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Does food ever gross you out?


scottie
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Don't get me wrong, I looove food. But...

I'm new in the industry. I interned at a very nice USHG restaurant, and now I'm on the line at one of the nicer places (five star! whatever that means) here in North Carolina.

My problem, since I started this work, is that sometimes I find the food really gross. And not just the stuff I make; sometimes I read other folks' reviews here on eG, and all I can picture is the gross, slimy 9-pans of god-knows-how-old food items in front of me at work: sauerkraut with cheese bits in it, chervil pluches with sauerkraut bits in it (not as bad as the cheese), salads with my inadequately-cleansed fingers in them, etc. etc.

So, my question is, which I'm sure has been asked here before:

Does working in a restaurant ruin restaurant food for you? I ask this of cooks in "fine dining" establishments- everyone knows what goes on at like Chili's or wherever. But now I know that lobster can come from Sysco, avocados come vacuum-packed, and oysters-on-the-half-shell come frozen. Plus, I know how lacking my own hygiene practices are. :unsure:

I love to dine out, but will it ever be the same?! :huh:

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Don't get me wrong, I looove food. But...

I'm new in the industry. I interned at a very nice USHG restaurant, and now I'm on the line at one of the nicer places (five star! whatever that means) here in North Carolina.

...

So, my question is, which I'm sure has been asked here before:

Does working in a restaurant ruin restaurant food for you? I ask this of cooks in "fine dining" establishments- everyone knows what goes on at like Chili's or wherever. But now I know that lobster can come from Sysco, avocados come vacuum-packed, and oysters-on-the-half-shell come frozen. Plus, I know how lacking my own hygiene practices are.  :unsure:

I love to dine out, but will it ever be the same?!  :huh:

I mean all of this very kindly, please remember that. First, if it grosses you out, why do it? And what the hell is with sauerkraut in chervil pluche? I go to NC a lot, and wish you'd tell me which restaurant you work in. Your own questionable hygiene? :sad: You can fix this, yanno.

One issue I had with people I've worked with (not all of them were men), was how filthy they were. Filthy side towels and coats, gross workstations, sticking their fingers into everything, licking them with nicotine-coated tongues, and sticking them back in before sending the dish out. Seeing a chef kick someone's a** for doing that bodes well. I've trailed and worked in several around here, and there are places where I will not eat. A sweet, small one with a reputation for organic food and hominess, is staffed by people who are so incredibly filthy that I can't even imagine that no one has been sick yet.

Anyway, it hasn't ruined the way I feel about eating out, in general. It's a choice for me, not a "right" and certainly not a necessity.

The way you work is up to you -- though I have to say, shame on your Exec and Sous Chefs for letting cooks work dirty.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Sometimes eating in a restaurant involves suspending your relationship with reality temporarily........I'll bet there are several restaurants I've eaten in that I would never return to if I had seen the kitchen. Sometimes it's better not to know.

On the other hand, I work as one of the pastry chefs at a small bakery that makes everything from scratch. My coworker and I sometimes go to try pastry made by competing bakeries/restaurants and we rarely find anything we enjoy. It's not because other bakers and pastry chefs lack talent, it's because most bakeries and restaurants use inferior ingredients to cut costs. There's nothing worse than buying a cake or pastry that looks amazing but tastes like nothing but sugar and air. One of our staff who teaches baking and knows a lot about the industry was talking to a supplier about this issue....the number of bakeries/pastry kitchens in Ottawa that use only good chocolate, real butter, real cream, no frozen or bake off products etc can be counted on with one hand and you'll still have a couple of fingers left over. Sometimes people come in and buy puff dough from us because it's made in house from only butter. Even the high end hotels in this town buy frozen puff dough and tart shells etc and in the name of economizing will contract out to cheap bakeries for things that they deem too labour intensive to produce in house.

The worst part of this is that we can't charge much more than our competitors who take shortcuts, even though they cost us more in ingredients and labour.

If only I'd worn looser pants....

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on a different tack...

i've never really loved cooked fish although i love sushi and sashimi. since working in restaurants, i've seen wayyyyy toooo many large wriggly parasites (worms) being pulled from monkfish, swordfish, etc. for me to consider eating either of those fish. the places i worked were higher end restaurants with consciencious cooks/sous chefs and often the fish would be returned to the purveyor, but with certain fish (bottom dwellers, scavengers, etc) you expect these things. that's where the gross out comes for me.

i've never worked in a restaurant that buys their lobster from sysco, gets vacuum sealed avocado or frozen oysters...if you can't get the real thing from a real purveyor, then don't serve it on your menu.

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on a different tack...

i've never really loved cooked fish although i love sushi and sashimi.  since working in restaurants, i've seen wayyyyy toooo many large wriggly parasites (worms) being pulled from monkfish, swordfish, etc. for me to consider eating either of those fish.  the places i worked were higher end restaurants with consciencious cooks/sous chefs and often the fish would be returned to the purveyor, but with certain fish (bottom dwellers, scavengers, etc) you expect these things.  that's where the gross out comes for me.

i've never worked in a restaurant that buys their lobster from sysco, gets vacuum sealed avocado or frozen oysters...if you can't get the real thing from a real purveyor, then don't serve it on your menu.

Funny school-story: I had a great fish chef. Writers from a local paper came in to observe a class; we were doing cod. We put the sides of fish onto the cod light and there they were -- a few little curly worms, which Chef removed with flair. The food writer was shrieking and said, "how will you cook around that? You're throwing out the fish, aren't you? I'll never eat cod again!" Chef was charming as he told her that if she's ever had fish & chips before, she's had these worms, etc. etc.

I personally like cod-worms and used to pride myself on getting them out in one piece. It's one of the reasons I always cook with a hemostat in my pocket. :biggrin:

Edited by FabulousFoodBabe (log)
"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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I personally like cod-worms and used to pride myself on getting them out in one piece.  It's one of the reasons I always cook with a hemostat in my pocket.  :biggrin:

you mean you like the challenge of removing them in one piece...not a squiggly bowl full, right? :raz:

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I remember my first line cook job. Nice place, great food. But after 8 - 10 hours of working with food - even the best product, I'd have no appetite and after a few hours would only want something like an apple, that no one had sliced, seasoned or sauteed. No problem on days off.

I still don't eat snapper after the worms, and it's been 15 years.

Then becoming the chef in a huge kitchen, I'd have cooks bringing me samples all day to taste. Seemed I never got to cook. I took a rare day off in the middle of the week once to take care of some stuff and mid afternoon got a weird ache in my stomach. Finally I realized it was hunger....pretty bad when you haven't felt that in so long you don't recognize it.

Been out of the kitchen professionally for a few years. Love to cook at home, eat out rarely. But when I do, it's either the top of the line or some taco stand. I can readily identify inferior product and won't put it in my mouth. Knorr's Swiss DemiGlace, anyone?

Has it ruined my enjoyment of restaurant food? Not in the least, but it has refined it. I'm not willing to waste a meal in a less than stellar place.

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It's one of those things that I just put out of my mind. However, working in one place, where the salmon BLT was the most popular thing on the menu really ruined any taste I ever had for salmon. The constant smell of it cooking just really grossed me out. I still can't even being to think about eating salmon.

I've also seen way too many filthy work stations to really trust any thing that comes out of restaurant kitchens. Why more chefs don't enforce cleanliness is really beyond me. I once saw a floundering fledgling breakfast cook's station literally covered in the slime of raw egg and almost tossed my cookies right there. No more eggs in restaurants for me. I mean, really, there's no reason at all for that sort of thing. Most of the time, though, I just put it out of my mind and when I go out enjoy a meal where someone else is doing the cooking for a change.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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So, my question is, which I'm sure has been asked here before:

Does working in a restaurant ruin restaurant food for you? I ask this of cooks in "fine dining" establishments- everyone knows what goes on at like Chili's or wherever.

I certainly can't speak for all casual food chains - but I've done my time in one. And I have to tell you that some of them have cleanliness standards and food handling practices which are probably better than some high-end restuarants. The one I worked in had rules which were followed.

When I was in university, I took a sanitation course. For the 10 week term, most of my fellow students stopped eating in the school cafs. or in restaurants. By the middle of the following term, we were all eating out again.

You can't really know what's going in behind the kitchen doors - but there are many restuarants that I won't eat in. You know how it goes - if the front of the house is filthy, chances are the back is too.

There are certain foods that I find 'gross' - but not because I think people are sticking their unclean fingers in them. If your kitchen (and you) are dirty, do something about it. Can you imagine how much happier you'd be at work if you weren't being grossed out? And the risk of making somebody ill will go down... and that would be a good thing.

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ya know, i've been working in kitchens now about 4 years and i had the same thoughts when i first started. somehow it just went away. but there are always thoughts of what i will eat in certain places if they are not upscale places. i won't eat fish in a lot of places. i'll attempt to smell things before i eat them, and if i smell or taste something "sour" without tasting lemon or vinegar, i kind of get freaked out.

if you are working on the line, you have to be higher up than a few people. walk by and tell them to clean up. keep your station immaculate. wipe everything down repeatedly, and never get lazy about that. there are 3 things i try to keep in my mind when i'm working: am i working faster/cleaner/neater than the guy next to me. unfortunately, it's sometimes the chef, so probably not, but the others i can answer yes to. and if i see someone is sloppy i'll say something, or i'll just go by and clean up after them. no one wants to feel like their mom is following them around in the kitchen.

as far as your own sanitation goes, you should wash your hands so many times that your hands hurt when you leave. and for a place that is buying frozen oysters to sell raw, well, i'd probably look for a new job... this time just trail a few days and look to see what things look like. check out the walk ins, check to see how many times fish and meat come in. where does the produce come from etc... it'll make your day much easier.

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I like what newguy has to say here.

If it's not practical to wash your hands in an actual sink, maybe you can at least get a bucket of sanitizer solution and keep it on your station. It's less than ideal, but better than nothing.

Maybe you're in the wrong kitchen for you. Or maybe it's more than that. Do you know the old saw about law and sausage...?

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I agree that if Scottie is so turned off by the menu, he should find a new place of employ. And as others have said, he controls his own hygiene practices and could be a good influence on others at his restaurant if he made an issue of it.

My restaurant experience was mostly at a small seafood carry out that had a fresh seafood counter as well. After hours immersed in the seafood, I didn't lose my appetite, but I did lose it for the stuff I'd been cooking all day. There was a deli across the shopping center where a friend of mine worked. He was tired of seeing deli stuff and I was tired of seeing seafood so we'd trade. I'd get a sandwich of some kind and he'd have fried shrimp.

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I think most in the industry get tired if not grossed out at what we make every day. My ex couldn't understand why I didn't want to eat at my work place. The food was good and sanitation very good but I had been cooking and looking at this stuff day after day. I wanted something different.

In our town is one restaurant that is so disgusting I won't even go into it. Drove by it yesterday, and from the street, you could see the stripes of dust on the mini blinds. Don't know why the health inspector doesn't shut them down. Grosses me out just thinking about it.

Scottie, go wash your hands!!!

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since working in restaurants, i've seen wayyyyy toooo many large wriggly parasites (worms) being pulled from monkfish, swordfish, etc. for me to consider eating either of those fish.  the places i worked were higher end restaurants with consciencious cooks/sous chefs and often the fish would be returned to the purveyor, but with certain fish (bottom dwellers, scavengers, etc) you expect these things.  that's where the gross out comes for me.

OT, and I'm not even sure if I want to start a separate thread on this for fear being completely grossed out, but what's this about worms in seafood? Was I absent from food school on the day they talked about this? :wacko:

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Wow, I'm glad this question got so many responses!

So, here's what I do: I put on gloves and wash my hands every chance I get. I just don't get as many chances as I'd like, due to how busy the station is and the fact that going to the handwashing sink requires walking off-line. If I touch raw seafood or chicken, I ALWAYS wash my hands with soap, no matter how busy we are.

But it really is so busy that sometimes it takes too long to put on different gloves to toss four different salads, then throw shrimp in the fryer and hamburgers on the grill, then plate dessert, then toss more salads, etc. I try to be careful with the stuff that doesn't get cooked. But the reality is with the rapid orders and the chef de cuisine shouting "Go! Go! Quit f***ing around!" in my face, sometimes I'm not as clean as I'd like someone fixing my food to be. Know what I mean?

What grosses me out the most is how little bits of certain foods get dropped into other food. With the huge mise for the station, it's probably inevitable that that will happen from time to time. I try to combat the mixing-up by putting spoons and tongs in all the pans, and putting the messiest stuff up front. Still, sometimes cheese drops into the pans nearest it. And DON'T eat the celery sticks with those wings, dude! The water they've been hanging out in is nasty.

I interned at a USHG restaurant in NYC, and their standards are so impeccably high. I was really shocked at the low hygiene when I started my current job. The line is a lot cleaner than banquets, though, where a sous-chef actually discouraged me from putting seafood on ice during prep. :wacko:

I've already put in my notice, BTW. Going back to NYC. :cool:

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If it's not practical to wash your hands in an actual sink, maybe you can at least get a bucket of sanitizer solution and keep it on your station.  It's less than ideal, but better than nothing.

Maybe you're in the wrong kitchen for you.  Or maybe it's more than that.  Do you know the old saw about law and sausage...?

That's a great idea about the sanitizer. Thanks.

I am definitely in the wrong kitchen for me. I knew that two weeks into the job. The combination of low quality product and bad hygiene really upsets me. I was about to quit when the chef promoted me! So I'm sticking around a little longer.

I loved the kitchen where my internship was. I've since found out that their standards are considered some of the highest in the industry.

And no, I don't know the one about law and sausage!

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since working in restaurants, i've seen wayyyyy toooo many large wriggly parasites (worms) being pulled from monkfish, swordfish, etc. for me to consider eating either of those fish.  the places i worked were higher end restaurants with consciencious cooks/sous chefs and often the fish would be returned to the purveyor, but with certain fish (bottom dwellers, scavengers, etc) you expect these things.  that's where the gross out comes for me.

OT, and I'm not even sure if I want to start a separate thread on this for fear being completely grossed out, but what's this about worms in seafood? Was I absent from food school on the day they talked about this? :wacko:

I have also had this problem with Amberjack which is almost always the fish of the day along the Gulf Coast. (because it is so cheap) Yuck.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Sometimes eating in a restaurant involves suspending your relationship with reality  temporarily........I'll bet there are several restaurants I've eaten in that I would never return to if I had seen the kitchen.  Sometimes it's better not to know.

On the other hand, I work as one of the pastry chefs at a small bakery that makes everything from scratch.  My coworker and I sometimes go to try pastry made by competing bakeries/restaurants and we rarely find anything we enjoy.  It's not because other bakers and pastry chefs lack talent, it's because most bakeries and restaurants use inferior ingredients to cut costs. There's nothing worse than buying a cake or pastry that looks amazing but tastes like nothing but sugar and air.  One of our staff who teaches baking and knows a lot about the industry was talking to a supplier about this issue....the number of bakeries/pastry kitchens in Ottawa that use only good chocolate, real butter, real cream, no frozen or bake off products etc can be counted on with one hand and you'll still have a couple of fingers left over.  Sometimes people come in and buy puff dough from us because it's made in house from only butter.  Even the high end hotels in this town buy frozen puff dough and tart shells etc and in the name of economizing will contract out to cheap bakeries for things that they deem too labour intensive to produce in house. 

The worst part of this is that we can't charge much more than our competitors who take shortcuts, even though they cost us more in ingredients and labour.

unfortunately, the bottom line does dictate what happens sometimes. Labor costs can break an operation.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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So my job has jaded my palate a little where pastry is concerned, but it hasn't put me off of restaurant meals.

However after reading the comments about fish in this thread, I think I just moved one step closer to vegetarianism! :shock:

Yes, I'm a wimp, I know....

If only I'd worn looser pants....

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Sanitation concerns aside, I don't think it's uncommon to despise all the food on the menu where you work. You just get tired of smelling it, preparing it, tasting it, day in and day out. I could have seabass every day if I wanted it, but I'd rather have a hot dog or a taco.

My current job has ruined rosemary for me - hopefully not forever. Maybe some day I'll actually voluntarily put rosemary in something I'm making at home, but that day is years away.

Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

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