9 Behind-the-Scenes Restaurant Secrets from a Real Chef

Wondering what happens behind closed kitchen doors? A restaurant chef spills the beans!

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motion chefs of a restaurant kitchen
Shutterstock / SnvvSnvvSnvv

We’ve all seen some pretty scary restaurant secrets in tell-all style movies like Chef, Waiting and Burnt. But do you want to know what really goes on behind closed doors at a restaurant? It’s not actually as bad as you might think!

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Chef in Restaurant garnishing vegetable dish

It’s Rare to Find Something Gross in Your Food

It happens occasionally, but chefs work really hard to make sure your food is free of contaminants. It’s not like the movies where the cooks do weird stuff to your food! So, if you don’t like it, send it back without fear.

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Chef in restaurant kitchen at stove with pan, doing flambe on food

Sometimes, the Pans Catch on Fire

Part of the reason your food tastes so good is because restaurant cooks use screaming-hot pans. It’s the best way to get beautiful sear on a steak or caramelize vegetables before finishing them in the oven. From time to time, a pan gets a little too hot and catches on fire! In case you’re wondering, covering it with salt is the best way to extinguish it quickly.

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Woman peeling garlic by hand for cooking
Shutterstock / Nungning20

Chefs Use Lots of Kitchen Hacks

Ever read about a cool way to peel garlic quickly? A chef probably discovered the hack as a way to save a ton of prep time! You’re always running behind in a commercial kitchen, so you have to find creative ways to do a quality job that much faster.

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Slice of butter. Fresh sliced butter on the wooden plate.
Shutterstock / greenazya

Your Food Has Lots of Salt (and Butter)

Wondering why your home-cooked meal has a hard time rivaling the restaurant’s version? It’s probably because their chefs use way more salt and butter than you do at home. These ingredients might not be healthy, but they’re definitely flavor enhancers.

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Chef finishing her plate and almost ready to serve at the table.
Shutterstock / Volodymyr Goinyk

There’s Always One Dish on the Menu the Cooks Despise

Even when I was designing my own menus, there was always one dish on the menu that was super difficult or time-consuming to put together. You’ll always work hard to make it great, but you sort of groan to yourself when you see it on the ticket.

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Garlic and onion

Onions and Garlic Are Probably in Everything

You might not like the taste of pungent onions or overpowering garlic, but they’re probably in all the sauces, dressings and marinades—even if you can’t see it. Since a lot of these foods are prepped in advance, it’s very hard to accommodate people with those allergies.

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Group of chefs working in the kitchen
Shutterstock / ZoranOrcik

There’s No Such Thing as Weekends and Holidays

When everyone else was enjoying their three-day weekends, I was at work making sure their meals were prepped and ready to eat. Becoming a chef definitely means giving up weddings, funerals, parties and family gatherings. Hopefully you like the people you work with, because they become your new family!

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male cooks preparing meals in restaurant kitchen
Shutterstock / Volodymyr Goinyk

The Cooks Touch Your Food

If you’re a germophobe, you might not want to read this one. Some states require the use of gloves, but most allow line cooks to touch ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands. Don’t worry, though: Most cooks are compulsive hand-washers.

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Famous Chef Works in a Big Restaurant Kitchen with His Help.
Shutterstock / Gorodenkoff

Most of Your Food is Prepared in Advance

In order to get your food to you as quickly as possible, most of the dishes are prepped in advance and reheated to order. But, that doesn’t mean that you’re getting worse-quality food. In fact, preparing the food in advance actually gives the flavors a chance to mingle, making it even better.

Here’s everything that restaurant owners wish you knew.

Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay has been writing for digital publications for seven years and has 10 years of experience working as a professional chef. She became a full-time food writer at Taste of Home in 2023, although she’s been a regular contributor since 2017. Throughout her career, Lindsay has been a freelance writer and recipe developer for multiple publications, including Wide Open Media, Tasting Table, Mashed and SkinnyMs. Lindsay is an accomplished product tester and spent six years as a freelance product tester at Reviewed (part of the USA Today network). She has tested everything from cooking gadgets to knives, cookware sets, meat thermometers, pizza ovens and more than 60 grills (including charcoal, gas, kamado, smoker and pellet grills). Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, especially when she can highlight local, seasonal ingredients. As a writer, Lindsay loves sharing her skills and experience with home cooks. She aspires to motivate others to gain confidence in the kitchen. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her cooking with fresh produce from the farmers market or planning a trip to discover the best new restaurants.