Restaurant kitchens are organized chaos, even
when they seem calm and serene in the dining room. They just do a good job of hiding it. From shocking markups to saliva-covered foods,
you might be surprised to discover what lurks behind those kitchen doors away from diners'
peering eyes. Did you know that restaurants use menu design to influence your dining choices? It's laid out so that you might be swayed
to order the most expensive items available. Everything from the colors used to the font
sizes affect how your brain perceives the information you're seeing. Some chefs purposefully use a smaller font
size for the prices, remove the dollar signs, or keep the numbers from lining up in a neat
line to take the emphasis away from the cost. Even where the items are located on the menu
can affect how likely you are to order them. Restaurant Engine explains that most people's
eyes follow something called the Golden Triangle: They first look to the middle of the menu
before traveling to the upper right and upper left corners.
Restaurants often put their most profitable
items in these sections and hope to hook diners with delicious-sounding descriptions before
they see the rest. They also use something called a decoy: A
profitable menu item that's placed right next to a very expensive menu item. You might not order the $100 Wagyu steak,
but you could be enticed by the great-by-comparison $60 ribeye steak "deal" right next to it. When you visit a fine dining restaurant, one
of the first things the server asks you is if you want to hear about today's specials. Some restaurants even write them up on the
chalkboard in front of the storefront, so you'll know about today's concoction before
you even walk in the door. It sounds like a great way for a restaurant
to keep customers from getting bored with the regular menu, right? "Today's specials are the cuttlefish–" "Let me stop you right there, sweetheart." It's true that some chefs use specials as
a way to make use of seasonal or rare ingredients, and, according to Food Network, some specials
are experiments to see if the dish is popular enough for the regular menu.
But many restaurants use specials as a way
to use up surplus ingredients that may be close to expiring. Restaurant critic Andrew Knowlton told Dr.
Oz that seeing an item on the regular menu and also spotting it on the specials list
is a red flag. The chef likely ordered too much of that ingredient,
and the restaurant is hoping to push through it before it goes bad. It's more common than you'd think for diners
to order the second-cheapest bottle on the wine list. Atlas Obscura describes this as a phenomenon
where people don't want to seem cheap, so they go one step up from the least expensive
wine on offer.
Restaurant owners and bar managers have taken
note of these buying habits, and they've started to price their wines accordingly. The Independent revealed that the second-cheapest
bottle often has the highest markup. Sommelier Mark Oldman confirmed it, telling
Business Insider that the second-cheapest bottle of wine is often the worst value. So you're better off forgetting about the
mind games, sucking up your pride, and just ordering the cheapest bottle or asking your
server for their recommendation. "I'm going to be direct and honest with you. I would like a glass of red wine, and I'll
take the cheapest one you have because I can't tell the difference." Or maybe you should just get a beer, because
the wine list features some of the steepest markups on the menu. Many of the less-expensive wines on the list
are priced at five or six times their retail price, and even the higher-priced wines can
be doubled in price. And if you really want to get ripped off,
reach for the reserve wine list. Former MasterChef judge Joe Bastianich told
the Wall Street Journal that these lists contain particularly bad deals. Restaurant owners know that wealthy diners
seek out exclusive features, so they create a list of so-called special wines to trick
them into believing they're receiving an exclusive offering, with a price to match.
In 2001, Anthony Bourdain appeared on The
Oprah Winfrey Show and spilled the beans about how much butter goes into everything at a
restaurant. "It is usually the first thing and the last
thing in just about every pan." According to what Bourdain told Oprah, it
makes the food taste better, mellows out sauces, and gives food a classic sheen and consistency. By the time you leave a classic French restaurant,
you might have consumed a stick of butter or even more. And if you're looking to raise your blood
pressure even higher, restaurant food is filled with tons of salt, too. A study published in Appetite asked diners
to reveal how much salt they thought was in their restaurant meal.
The average guess was six times too low. Using salt enhances the flavor of normally
bland food, including pasta, mashed potatoes, and soup. The sodium rises even faster when a restaurant
uses salt-preserved foods like salami and smoked salmon. Even salad dressings can be pumped full of
salt, so if you want a healthy salad, skip it. Bad news for germaphobes: Restaurant food
has likely been touched several times before it makes its way to your dinner table. Metal utensils and tongs can damage delicate
foods, and others believe that cooking with your hands creates a closer connection between
a chef and food. And different states have different laws about
gloves and food preparation. Some require gloves be worn at all times,
but most only require gloves with ready-to-eat foods like salad greens, bread, or sliced
tomatoes. And it's not always better if the cooks were
wearing gloves. A 2004 study in Food Safety Magazine found
that glove wearers fail to notice tears or punctures in their gloves about 50 percent
of the time. On top of that, an article in the Journal
of Food Protection revealed that glove use may lead to worse hygiene.
Hand washing is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's
recommended way of preventing the transmission of pathogens, but gloves often provide a false
sense of security, and wearers only wash their hands 27 percent of the time. "Even if you're not gonna soap up, at least
pretend, for my benefit. Turn the water on. Do something!" Cooking in a restaurant kitchen is like performing
a delicate dance. The chefs have to balance the cooking times
of multiple items, all at once. A well-done steak that takes 20 to 24 minutes
might be paired with a steak that only takes 10 minutes to cook, or sauteed shrimp that
finishes in only five minutes. How do they get everything timed out properly? One way is that many of the side dishes and
sauces are prepared in advance and then reheated. Many items such as pasta sauces, mashed potatoes,
roasted vegetables, and soups, are made earlier in the day. Sometimes, this actually makes the food taste
better because the flavors have had time to meld. Other times, the food is made off-site and
shipped frozen to the restaurant. Chain restaurants are famous for using this
process, maintaining consistency by having menu items that require little to no preparation.
Even some independent restaurants use frozen
or jarred sauces or, say, pre-breaded chicken cutlets to cut down on prep time. A restaurant's menu descriptions are designed
to elevate simple-sounding ingredients into a restaurant-worthy meal. Some menus go over the top, though, using
phrases you might not recognize. These fancy terms are intended to encourage
diners to experience something new, and they often work. Some of these terms describe cooking methods. For example, "en papillote" is a French term
for cooking fish in parchment paper. And "la plancha" is a Spanish way of describing
food cooked on a griddle. But don't be fooled by the fancy, often non-English
phrases that describe ingredients. Just because a dish contains "harissa aioli"
doesn't mean it was made from scratch. It's very likely that spread is nothing more
than regular mayonnaise mixed with hot pepper paste.
Other fancy sounding terms include au jus,
which could just be store-bought beef broth. And the Chantilly cream on your dessert could
actually be Reddi-wip or Cool Whip. If you hate pink meat, apologies in advance. When you order a well-done steak, you probably
don't get the same high-quality cut as the person who orders theirs medium rare. Here's why: As the meat cooks, the proteins
begin to break down, not only changing the color of the steak from red to brown to grey,
but also releasing juices inside the steak as the meat shrinks.
A steak that's cooked to a well-done temperature
has released so many juices that it's dry and tough. So it's nearly impossible to tell that it
was once a high-quality piece of meat. On Reddit, restaurant cooks admit that they
save certain steaks for well-done orders. They may be cut thinner than the rest of the
steaks or butterflied open for quicker cooking. Or they may contain sinews that would be chewy
at lower temperatures. Either way, it's a waste of money to cook
a nice steak to that level, and the cooks aren't going to sacrifice it. But you, the customer, pay the same for a
well-done steak as a rare one. When you're paying top-dollar for a fancy
restaurant meal, you probably expect there to be a culinary school-trained chef putting
all the finishing touches on your dish. But that's not usually the case. In an interview with Woman's Day, the head
chef of a New York City restaurant admitted that she and most chefs aren't usually cooking
on the line during dinner service. The chef is there to teach the cooks, develop
the recipes, and oversee the kitchen.
But they're not necessarily going to cook
your steak. The line cooks often don't go to culinary
school. Many worked their way up from being dishwashers
or prep cooks. In fact, the Washington Post reports that
there is a shortage of good cooks in cities like Chicago, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco,
among others. Network shows create a glamorous view of what
it is to be a restaurant chef, but the reality is, it's long hours, hard work, and low pay
in hot, cramped, sometimes dangerous working conditions. And that doesn't always attract culinary school
graduates to line cook jobs.
They're looking for sous chef jobs or higher-paying
positions so they can pay back their student loan debt. So many restaurants promote employees from
within and train them to be cooks. According to NPR, a 2015 survey revealed that
51 percent of food workers definitely go into work when they're sick, and another 38 percent
"sometimes" go into work when sick. That's not good, especially considering that
it can affect coworkers as well as the restaurant's customers.
The most famous example of the consequences
of working while sick was Chipotle's 2017 norovirus outbreak, which CNBC reported was
due to a sick employee and the company's lax sick leave policy. While some restaurants are starting to provide
better benefits for their employees, few offer paid leave and health insurance. So employees don't get paid for staying home
and getting well, and many can't afford to take time off if they're feeling under the
And it's not just illness issues, either. When the Food Network surveyed chefs across
the country, they learned that more than half of them claimed to have finished their shift
even if they got seriously injured at work. In his 1999 book, Kitchen Confidential, Anthony
Bordain famously wrote, "I never order fish on Monday." A lot has changed since then, and Bourdain
later retracted this statement, telling Tech Insider in 2016 that, "It's a better world…we have higher standards,
we know more about food, we expect more of our food." But that doesn't mean that fish gets a pass.
You should still avoid it on certain days
of the week. According to the FDA, fresh fish, shrimp,
scallops, crawfish, and squid are only good in the refrigerator for one to two days. If you're in a restaurant that isn't very
busy or only has one or two seafood dishes on offer, they might not receive daily seafood
deliveries, and you may want to skip the fish altogether.
Busier restaurants are more likely to receive
frequent deliveries, but Wide Open Eats revealed that most fish markets aren't open on Sunday. That means restaurants can't usually get fresh
fish that day. "Every passenger on this plane who had fish
for dinner will become violently ill in the next half-hour." Get the steak. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Mashed videos about restaurant
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