The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Daniel Neman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (TNS)

More than half of all chefs say they have found customers making out — at least making out, if you catch my drift — in their restaurant restrooms.

This fact, which fascinates me far more than it really should, comes to us courtesy of the Food Network magazine. In a 2009 story that has recently resurfaced again on the Internet, the magazine surveyed about 100 chefs across the country and came up with a list of 25 things chefs never tell you.

For one, chefs can be picky eaters. Only 15 percent of the ones surveyed say they will eat absolutely anything. The foods they said most frequently that they will not eat are liver, sea urchin, and — this is a surprise, probably because I like them both — eggplant and oysters.

On the other hand, the chefs don’t like it when their customers are picky. You know how some people claim to be allergic to items when they aren’t really allergic to them? Chefs hate that (though it is unexplained how they can distinguish fake allergies from real ones).

And they like their customers to follow their own rules. If you’re a vegetarian, don’t tell them “a little chicken stock is OK.”

One trend made unappetizingly clear from the survey is that restaurant kitchens are less sanitary than we, the dining public, may like to think.

Although 85 percent of the chefs rated their kitchens as very clean (at least an 8 on a scale from 1 to 10), it should come as no particular surprise that 75 percent of them also reported having seen roaches. Roaches go where there is food and water. Restaurants have food and water and kitchen doors that are open much of the time. Restaurants are going to get roaches; the trick lies in getting rid of them as quickly as possible.

Of more concern is the revelation that 25 percent of the chefs say they’ve served food that they had dropped on the floor, and three of them say they have taken uneaten bread out of one bread basket and sent it out to other customers in another bread basket. Health inspectors tend to look at both of these practices with understandable consternation.

Also alarming, at least for vegetarians, is that a minority of the chefs admitted to using meat products in the dishes they claim are vegetarian. About 15 percent of those surveyed said they do that.

Worst of all are the 13 percent of chefs surveyed who said they have seen cooks do terrible things to customers’ food. After one customer sent his steak back twice, a chef reported that “someone” (ahem) ran it through the dishwasher and then sent it back out to him.

Fifteen years ago, chef-turned-writer-turned-celebrity Anthony Bourdain revealed that he never orders fish on a Monday because it is usually several days old. “Several” of the chefs — there is no telling how many that is — agreed, saying they do not get fresh deliveries on Sundays.

Some of the 25 things chefs don’t tell you they don’t have to tell you because you have probably figured them out for yourself.

More than 75 percent, for instance, say they get ideas from other restaurant menus (as the publication puts it, “there’s a reason so many restaurants serve molten chocolate cake”).

You have also probably realized that waiters are told to try to sell you on certain dishes (95 percent of the chefs say they tell the wait staff to do that), and it certainly cannot be a surprise that restaurants typically charge 2 1/2 times what a bottle of wine would cost at a retail store.

Nearly 60 percent of the responding chefs say they would like to have their own cooking show — a bigger surprise is that more than 40 percent claim they don’t — and they hate working on New Year’s Eve more than any other holiday. Valentine’s Day is a close second, though 54 percent acknowledged they like it when couples get engaged in their restaurant.

Half of the chefs say they come into work when they’re sick — remember, they’re preparing food, or are at least around food when it is prepared — and many stay through their inevitable injuries. Nearly every surveyed chef said he has been injured in some way, with several missing fingers or parts of fingers.

For this dangerous and hard work — most of them work 60 to 80 hours a week, including holidays — 65 percent of them reported making less than $75,000 a year. When they go out to dinner, they typically leave about a 20 percent tip, unless they feel the service has been inadequate.

But what about when they go to a restaurant that has no tipping? What about fast food? Where do the chefs go most often when they want something fast and bad for them?

Survey says: Wendy’s.

©2015 St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Choo Yut Shing via Flickr



Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

Keep reading... Show less

Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}