Here’s Why Chefs Don’t Order These 6 Foods at Restaurants
Nobody knows the secrets of commercial kitchens better than chefs. Here's what they won't order at eateries that don't bear their name.
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Not so special
“When I go out to eat at other restaurants, I don’t order the specials,” says executive chef and owner Alberto Morreale of Farmer’s Bottega, in San Diego. “Some restaurants put together their specials for the day based on what’s about to expire or what they’re trying to get rid of faster.” Instead, he asks the server to recommend something made with local ingredients, or what arrived fresh that day. Don’t miss these things restaurant owners wish they could tell you.
Skip the chicken
“I will order almost anything when I go out—but not chicken because it tends to be overcooked at most restaurants,” confides Ryan Ososky, former executive chef of the modern American cuisine restaurant The Church Key, in West Hollywood. Additionally, chicken is a menu item you shouldn’t order at a restaurant because it usually has a might markup.
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Unless you can smell the salty air, bypass oysters
Since most fish markets don’t deliver on weekends, the don’t-eat-fish-on-Monday debate continues to rage on between freshness-loving chefs. Many avoid it, but others are comfortable ordering fish if the restaurant has a coastal location or is known for seafood. When it comes to oysters, however, all bets are off, at least according to Cordon Bleu-trained chef, Mark Nichols. Nichols, who owns the high-end catering service JC’s Catering, won’t go near raw oysters if they were harvested more than 100 miles away from the restaurant serving them. “If handled or stored incorrectly, raw oysters can kill you,” he explains. Check out these surprising facts about oysters.
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Love fresh food? Size up the menu before you order
Chain restaurants, or ones with huge menus, may cut down on family fights at the table, but it also means skimping on fresh ingredients. If you want fresh, local ingredients, these are establishments you should probably avoid. “I typically stay away from large chains because most items are usually brought in frozen once or twice a week,” says Nichols. “I also always look at the size of the menu. If it’s more than a few pages long, they have to keep a large inventory of food. More than likely, you’re not getting a super fresh meal.”
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“When I go to a restaurant and sit with a menu, I tend to stay away from the house salad,” says Kayson Chong, Los Angeles-based executive chef of The Venue. “I prefer to have something special that a chef created with seasonal products and interesting combinations. I like experiencing new and exciting things to eat when I go to other restaurants, not something I can find easily anywhere.” By the way, these are the best small-town restaurants across America.
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Some germs with your cocktail?
Even if you’re starving while waiting for your table to be ready, avoid nibbling on bar snacks with that pre-dinner cocktail. The bowls are rarely switched out between patrons, so you can assume that many fingers have already dipped into the nut or pretzel bowl. Chefs don’t want you picking away at your pre-dinner appetite or picking up the flu while you’re waiting to be served. Next, find out the red flags you’re about to eat at a bad restaurant.