What's the sign of a great restaurant? Well, the most likely to know are the professionals. Reddit user ballinlikemyname wanted to know how the rest of us home cooks should select our next dinner date location.
"Chefs, what do you look for when you select a restaurant to dine at?
Not only did people share their red flags, but also how they know a restaurant is going to be good.
Here's some helpful hints from professional chefs and food industry workers to help you pick your next meal.
Go to places you could never recreate the menu.
"My dad was a professional chef his entire life. As a kid if we went out to eat, he would never want to go somewhere he could do himself. IE steakhouses, pub food, seafood, etc."
"He would want to go somewhere that would be difficult for him to cook authentically, so we frequented a lot of ethnic restaurants."
"This also was vice-versa. He cooked me Thai food once or twice at home but didn't like doing it because he knew he'd never be able to accurately recreate it like a Thai restaurant."
"This is why Olive Garden is such a sh!tty casual restaurant. I'm no chef but I can make pasta better than they make there for next to free with my eyes closed."
"My mac N Cheese also blows the pants off of any I've ever had ever."
"My favorite go-to place is this local Irish breakfast place. I don't have time or energy to make fresh hollandaise sauce, poached eggs, or corn beef hash at 8am."
Cleanliness was a reoccurring theme in the answers to this question.
Never thought to look there.
"Number 1 red flag is the spouts on the soda fountain. Those things are one of the easiest things to clean in the entire place, so if they're mildewy that kills my interest in eating there. I'm fine with a bit of mess elsewhere, especially in a high volume place since it will get messy over the course of the day. But those spouts take multiple days of no washing to get to a point where they are noticeably disgusting."
"As a former chef, cleanliness and appearance of staff. If any one thing visible to the public that would be easy to clean is dirty, chances are the kitchen is dirty. The appearance of the dishes and utensils as well. There is a specific way that the dishes should look and even smell if they have been cleaned properly. When the machine is not being run correctly, the dishes will have a specific stale water smell to them and there will be a coating on them. The more basic and streamlined the menu, the more likely your food will be fresh due to frequent replenishment. Washrooms are an indiction of cleanliness as well."
This was surprising.
"When I was food service manager at a large company I asked the health inspector where she ate. She said fast food because their cleanliness rules were more stringent than regular restaurants."
"A mom and pop restaurant? Yeah, held to no standards but whatever they choose to set. A multinational fast food chain? You can bet corporate has a book of health rules that each store has to follow."
"But here's the thing, coming from an insider in the fast food business: health inspectors, private health auditors, corporate giving the public the appearance that everything is being cleaned - it's all a sham. I'm a cook and I've been told to cook up rotting meat before. Our line cooler was broken so the manager told us to put everything on ice, which isn't going to keep a pan full of chopped steak cold. Our line freezer also breaks down a lot so sometimes we serve thawing frozen-to-fried product to all our customers as well. Dishes don't get sanitized properly."
"Dumb teenagers don't change their gloves after hand placing raw chicken on the grill. Raw meat gets panic thawed in hot water. Everything is held to lesser standards until it's announced that the health auditor is making the rounds. At my previous job, a manager dropped food on the floor and still served it because she was afraid of the customer getting mad for having to wait for a new one."
People Share The 'Dirty Secrets' That Their Bosses Don't Want Customers To KnowThere's a lot businesses hope their customers believe, and there are many business practices you wouldn't dare believe. These are some of the secrets Reddit ...
This chef has a check list.
"Clean. Bathrooms should look & smell clean. Run my fingers under the edge of the table/bar, no gum and no grit. Clean glasses and cutlery (amazing how many places don't do this... Here's looking at you place I went to in Manhattan where the server licked his fingers and tried to rub/scrape dried orange pulp off the lip of my glass and then give it back to me). And if the entrance is dirty then everything is dirty."
"Menu that I feel is manageable at a good quality for the type of restaurant."
"Social media - a few places have ended up on my eat it list because of their instagrams and such. Hell yes I'll check out your cafe if you post pictures of drool worthy croissants. Showing off your meat locker is a good way to make me interested in what I might dismiss as a run-of-the-mill steakhouse."
"Reasonably busy - everywhere has off days/nights, but if a place is never busy there's probably a reason and that reason is likely that it's not a great restaurant."
"Industry friend recommendations. Reputation goes a long way - someone I trust says it's good? I'll check it out."
Keep it simple.
"A restaurant that does just a few things well. I don't need a place that serves burgers AND eggs Benedict AND seafood AND pasta AND meatloaf, etc."
"The problem is there probably isn't enough turnover to get all that stuff out in a timely manner, so some ingredient might be past it."
"I am particularly picky about seafood. The odds that those fried clams are fresh in a diner, for example? Not great. They've either been sitting there for a while or are frozen."
Avoid the mayo based salads.
"I was a chef. I've since moved on from the industry, but I'll eat anywhere. Clean or dirty, busy or slow, working in the kitchen took a lot of those judgements out of my head. It might be great, it might be terrible, but you never know unless you try. Some of the best food I've ever had has come from places you'd least expect."
"So I'd pick whatever is close and I haven't tried yet."
"Oh, and avoid mayo based salads. They have low turnover. That applies to everywhere no matter how fancy."
The menu can tell you a lot about the quality of the food.
"A menu thats max 2 sides - places with long book like menus are guaranteed to be using frozen/microwave stuff."
"Unless those are 25 combinations made with 5 different meats and 5 different sauces (typical of some Asian restaurants)."
Sometimes a line is a good sign.
"I think the answer is pretty well known: open so late it's early, full of other chefs because that's the place they've always congregated."
Check with the server.
"If you ask the server what they recommend, and they're hesitant, you may as well just get up and leave."
"They know what's fresh/good and not. They know if nothing is."
Big takeaways include short menus, long lines, try something new, keep it simple, but above all else: make sure the place is clean.
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Being a chef is way harder than it looks. Trust me, I've watched ten seasons of Hell's Kitchen, so I'm basically an expert. Cooking for an entire restaurant of people, while doing so in a timely fashion, isn't the easiest job in the world. And of course, not all dishes are created equal.
Every chef has that one item on the menu that they can't stand making. Wanna know what they are? Keep reading!
Depending on which restaurant you go to, there are times when what may seem like the easiest dishes, are actually much more annoying than they look.
Eggs can be tricky.
Former chef, it's some of the simplest dishes that are the most annoying. I always hated working breakfast rushes, people are very particular about eggs, and it is very easy to accidentally break a yolk.
Outside of that, while pastry and desserts were some of my favorite things to make, working with phyllo dough is a major test of patience
Also f*ck cleaning mussels.
A lot goes into those tasty soufflés.Animated GIFGiphy
Soufflés. We make the creme pate in advance but when it's ordered the process is: Warm creme pate over a double boiler, while that is warming you need to hand whip a fresh meringue. Once the creme pate is warm, you have about 3 minutes to fold in the whites, fill your molds to make sure you don't touch the edges(as it makes them rise crooked). Into the oven for 3 minutes, open oven and rotate for 2 minutes. In those 5 minutes you have to plate the rest of the tables desserts, which all have 8-10 components. Soufflé comes out to a waiting waiter, has to go to the table immediately or deflates.
While it's not the most difficult thing in the world, when you're busy and have 4-6 on order and each one needs to pass a 3 finger test(height above rim of mold or it gets sent back and you need to restart), it can get quite hard and demoralizing when they don't work.
And then you send out 4 at once and someone at the table gets up to go to the bathroom or have a cigarette and the tray comes back and you start again and cry inside.
Slightly different take, but I was a chef at a nursing home and anything puréed for people who are on that dietary restriction was gross to me. I literally had to take whatever meal I made, throw in a blender and put it in a bowl. I always felt so bad.
Fancy dishes are even worse. If everything isn’t just right, it may be at risk for starting all over again, making for some very impatient customers.
Please don’t order this ten minutes before close.
Our German Apple pancake.
First you sauté Granny Smiths in clarified butter.
Then add three ladles of our German batter into sauté pan.
Throw in oven for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and add clarified butter and cinnamon sugar.
Flip delicate pancake with spatula and a dash of learning curve.
Return to oven and cook 5 more minutes.
Flip pancake onto plate and insure it makes it to the table in less than a minute as it deflates rapidly.
Bonus points for when it's ordered 10 minutes before we close.
Edit: those who are apologizing for ordering it, don't it's our job. Kitchen staff are gluttons for punishment.
Some customizations are actually impossible.Seinfeld Soup GIFGiphy
Customizing the soups. I used to work at a Michelin star restaurant. WE ALREADY HAVE THE SOUPS PREPARED BEFORE YOU WALK IN. I can't just take out the shrimp taste of a paella soup that I prepped before you walked in here.
I don’t know what that is, but it sounds like a nightmare.
Not working in a traditional restaurant anymore but the f*cking ringmold stacked beet salad. It took like 3 minutes to make just one and if a table of four all ordered them it slowed down the entire salad line.
Even the chain restaurants have their own sets of issues when it comes to their dishes.
Don’t underestimate the fruit boxes.
I used to work at a grocery store and I was the person who made all those pre-cut fruit boxes. I didn't particularly mind any of them all that much except clementines. We had to peel clementines and put them in a box. First, it was a huge waste because no one ever bought them (why would you pay $5 for 6 peeled clementines when you could buy a whole bag unpeeled for the same price) except for old people who couldn't peel the fruit themselves, and secondly because the acid would eat through our gloves and then destroy our nails and leave orange smell on your fingers for days.
The only other thing I hated making was 5 mix. We have a mixture called "six mix" which is just 6 different kinds of fruit together, but this one guy would come in and ask for six mix without the cantaloupe in it. We actually started calling him 5 mix. When he walked in someone from a different department would ring us and let us know 5 mix was there and to start making some 5 mix. I hated it because when he asked we'd have to go get a whole watermelon, a whole honeydew, and 3 other fruits and cut them all up just so he could have like 5 cut up pieces of each instead of just eating around the cantaloupe. And he always showed up right as our department was starting to close down for the night too. So we had to them rewatch all our surfaces after five mix came in.
Microwaved McDonald’s is no bueno.Food Drink Mac GIFGiphy
I used to work at McDonalds. Years ago we had this promotional burger we called the 'lean beef burger'. It was aimed at people who wanted to be more healthy.
Normally the meat patties are cooked on the grill, but this one was nuked in the microwave. When it was heated, it looked grey, and it smelled so putrid no one wanted to work near the microwave so they wouldn't have to smell it.
Subway can be a tough gig.
Not a chef but I worked at Subway, whenever people wanted guacamole, we always spread it on one side of the bread before adding the rest of the veggies but the way the counter was designed the avocado was the last ingredient so people would always add all their veggies and then want avocado on top. This was a nightmare to spread across the uneven veggie surface and would generally just stick in clumps.
Some vegetarian customers also wanted us to change our gloves to serve them but everytime we change gloves we have to wash our hands which makes the gloves near impossible to wear - this would grind our whole production line to a halt while all staff members struggled to change their gloves. I mean I'm vegetarian too so I kinda understand but like if you're so strict about it you want fresh gloves then you shouldn't work at subway because the "contaminated" gloves from before still went in all the veggie boxes.
Peanut butter is tricky.
Worked in a sandwich shop for a bit in college. Not fine dining by any stretch of the imagination, but a couple steps above Subway.
Every time someone ordered a PB&J off the kids menu we had to clear off both lines, change our gloves, wipe down every surface the peanut butter got close to, and wash the knife we used to cut it. Like, I get it. But having to treat peanut butter like nuclear waste in the middle of a lunch rush was never fun.
Plus, the peanut butter was too thick for the bread we used for the PB&J, so the bread ended up tearing half the time.
Most of these chefs have made clear- it is 100% ok to order these items off the menu. But it doesn't make them any less of a pain in the butt.
Show appreciation for the chefs at the restaurants you go to! They work even harder than non-food service workers would expect
Now as much as many of us love food or are self-professed, proud foodies... there is no reason to eat anything and everything. Some foods, particularly when you visit other countries need to be researched before consumed. You know there is a blowfish (fugu) that is popular in Tokyo that can kill you? You should look up menu items you can't pronounce before you're pronounced deceased.Redditor u/PanBijo wanted to hear about the times food... became the enemy by asking... What's the most dangerous food you've ever eaten?
I've never really been food adventurous so I don't have to worry. I won't even touch a pepper whose color I haven't looked into. And when it comes to hot sauces, once the name on the bottle starts getting convoluted... I'm out. Apparently some people like to throw caution to the wind with meals.
Orchard Issuesmr t conan obrien GIF by Team CocoGiphy
Turns out, I'm allergic to apples!
Accidentally ate a poisonous mushroom on vacation when I was 5. I was non responsive and ended up in the hospital for a couple of days.
To clarify: Nobody knew it was poisonous until I didn't react to anything later that night when I was already laying in bed. Yeah exactly. I though the hospital was a dream at first and tried to take of my IV and walk away lol. I was on vacation we got a pan full of mushrooms from some friendly locals for dinner. All of them were fine except the one I ate.
Bananas. Apparently, I'm allergic to them and didn't know for the first 28 years of my life. My daughter was describing how bananas make her throat itchy and that's when my wife told me that wasn't normal... still love them I'm just a bit more careful as to how many I consume.
Lethalpsilocybin mushrooms shrooms GIFGiphy
Gyromitra esculenta. Poisonous mushroom that can be lethal if not parboiled correctly, but I trust my mom. She makes AMAZING mushroom sauce from them. One of the best thing I've eaten.
Fried rattlesnake! The guy didn't tell me it was still filled with dozens of tiny ribs which lodged in the back of my mouth.
I had to reach in with my hand and pull them out before I felt safe to breath again.
Edit: It was lightly flavored and flaky like fish
I'd eat it again.
See now, half of those it just makes common sense to be sure about before stuffing your face. I get wanting to try something new... but come on. You know what else is new for a one and only time? A coffin. Just saying. Let's see what else is on the menu.
Like a Kardashian
Those round red and white striped mints they give out at some restaurants. Choked so bad my dad had to stop the car on our way home and check if I was alright. Then my parents banned me from eating those for a few years.
Oh and a few years ago while eating sushi, I accidentally ate a big chunk of wasabi, I didn't see it on my chopsticks. My lips swelled up so much I'm sure the Kardashians would've been jealous. This almost happened again on Saturday.
Fermented shark. The taste itself was enough to make my stomach quiver, but worse were the flavor burps that lasted for two days that no amount of toothpaste/mouthwash could destroy.
The guy who is us try it told us to imagine it being like a super funky cheese. I had an immediate gag reaction, as soon as it hit my tongue my body said it absolutely wasn't food. However my husband, while it's not a thing he'd just snacks on, didn't think it was bad. But he also like funky cheeses like limburger.
This one time I had a turkey sausage and I guess I was allergic to something in it because my lips swelled so big I looked like a botched lip filler surgery victim. I ended up going to the hospital and now I carry an epipen.
Methylsulfonylmethane or MSM. It's a dietary supplement that some people take to treat joint issues. My FIL was taking it and wanted me to try it because it has a very peculiar taste. He gave be a spoon that probably only had 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of the powder on it. I took it, tasted it, it was very bitter, and swallowed.
Within a few minutes my throat began to swell, I had some tightness to my chest and some wheezing plus some hives awhile later. I had started into anaphylaxis. Luckily it didn't proceed too far.
That's how I discovered I was allergic to sulfur and/or sulfur compounds.
It's also what I joke about with my FIL - the time he tried to kill me for marrying his daughter.
NutsHungry Lets Eat GIF by youngnailsincGiphy
Cashew bar. Didn't know your tongue could itch. Or that you could feel your throat closing up. First time I cried in front of my mom in years.
Yeah, I'll stick with my less "sophisticated" palette. My biggest adventure is different sushi roles and even then I'm super careful. But at least I live another day to try something else. And without a debilitating reaction.
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Trying to replicate that tasty dish you had at a restaurant can prove to be an enormous challenge for the amateur cook.
Even closely following a recipe can be frustrating when the finished product just doesn't capture that burst of flavor found in the foods we eat at restaurants.
Why is that? What are these online recipes cruelly leaving out? Are we doing something wrong?
Usually, an excess of butter or salt should do the trick, but even those quick fixes don't always apply.
Fortunately, chefs online were generous to share some of their secrets from the kitchen when Redditor liberta0407 asked:
Maybe Not In Your Pantry
Think outside the box and your palate will be awakened.
"Miso paste Gochujang Doubanjiang."
"All good stuff."
"Sweet Sticky Heaven"
"BLACK GARLIC!!!!. MAKES EVERYTHING 100x better. Most of what I see here is staple pantry items. IF YOU DONT HAVE BLACK GARLIC, GET IT. Crush it into a paste and make a compound butter or anything. B L A C K G A R L I C. SWEET STICKY HEAVEN"
"Garam Masala! I find it to be sooo good in many savory dishes. I replace cumin with it whenever it's called for. It's INCREDIBLE in chili or any Asian-influenced dishes!"
People Share The 'Dirty Secrets' That Their Bosses Don't Want Customers To Know
"Sumac. Seriously, get yourself a huge bag for like $15 bucks and thank me later. It's lemony and salty, sweet and smoky and earthy and beautifully red. Sprinkle it on toast, curry, chicken, steak, tacos, devilled eggs, ice cream... Just about everything."
"You can also brew it like tea and it has an intense wild-berry flavor."
Not All Households Have It
"My mom is half Iranian, so we grew up eating sumac with our rice all the time. My parents thought it was hilarious when little me asked for some while at a friend's house, and of course they had never heard of it."
Savory Dried Herbs
"zaatar is amazing. you can have it with olive oil; dip a small piece of pita bread in olive oil then dip that same piece in a separate bowl with zaatar (obv another bowl from the storage container) for breakfast and thank me later."
For Pasta Sauce
"Bay leaves. Like salt you don't want them to be the dominant flavor in anything, but they make a night and day difference in stews, pasta sauce, you name it."
"Not a chef, but a baker. Cardamom. It's still not super common in American baked goods, and while I love cinnamon, that flavor isn't special to my palette anymore. Cardamom gives such a warm, floral scent/flavor to whatever you make, and can be paired with so many things. Treat yourself: add some cardamom and orange zest to your next batch of banana bread."
"Cardamom is incredibly inviting. The fragrance and the flavor add dimension...I really don't know how to put it into words. It's so easy to recognize even though it doesn't overpower. It's wonderful and as you said goes ups the flavor of a wide spectrum of foods. Whatever cardamom is added to,it deepens the flavor experience."
"Thyme pairs well with meat, tomatoes, and beans."
"It is the main ingredient in the classic French herb combinations Bouquet Garni and Herbes de Provence. These herb blends are frequently used to flavor meat, stews, and soups."
"Can't imagine not having thyme on my side when cooking a wide variety of dishes."
"Best life hack I ever learned was adding chicken stock cubes to cut potato's boiling in water. Seriously will up your potato game in ways you can't imagine. I've also done it with rice as well where the rice was going into something else."
A touch of the following can add so much flavor. Just careful with portions.
Queen Of Oilseeds
"roasted sesame seed oil, it adds a light nuttiness and saltiness to a dish."
Use with care though. It's amazing, but it can overtake a dish fast if you use too much."
"Chef of 25 years. Personal favorite is worcestershire sauce."
"Use it more at home than in restaurants I've worked. Such a nice umami though."
The Missing Ingredient
"Vinegar. It is often the thing that is missing when people go for more salt and spices in their cooking wondering why it doesn't taste quite as good as in a restaurant."
Just A Squeeze
"Lemon juice, enhances flavour in almost anything. Vinegar is too dominant for me."
One amateur chef who appeared to be overwhelmed by many of the options contributed something else to consider.
This person suggested, "beer," but not as a secret ingredient for use in food.
"I drink 4 or 5 before cooking and my food tastes 10 times better!" they joked.
Not my personal method, but beer is most definitely a wonderful addition to your recipes if you want to bring out the flavor of meats and vegetables. Just substitute it with water as a simmering liquid.
I'm no chef either, but beer is also an excellent baking agent that adds lightness to your favorite baked goods like banana bread, muffins, or pancakes.
Now go out and get your culinary imaginations brewing.
Not everyone excels at cooking, and that's okay.
As long as you can follow recipe directions and paying attention to measuring ingredients, the tasty dishes you prepare should be an accomplishment you should be proud of.
But what about the details that are not necessarily mentioned in cook books that can lead to better results?
Redditor Tw1sted_inc asked:
Got your cooking aprons on? Let's go!
"a falling knife has no handle."
"The worst cut I've ever had was from trying catch one on reflex. I got sliced across all my fingers, great tip to internalize."
Spicing Things Up
"Two things for beginners:"
"First, taste as you cook. At various stages of cooking, while safe (not raw meat) taste your food as you cook it. This let's you know if you have too much of something or too little. It also helps you develop your palette for what different seasonings do."
"Second, if you're just starting out and don't know which spices to buy. Pick a specific cuisine you like. Are you a fan of italian food? Focus only on Italian recipes for a while. Most use similar herbs and spices because the cuisine of the area used what they had available to them."
"This will let you learn several recipes without having to buy massive amounts of spices to make it work. Eventually you will build up a good stock and be set to handle most things."
"Oven mits can in fact catch on fire."
"A good kitchen should be equipped with a plentiful supply of clean dry towels."
Never Ever Do This
"Whatever you do do NOT put your coconut in the microwave."
"If it's a whole coconut I feel like the coconut water might as it evaporetes create a huge pressure inside of the coconut shell which will build up until it's strong enough to physically shatter the hard shell, at which point it's also strong enough to f'k sh*t up. But pure guesswork :P"
"Three or four times the amount of butter and salt is a big part of why your food doesn't taste like restaurant food."
Don't Drain The Boiled Water
"For thick and nice sauces, use the water you cook your pasta with."
Master These Concepts
"Salt is seasoning. It makes food taste more like itself. Acids, like citrus or vinegar can act the also do this. If your food tastes flat, or like it is missing something, try some salt or acid. Acid is also critical for balancing very rich fatty foods. The reason Americans love tomato ketchup so much is the fact that it adds acid and salt to their food. Adding a bit of 'heat' like a pinch of cayenne can also accentuate a the flavor of a dish. Spices are something else. They bring a new and different flavor to the dish."
"In sweets, sugar often takes the place of salt and is usually balanced by acid - see passionfruit, raspberry, citrus, etc. But salt plays an important role in sweets as well - often in unexpected ways. Try putting a pinch of kosher salt into your next batch of whipped cream."
"I could keep going but I'll leave it there. If you can master these concepts you will have a big advantage over most home cooks."
Timing Is Everything
"The amount of garlic flavor is dependent on WHEN you add the garlic. Add it early for light flavor, add it late for bold flavor."
In Honor Of The Best Chef – Mom
"I've been crushing the home chef game since [the virus] started. Mom was a massive cook, always cooking up the best sh*t at the church potluck, always giving folks who were sick some Dope a**, none-caseroll, Wildly delicious Puerto Rican-Iowan farmer fusion type sh*t. Everyone agreed she was the best cook they had ever known. So I grew up hearing this and started paying attention when I realized none of my friends moms even cooked at home other than one or two meals a week."
"My mom was making up every single meal from scratch. Oh you want oatmeal? 'I'll bake my own, it's cheaper and better.' Or 'let's make tacos next week, I'll start sprouting the oats so I can grind my own flower for the tortillas' woman was insanely talented. Never made mistakes. Knife skills off the charts. Pressure cooking bones and veggies for a whole day before the chicken noodle soup (at which, of course, she made her own noodles from scratch). Mom's even had her own (massive) garden, and we butchered our own chickens (small hobby farm).
"So when this pandemic hit, I started throwing the f'k down in the kitchen. Well... needless to say I've been using garlic a good bit because—let's be honest if you're not using garlic, you're not cooking most meals right—it's f'king delicious. And this one tip is going to level up my game so f'king hard it's not even funny. RIP, mom. You are hugely missed. I'll keep cooking till I die and every time I hit the recipe/idea just right, imma think of you."