians. It's as simple as that. It's a massive pain in the arse when you're trying to run a restaurant and one customer comes in looking for steamed spinach or a 'surprise veggie dish'.
While 80% of chefs do the right thing, I've seen tonnes of chefs using chicken stock in veggie soups or a little splash of jus in a sauce.
6. Chefs often cook when ill
The thing about being a chef is that's pretty hard for somebody to just step in and take your place, especially if you're a head chef.
Nobody could learn the menu that fast or get to grips with the prep needed, so more often than not chefs just say, "Fuck it, I'm not going to let the team down" and head on in to cook.
Seriously, I've seen chefs with everything from the flu right through to diarrhoea cooking away, serving hundreds of people while quietly dying.
Mightn't seem like that big a deal, but just think about that chef tasting the sauce for seasoning and popping the spoon straight back into the pot.
7. Your food is rubbish because the chef is hungover
Have you ever been to a restaurant that's normally brilliant, only to arrive one afternoon for lunch and it's an absolute disgrace?
Lots of different reasons why this can happen, but the most common one is a very hungover chef. Let's face it, we all perform way worse when hungover, but with the heat and pressure of a kitchen that gets magnified by ten.
I've seen chefs dying with hangovers shovelling out pure shite.
8. A lot of chefs tend to be... disfunctional
Bit of a controversial one this and, of course, it doesn't apply to them all. But from my personal experience, I'd say about 70% of the chefs I've worked with over the years have had alcohol, drug, or anger issues.
It's an incredibly stressful job with its long hours, low pay, and brutal personalities. There are easier jobs out there and the mentality of only the toughest surviving doesn't help.
Huge pressure and extreme stress force a lot of chefs to unwind with alcohol or go off the rails in various other ways. Such as with excessive cursing.
9. Food is often made five days in advance
You probably think that your chef has been in cutting your potatoes by hand or trimming up your steak since the crack of dawn.
The truth is that most of the prep gets done on quieter days, like Tuesday and Wednesday, to get ready for the busy times. Of course, some stuff is made daily, but there's a lot of ingredients that could've been sitting prepped in fridges waiting days for you to eat them.
10. Food gets reused all the time
I've never seen this myself, but I've heard plenty of stories of it.
Actually I lie, I've seen it with a couple of simple things. The bread on the tables often gets reused and veggies that are left over get turned into soup all the time.
I've heard of some places scraping pasta off plates and using it again, but that's not the norm by any stretch of the imagination. While the bread one seems innocent enough, you could have six or seven people touching your bread before your lovely little basket even gets to the table.
11. Inside a real kitchen
I've never seen a video capture what a real kitchen is like, before I saw this one.
It's Gordon Ramsay when he actually still cooked every day and was chasing Michelin stars. It's very realistic and unlike the shouting he does on TV these days in the USA, this is the real chef. Nasty.