For most people, no matter how many times you go out to eat, what actually goes on in the kitchen can seem like a total mystery. After all, unless you work at a restaurant, you never really get a peek behind the scenes at what truly goes on in the kitchens. Luckily, there are many chefs willing to spill the beans about what really goes on before your dish is brought to you—and trust us, it's pretty juicy!
Now, it's no secret that working in kitchens is incredibly tough. The hours are long, the kitchen is usually pretty hot, and you're on your feet for hours on end—it's certainly not for the faint of heart! It's crazy how easily many customers forget just how much goes into the plate of delicious food that's being placed in front of them. Sure, television chefs may seem to be having a blast and just puttering away in the kitchen having fun, but service at a restaurant is a totally different ball game. The pace is breakneck, and chefs are usually trying to juggle tons of orders all at once.
If you're a foodie who absolutely loves to go out to eat but doesn't really know what life is like in the kitchen, we've got you covered. Here are 20 things that chefs will never, ever tell their customers—and it may have you rethinking the way you place your orders and even the way you behave when you go out to eat. Don't say we didn't warn you!
20 Critics > Movie Stars In The VIP Pecking Order
You might assume that given how popular celebrities are in today's society, chefs would be falling over themselves to give VIP treatment to any celebs dining at their establishment. While they'll probably try to make sure they have a good experience, even solely because they'll likely run up a fairly large bill, when it comes to true VIPs for chefs, it's all about the critics. Restaurant critics can often make or break a spot, so it only makes sense that chefs would want to do everything in their power to make sure a critic has an amazing meal, no matter what it takes.
19 Your Bread Basket May Have Been On Someone Else's Table
Most of us have eagerly chowed down on the bread that's brought to the table at the start of a meal. After all, it's free carbs—what's not to love? Well, a little inside information may have you avoiding that bread basket in the future. It turns out, many chefs admit that any bread that's uneaten from a table's basket is often just tossed into another basket to be brought out to a new table. Some people may not be that bothered by that, but many likely don't enjoy the idea that someone else may have touched the bread that you're about to butter and consume before your meal.
18 In Some Spots, "Vegetarian" Is Used Pretty Loosely
While vegetarians may have struggled to find something good on the menu to eat once upon a time, lately, plant-based food is all the rage, and most restaurants offer at least a few intriguing dishes. However, it turns out, even if something seems like it would be vegetarian, it might not always be the case. A small percentage of chefs admitted that some of the vegetarian dishes they serve may not always be 100% vegetarian. We're not sure if it's something like the addition of chicken broth, but still—talk about a scary fact! Luckily, it doesn't seem like a super prevalent phenomenon.
17 You Might Want To Avoid Fish On Sundays
If you've never worked at a restaurant, you probably have no idea what the process of ordering is like. If it's on the menu, it's obviously fresh, right? Well, not exactly. There are certain delivery timelines that restaurants deal with, and it's a rule of thumb that you may not want to order fish on a Sunday if you're looking for the freshest dish because deliveries aren't made that day. Obviously, a restaurant that specializes in seafood may be an entirely different situation, but still—it might be a good idea to ask just how fresh the fish is if that's a big concern for you.
16 When Eating Out, Many Chefs Avoid Chicken
It's always fascinating to learn about what chefs choose to order when they're dining out—after all, they spend so much time in the kitchen making dishes for others! Well, it turns out, there's one type of dish that, for several reasons, many chefs will avoid: chicken. First of all, many chicken entrees tend to be quite overpriced and not all that interesting. After all, when you're a chef, whipping up a delicious sauce is super simple—why would you want to pay an exorbitant fee for a simple grilled chicken breast with sauce on it? And many chefs also confess that when kitchens are in a rush, chicken may end up undercooked—yikes!
15 They Secretly Want Their Own Cooking Show
Some foodies might view chefs who have television shows as sellouts or simply in a different category than chefs who are in a restaurant kitchen night after night. However, many of those same critics may very well harbor a secret desire to show off in front of a television audience on a weekly basis. When Food Network did a survey of chefs, nearly 60% of them ended up saying that they'd be interested in having their own cooking show. It's definitely a lofty goal! Only a very small percentage manage to make it happen, but hey... it doesn't hurt to dream.
14 They Definitely Cook When They're Sick
Most of us are guilty of going to work when we're feeling a little under the weather. After all, you don't want to waste one of your vacation or sick days when you're not truly that ill. However, you might assume that in an industry where you're handling food, any sign of sickness means you'd absolutely be required to stay home, right? Not exactly. Most chefs will, for a variety of reasons, end up showing up for service even if they're really ill—we just hope they're smart enough to constantly be washing their hands and covering their mouths to keep things a little more hygienic.
13 Your Waiter Is Trying To Influence Your Order
Many waiters will make a comment or two about a certain dish. Perhaps it's because you asked for their opinion, or perhaps, they're just trying to be more friendly and share what their own favorite dish on the menu is. It turns out, it may not just always be the waiter making small talk—often, the chef has told the wait staff to really try to push a particular dish for some reason. It could be because they need to use up a certain ingredient, or perhaps, they ordered way too much of an ingredient and need to find as many ways as possible to make a dent in the supply.
12 Restaurants Mark Up Wine By A Lot More Than You Might Expect
There's no doubt about it—when you have a glass of wine at a restaurant, you're often paying the same price as you might pay for an entire bottle of wine at a store. Restaurants mark up liquor because that's often where they really make their money, but they may be marking up that glass of wine way more than you'd even imagine. Many chefs surveyed stated that a bottle of wine that's on their wine list can cost as much as two and a half times more than what you'd pay at a store. Sure, you get the ambiance and the experience of enjoying your bottle at a restaurant, but still, that's crazy!
11 Chefs Are Pretty Picky, Too
You might assume that all chefs eat everything—after all, they need to be trying new flavors and seeking inspiration wherever they can find it, right? Well, not always. While there are definitely many chefs who are total foodies and will eat absolutely anything, there's also a percentage of chefs who really don't like certain foods. It definitely would make it tougher to come up with dishes if you're not a fan of a particular ingredient that may be a component of that dish. They obviously manage to make it work, but still, who would've thought even chefs have foods they avoid?
10 People Don't Mess With Your Food Nearly As Often As You Think
Okay, this is actually a bit of a comforting fact. Many people have heard horror stories about food getting sent back and getting tampered with in the kitchen in some way, but it turns out, those kind of shenanigans are way less frequent than you might assume. Out of roughly 100 chefs surveyed, only 13 mentioned having seen someone in their kitchen do something sketchy to a customer's dish. Yes, it can be frustrating when a customer is unreasonable and even rude, but there's just no excuse for messing with someone's food like that! Hopefully, chefs who saw something put a stop to it before the dish was sent back out.
9 There Are Dishes They Dread Anyone Ordering
As a customer, there are certain dishes on the menu that you're immediately drawn to because they seem so complex and full of flavor and like something you'd never take the time to make at home. Unfortunately, many of those types of dishes that seem like a bit of a pain to prepare are, in fact, pretty time consuming—which means they can be a total pain for a busy chef who's trying to prepare that dish as well as all the dishes for the other tables in the restaurant. You have to keep those types of dishes on the menu if they're popular, but the chef is probably crossing his or her fingers every night that it doesn't get ordered.
8 You Can't Pay For A Last-Minute Reservation
Many people assume that reservations are a little bit of a trick. Yes, it's good to make one when you want to guarantee a table, but surely, you can just pay a little extra and have the staff squeeze you in, right? Not exactly. Out of 100 chefs surveyed, only one single chef said that he or she would accept a bribe in exchange for an in-demand table. If you're a regular, the staff may be willing to make your reservation one in a prime spot, but it's always important to reserve ahead of time if it's really important to you.
7 They Eat Fast Food, Too
Many people assume that chefs are always eating fresh, locally grown food and that they only shop at farmers' markets and enjoy only things made entirely from scratch. That's not the case—chefs have guilty pleasure foods just like the rest of us, and many even enjoy some fast food from time to time. Yes, they know that fast food isn't exactly high-quality cuisine, but sometimes, you don't want a perfectly seared steak—you just want a juicy burger with a big side of fries and a crisp drink to wash it all down. Even chefs don't eat super fancy 24/7.
6 Substitutions And Special Requests Annoy Them
From a diner's perspective, a substitution or a special request may not seem like a very big deal. After all, how hard is it to simply exclude a certain ingredient or serve a dish with a different sauce? Well, depending on how the dish is prepared, it may actually be really tough to accommodate the request. Not to mention, chefs put a ton of time and effort into crafting delicious dishes—it's a little presumptuous and insulting to disregard all that work and assume you know how the dish should be prepared better. If there's a true allergy, fine, but otherwise, you should really just order what's on the menu.
5 They Work Very, Very Hard For Little Pay
When you're enjoying a meal at a fine-dining restaurant where the prices are pretty steep, you might assume that the chef is absolutely raking it in. However, that's pretty much never the case. Restaurants have a really slim profit margin, and if they're charging more for a dish, it's often because the ingredients are of a higher quality, the staff is more experienced and demands a higher rate etc. The majority of chefs work really, really long hours and often do so for not the greatest pay. They truly put their heart and soul into the dishes that they serve up every night.
4 Menu "Specials" Are Often Either Experimental Or Old
You know exactly what you're going to order, and then suddenly, the waiter describes the specials of the day, and you find yourself changing your mind, switching to the intriguing dish they described. Well, that may not always be the best move. In many situations, the specials are dishes that are crafted to use up ingredients that are a bit older and need to be utilized, lest they be thrown out. In other situations, the specials are dishes that the chefs aren't quite ready to put on the menu full time, which means they may need a little more refinement. Either way, try not to get swayed.
3 The Five-Second Rule Actually Applies
Though we'd never admit it, many of us have followed the five-second rule after dropping something in our kitchen at home. However, something like that would never, ever happen at a restaurant, right? Well, it turns out, more chefs than you might imagine follow this childhood rule. Of about 100 chefs surveyed, roughly a quarter of them said that they'd actually pick up food if it was dropped on the floor and cook it. We get that time is always an issue in a restaurant kitchen, and the last thing you want to do is start from the beginning if you dropped something partway through prep, but sometimes, you just have to.
2 You Probably Shouldn't Order The Hollandaise
Hollandaise is one of those things that many people don't feel comfortable making at home—it's just a little too finicky. That's why so many people absolutely love ordering Eggs Benedict whenever they see it on a menu for brunch. However, if you're a hollandaise fan, you may want to listen to this little fact: apparently, since the sauce is made of raw egg and butter, it can be an absolute breeding ground for bacteria if it's kept for too long. In a high-volume restaurant where they're making a new batch every hour, it's fine. But in a place where the hollandaise is sitting around all morning? Questionable.
1 They Definitely Take Inspiration From Other Restaurant Menus
Many chefs claim to find inspiration from their lives, from walks around the markets and nature, and from seeing the fresh ingredients available and dreaming up what could be created with them. While many chefs likely find internal inspiration, they also often look to external sources for a few great ideas—including other restaurants' menus! Over 75% of chefs surveyed admitted that they scope out the competition for a little inspiration. Hey, we don't blame them—why not get inspired by others in your industry doing amazing things? As long as you don't totally rip someone else's dish off, what's the harm in it?