Cutting Corners

Joined Nov 26, 2007
I once worked for one of the largest most reputable caterers in NY. They cut an extraordinary amount of corners... such as - using turkey breast instead of duck breast in BBQ duck empanadas (there was so much BBQ sauce, the most sophisticated palate would not have known the difference), Foie Gras savory truffles which had only regular (pre-packaged duck and pork liver pate in it - no foie gras at all) and many other examples. I have a real problem with that. Many restaurants say that the tomatoes in a tomato terrine or soup are heirloom, but they obviously are not. I do not necessarily have a problem with that. Putting "Supremes of Organic Free Range Chicken" on a menu proposal for a large event, and just using high quality antibiotic free free-range chicken instead of the more expensive certified organic, because let's face it, chicken is chicken, is another common example. Now, many would say that any misrepresentation is totally dishonest and should be avoided at all costs. Are there some corners you all think it is ok to cut? Out of curiosity, and keeping in mind industry norms (if that makes a difference) Keeping your mind on the bottom line, where do you guys and girls draw the line?
Joined Jul 14, 2005
"so many amendments to the constitution.... which iisss my fay-vooo-rite, i take the FIF. the fif. one, two, three, four FIIIIFFF!"
Joined Apr 17, 2006
I know in some states, if you get caught, they put you on a list everybody can access that tells what you cheated on. I can never see the point. If you can't afford to buy the ingredients you are listing, why go there at all? I don't know why, for instance, anyone would wreck perfectly good duck breast with BBQ sauce, so maybe anyone who would order it deserves what they get.:lol: Personally, I view it as false advertising. Any time a person is charged for something they didn't get, it's fraud. It's no different than the mechanic who charges you for a new part on your car that they never put in.
Joined Nov 23, 2007
Old chef i had loved to have "saffron risotto" It was only tumeric, we did not even have saffron in house.

Joined Apr 18, 2007
I think free range chicken (or organic) is the most abused, at least from what I've seen.
I've always been of the the theory that if you say it then do it...and if its a food cost thing...then adjust the prices.
I'm sure we have all worked at places that at the end of a night, or long weekend... have run out of stuff. At this point you can either fudge it, and get by...or stand up tell the FOH that you've run out of something and your going to do it another way..or your taking it off.
The best thing IMHO is while it's not your place and you don't agree with it, grumble, ask why...but get on with it.
When you get your own place do what you want, take pride in the fact that what you put out is what you say it is.
I think there is a big diff between cutting corners, eg doing your hollandaise in the microwave..or robocoup...than saying that it's fresh in house hollandaise, and using the powdered stuff.
Joined Jan 18, 2006
I don't even like the phrase "cutting corners". Being creative, finding faster/more efficient ways to do things, making it work are all acceptable to me, cutting corners is not.
Joined Dec 1, 2002
This is terrible to discuss...Be proud of what you do, the ingredients you use, and tell the truth. If duck liver terrine doesnt sound good, dont make it.
Joined Aug 30, 2005
Apart from the outright false advertising, I'd also say it would affect staff morale and ethics.

If they see the chef giving the ok, then staff will let other stuff slide too, until eventually, it's just a mediocre kitchen with no culture of improvement. I'd be bummed working in a place like that.
Joined Jul 28, 2001
I can't think of one chef I know that doesn't practice 'truth in menu'. We actually have some laws on the books.
I will say when I was young and in a different state our number 1 rated chicken salad involved a big bearded chickurkey.
Joined Apr 5, 2007
I'm sorry, but passing off one kind of meat for another is fraud. Its especially grating when its clearly being done for an upsell. Passing off regular liver for foie? You've just stolen money. You might as well go back to cutting your bread flour with ashes.

Its also like Sleepy Dragon says. I'm willing to bet if you guys are switching turkey for duck and think its a laugh on the customers that other corners are being "cut." Like food rotation and hygiene. Why not, cause "everybody does it?"

I'd being interested to see what your chef says if he ever gets sued for breech of contract and finds out his lawyer is padding billable hours.


(by the way, if I sound harsh, its not directed at you personally B.C. It sounds like you are rightly concerned about this sort of practice. If I were you I would concerned about my good name getting tainted by this place if it ever come to public light)
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Fraud is fraud. Food or used difference. Sleepy Dragon hit it on the head with the morale comment. My staff would have zero respect for me if we lied about what we are serving. We are an ingredient driven place and we all(or at least I do)wait excitedly for deliveries of expensive, exotic stuff. Most of my staff never worked with things like foie gras, meyer lemons, wild boar, ostrich, truffles and blue chantarels. I've brought out raw cryos of venison tenderloin to a gentleman once who insisted we weren't using the Cervena venison we advertised. It absolutely infuriated me that he thought we would lie. I know a really respected chef of a famous NYC restaurant who uses pork tenderloin for his vienershnitzel. He claims people can't tell the difference between pork and veal.

I have only one item on my menu that may slightly mislead but is not an outright lie. Our "truffled" pate has brunoise himalayan truffles and white truffle oil. Most people when they read "truffle" think Perigord not Himilayan but that's not my problem. Plus it's not like we're killing them on the price, it's only 11 bucks.

OK Now everybody come flame me for using Chinese truffles, I'm ready.:eek:
Joined Nov 26, 2007
The turkey for duck, and regular liver for foie are clearly egregious examples of outright fraud... I agree... I was merely a cook at this place, and it was years ago. What blows me away, is the stellar reputation this caterer has. We, here at my company, do not cut corners. The reason I had posed the question to you guys was because I had a discussion about catering with a relative this passed weekend and we got on this topic talking about how rampant this sort of thing was in the food service industry in general, and he was totally shocked when I told him the examples that I had witnessed in the past.
Joined Nov 26, 2007
The schnitzle thing really bothers me. I used to work at 2-star austrian restaurant in the west village, and we used veal only for the schnitzle, and we pan fried it as one is supposed to. The well respected chef I believe you are referring to apparently fries his in a fryolater. Not that that is fraud, just shockingly crappy technique for such a stickler and pro.
Joined Apr 20, 2007
This is one of the reasons I don't get "artsy fartsy" with my food at a it 5 star or fast food.

I like my food simple and with few ingredients so I can "taste" the main flavor of the foods.

When I took my sanitation class, the Professor was a former restaurant owner and in some of his lectures he informed us how many restaurants do a "bait" and "switch".

and never to order anything swiming in sauces, that was an old techinque to hide meats past their prime!

If I want to get creative with my food , I do so at home where I have control of what affects my end product.
Joined Oct 15, 2007
In the restaurants near me "kobe" beef has become rampant, dime-a-dozen. There's no way all that beef could be raised in Japan, more like Cargill kobe, tenderness coming not from being massaged and fed sake, but from not being able to move in the feedlot.

I find the fraud especially offensive in types of meat, as people have very specific reasons for not wanting to eat certain things. Many people don't eat pork for religious reasons, it is atrocious to substitute it for non porcine items, that could be a terrible violation of their person. Ditto with the organic. I personally don't eat farmed fin-fish, nor most commercial/industrial meat, but I enjoy small farm organic meats and wild fish. The FDA and USDA still thinks it's appropriate to feed chicken feces to cows, feces from chickens who ate cows. People are becoming more aware of where their food comes from and some people choose their meats with particular concern. The melamine in pet food that killed many pets was fed to farmed salmon. It might mean nothing to a caterer to pull a bait and switch, but could leave the eater feeling seriously violated.

I was in a very nice restaurant recently and the menu said wild caught on a fish entree, and I could taste that it was farmed. I was very gracious but sent it back as I truly couldn't eat it. One of the chefs was lovely enough to come out to see what else I would like, and we talked about it a little and he said his supplier said it was wild caught but he tasted it and agreed that it's not, and actually thought it tasted quite bad too. So it might not always be the chefs. (and he made me a fantastic wild mushroom ravioli, probably had some of those Chinese truffles;) )

I LOVE ingredient-driven restaurants that are giving credit to their small farmers on their menus, and naming the farm that the heirloom tomatoes or artisan cheese or meat comes from. It is a nice touch of respect to the grower, but when I see it it is also a sign that their sources are credible.
Joined Mar 16, 2005
A lot of places are also serving tilapia as red snapper, which is a horrible shame since it tarnishes the good name of red snapper.

The "kobe" is probably just North American Wagyu, which is of course no indication of how it was raised. Of course, it's a little too simplistic to say North Americans can't make good Kobe-style beef, as in my area there are several farmers that raise excellent local Wagyu but it's a little misleading.

I agree on the little touches on the menu that signify where produce is coming from, but I think there gets to be a point where it just seems like the chef is jerking himself and the menu turns into a mini "War and Peas", which seems to turn a lot of customers off.
Joined Feb 26, 2007
Regarding Kobe beef - I thought it was not available for sale outside of Japan, that they don't export it, period. Is this misinformation, or have things changed in the last few years?

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