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Chefs and SMOKING

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OK, so I'm watching Top Chef (we are a few episodes behind in Canada) and I've noticed that whenever the chef contestants are filmed during their off hours, they are all smoking.
I've noticed that with every season of Top Chef -- the majority of the contestant chefs smoke.
I've noticed that with pretty much every episode of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares -- the chefs/cooks in the kitchen smoke.
I've noticed that with every season of Hell's Kitchen -- the majority of the contestant chefs smoke.
If smoking kills your sense of taste and smell, why are these chefs smoking? And how do they know if something tastes good or is properly seasoned?
Is this common in the restaurant industry? And if so, what the heck! It would seem to me that this is something that would really impact your abilities as a chef -- after all, you taste for a living. And how can you pass off something as properly cooked and seasoned if you can't freaking taste it properly?

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  1. this comes up in discussions every so often - i dug up a few threads for you, though you'll have to read through the replies to find the sections that are specifically about your post:

    i'm with you - it DOES dull/alter your sense of taste...or at least it did mine. [hangs head]. yes, i was a heavy smoker for many years, and after i quit, my sense of smell (which is *essential* for taste) came back with a vengeance. i pretty much rediscovered food.

    many chefs have a very heavy hand with salt, and smoking may be one of the reasons.

    1. I smoke, and my sense of taste is, I think, pretty good. Maybe it would be better if I didn't smoke, but it certainly hasn't been "killed." I can easily taste the difference between uni from Maine and uni from Santa Barbara and uni from Hokkaido. I can also tell a peach from a plum, a tomato from an onion, and a grilled cheese sandwich from a stick of Wrigley's Spearmint Gum. So all in all, I don't think smoking has ruined my palate.

      1. I had a former chef, now in a related business tell me that he used to smoke when he worked on the line because that was the only way he could get a break! 'Chef I need to sit for 10 minutes' while true makes you look like a slacker but say 'chef can I smoke a cigarette' and you get your break!

        lol. Sad but true.

        7 Replies
        1. re: AAQjr

          Same in the military. 10 minute smoke break meant exactly that. If you weren't smoking, Sarge would put you on police detail. And what would you be finding the most of? Cigarette butts!

          1. re: AAQjr

            I worked in restaurants/bars for about 6 years, and it's true. One of the reasons I kept smoking was so that I could get breaks. You didn't get breaks like that (except for a snack later if you had time). Well, that and the fact that the restaurants/bars were smoking, so I'd be inhaling about a pack of tobacco smoke a night ANYWAY. I've since quit (a year this time, woot!), and my senses of taste and smell are improved, but not all that much. But enough to notice is significant enough for me.

            1. re: kubasd

              My husband stopped involuntarily a year ago due to medical issues (severe stroke) and his tastes have definitely changed, whether it was the cigarettes no one can really tell. But his neurologist claims that tobacco kills your taste buds permanently. Sad if that is true, not sure if I believe it, based on anecdotal evidence. Glad to hear otherwise.

              1. re: kubasd

                Darn slacker smokers!

                I worked with one guy who would take a book with him on his smoke break and sit on the sidewalk reading and smoking. Most smokers at least have the courtesy to pretend they are going to suck down that cig as fast as possible and get back to work asap. IIRC, that guy got fired, probably not for reading and smoking, but I doubt that helped make a case for his work ethic.

              2. re: AAQjr

                I was working at a hotel in the banquet kitchen during tour season. Each tour had a set time for dinner and set menus (you know, chicken, fish or beef). As soon as the pick ups for a time slot were done, the smokers (all men that particular summer) would scurry off, leaving us non-smokers to tidy the line and re-set for the next round. I once in passing commented on this to one of the sous-chefs and he said that it evened out for me (as a woman) because women take more bathroom breaks. I didn't bother to respond to that.

                1. re: Sooeygun

                  ROFLMAO! You prolly did the right thing not to respond but that is ludicrous. I'm guessing he said that before he went to smoke?

                  I too have resorted to going to the bathroom to get a break, sit and think ;) I am a guy and a non smoker btw

                2. re: AAQjr

                  This is SOOOO TRUE!!! Years ago I used to cook on the line for several different restaurants. I used to smoke, but had quit by this time. I was always joking that the only way you could get a break was if you DID smoke!!! I honestly think I was the only non-smoker on the line. Got "stuck" on the line all of the time being abandoned by the smokers. Glad to see I wasn't the only one!!!

                  On another note...Never noticed a difference in my ability to taste things better after I quit smoking, but there was a MAJOR difference in my ability to smell after quitting.

                3. If that were the case, by your definition, most restaurant meals would be inedible -- either too salty / heavily seasoned, or too bland. Which I believe is not the case, at least in most restaurants I frequent.

                  I myself smoked for most of my life on and off, but my sense of smell as well as my taste buds have always been pretty sensitive (more a curse than a blessing). When I quit, the only thing I became more sensitive to was cigarette smoke. Go figure.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: linguafood

                    Perhaps we accept food at these restaurants that isn't done "right" but is cooked by the "right chef" -- one assumes that the food cooked by chef X is done correctly so if it tastes not seasoned enough perhaps I am the one who doesn't really know how this food "should" taste. And at the same time, salt and pepper shakers are pretty ubiquitous in restaurants, and if done properly, the food shouldn't require any extra seasoning.
                    It would be interesting to know if these chefs season their food differently for their own palate than for what they know to be acceptable in the industry -- i.e. this tastes bland to me, so it should be just right for our patrons -- as in a learned response kind of thing.
                    And its also interesting that seasoning is a huge issue on Top Chef, for example -- either the food needs seasoning or it is way too salty (Chris. C in the bbq challenge) -- and the chefs who have prepared the food indeed smoke.
                    Interesting thought, no?

                    1. re: freia

                      I think the definition of "properly seasoned" is subjective. Things I may find bland or not spicy enough might make other people's heads sweat.

                      Things I personally find too salty, others might enjoy with gusto -- no matter who the chef is. I also don't doubt my personal tastes, because... well, because they're personal, and I'm pretty hip to how I personally think some food *should* taste. I don't question myself just because chef X might think this is the "proper" way.

                      1. re: linguafood

                        True enough! Just thinking out loud, that's all. I know that some very VERY foodie friends of mine get quite upset when people ask for salt and pepper at the table season the food themselves. To them, one should trust the chef has seasoned the food appropriately and the diner is having it "the right way". And I know that if I went to a Michelin 3 Star and ordered something and it didn't taste the way I thought it should I'd be questioning my own taste.
                        Taste indeed is so personal!

                  2. The reality is that it happens and it can be prevalent and I think because people do have the right to decide to smoke or not it only matters in the restaurant if the food is not good because of it.

                    I've never smoked a cigarette in my life! - Okay well there way that one time when I was drunk at a bar and my friend said try this. I hated it. Throat was sore the next day.. it felt like forever.


                    How much does it effect the food? Scientist? Myth Busters? LOL

                    I'm not going to name the place but one place I went to I had fries that smelled like cigarette smoke in a nonsmoking establishment. How that happens I don't know but I do know that heavy smokers can not and do not know what cigarette smell, smells like. They are just used it it.

                    1. My wife and I once celebrated our anniversary at one of Philadelphia's well-known fine dining restaurants. Our table was close to the kitchen and at one point, we thought we smelled cigarette smoke. When a server entered the kitchen, I spied the owner/head chef in the kitchen smoking a cigarette.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Philly Ray

                        during service?!?! Really?

                        That would cause a riot out hear in L.A.

                        1. OP, yes, it's EXTREMELY common in high stress jobs, even when it's counter-intuitive. Ever see all the doctors, nurses and other medical staff standing outside various hospital doors smoking? To me, that's even worse. And as someone pointed out, it's often the only way to get a sanctioned break and take a minute to socialize, because if you do it in the building, you get chastised for not working working working every minute.

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: rockandroller1

                            That is so true, I've been spending a lot of time at hospitals and healthcares and it amazes me how many employees are outside puffing away. You'd think with what they witness every day, it would "scare them straight". But I've been learning how common denial is too.

                            Couldn't figure it out, since I never smoked, but high stress could be the root of all evil in this case. And I do know stress from being in a restaurant kitchen so I can relate... I also remember being annoyed covering for all those smokers whenever they got a jones.

                            1. re: coll

                              In some restaurants, I had actually quit smoking for awhile when I had worked somewhere else, but, desirous of the break and brief socialization/bonding that the smoking break provided, went back to it when I went back to restaurants.

                              Unless you've ever been a smoker, it's hard to understand. I can say today that I wouldn't go back to it. In fact, a few years ago when I was laid off after working in office jobs for 15 years and had to go back to waiting tables, it was no problem not to smoke, but I am much older now and have a family, I'm not socializing with these young people or blowing my tips after work with them at some bar, so I didn't feel the need to join in as much. It wasn't any less or more stressful, except for the fact that you really see how much of an interruption in service it provides when people go outside for a break. No matter how "safe" you think the time is, there's inevitably someone wanting something and you have to get it for them because the server is out back smoking.

                            2. re: rockandroller1

                              I was already used to seeing doctors and nurses smoking, but when I got my first job in a hospital, I was most surprised to see how many respiratory therapists smoke.

                              To coll - I don't think denial is necessarily a big factor. Health care workers generally know the deal with smoking. There's a strange sort of fatalism that is common to medical workers in high-stress jobs, and that may have something to do with it. But I think it mainly is just that working in a high-speed, high-stress environment makes it harder to quit smoking and also makes people less inclined to try to quit.

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                It's all a mystery to me. When I was in high school, I felt like the only one that didn't smoke; I didn't start because I was in Catholic school til 9th grade and then when I switched to public school, the kids were not only smoking but many were trying to quit too. I always wondered what I was missing, but not enough to try one. Self medication maybe? I've heard it described that way. I just know it kept my husband sane for many years, he's very high strung to say the least.

                                1. re: coll

                                  Coll- I know from your other posts that you are on the North Fork. I spend my summers there, and I can tell you that the smoking rate is so much higher out there than in NYC, where I live. It seems that almost everybody out there smokes. Well, obviously not, but as a non-smoker who was raised in a house with a smoker, I'm extraordinarily sensitive to that crap. I hate it when I have to change my fishing position on the beach just to get upwind of a smoker.

                                  1. re: EricMM

                                    I used to think everyone except me smoked, because my husband was always in the smoking area of where ever we were. I didn't know any better. Now that he doesn't smoke anymore, it seems so rare to smell that smell again, when we walk by a lit cigarette...and I get mad when we do, don't want him craving it again. Guess he better not take up fishing!

                                    My Dad smoked constantly too, guess I'm one of the last that thought (past tense!) it was normal. Well with Bloomberg leading the way, it's not so easy in the city I guess. And we have the Indian reservations, versus $12 a pack in NYC, that's part of the problem right there.

                                2. re: cowboyardee

                                  I think everyone knows the deal with smoking. Everyone in every occupation knows it's dangerous. Why do health workers smoke? For the same reason that health workers are obese. Everyone knows it's bad but habits are hard to change.

                                  20% of Americans smoke and 35% are obese. Both of these rates are higher among lower income and less educated populations. Don't shoot me for saying this; I'm just the messenger (you can look up the data to confirm this). Typical hospital orderlies and low level kitchen staff meet this definition of low income, low education so the rates of smoking among them should be higher.

                                  1. re: taos

                                    Many years ago I taught a health class in my HS. When I did the smoking unit, the smokers all knew everything. When I gave the smoking exam, all the smokers got in the 90's. All the failing grades were with the non-smokers.

                                    1. re: taos

                                      But in my post, I was talking about doctors, RNs, and respiratory therapists smoking - all people that most would consider educated.

                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                        I was just pointing out that knowledge of the dangers, in itself, doesn't seem to stop anybody from doing it.

                                3. A BBC article from a couple of years ago highlights the fact that chefs (at least in Britain) are not just heavy smokers, they have more unhealthy habits than people in any other profession.


                                  1. A friend of mine, a chef at an extremely upscale restaurant chain-smokes and loves it. I'll match his cooking-tasting abilities with any non-smoker.

                                    1. There is little doubt that chornic exposure to nicotine will have an effect on your taste. Alkaloids, like nicotine, are known to bind to a range of receptors inlcude those in taste buds. There are several animal studies focusing on it and even though it would be necessary to do clinical studies to really evaluate the effects on humans those data are a good indication and people who believe that they can smoke and it has no effect on their taste are fooling themselves:


                                      16 Replies
                                      1. re: honkman

                                        Here's the thing about smoking and taste:

                                        It does indeed affect one's sense of taste and smell. The extent to which it affects those senses is often overstated by people who've never smoked, but that's not to say there's no dulling effect at all. Best I can tell, those changes occur at the level of nerve endings in the mouth and nasal passages.

                                        BUT... taste and smell do not only happen at the level of one's mouth and nose. Your brain and previous exposure to different tastes and smells plays a major role in how you actually experience a flavor. Not only in terms of whether you recognize it but in the level of detail and nuance you perceive.

                                        Chefs, especially those that have been in the business for a long time, generally have very well trained palates (of course, it is actually their brains that are well trained). So put an experienced chef who smokes a pack a day in a Top Chef-style blind tasting test against your average smoke-free non-chef and the smoker chef will reliably win. Having a well trained palate can make up for a lot.

                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                          What you describe is not tasting/smelling but in some ways using "tasting/smelling memory" to compensate for the decreased tasting abilities due to smoking. But it doesn't help to have a "true" better tasting ability. There is no way around that even the best trained chef will lose significant taste levels if he/she smokes regular - a blocked/damaged receptor is blocked/damaged receptor - you can't cheat nature (they might be able to wing it due to experience)

                                          1. re: honkman

                                            And most chefs don't train their palates, and then start smoking. They learn to compensate for their altered taste throughout their careers I think, by trial and error, with respect to what is "properly seasoned" according to customer feedback and mentorship. Doesn't mean their tastebuds are working or that their brains are compensating for altered taste/smell, just that they are compensating for a "deficiency" for lack of a better word...no different that a color blind fashion designer (and they are out there)

                                            1. re: honkman

                                              "What you describe is not tasting/smelling but in some ways using "tasting/smelling memory" to compensate for the decreased tasting abilities due to smoking."
                                              Nope. What I describe is in fact tasting and smelling. Your brain isn't an accessory to the sense; it is an integral part of the the way the sense works. We traditionally think of our senses as being functions only of our sensory organs, but science does not bear this out.

                                              You can think of your senses as a recording studio. Talking about flavor and smell in terms of your mouth and nose only is like thinking that a recording's quality is a function only of the microphone and not of the software and the recording medium. If you buy an expensive microphone and plug it into a $5 tape recorder, you're not necessarily going to get a high-quality recording.

                                              If you're interested, the Fat Duck Cookbook has several very good articles near its appendix about the complicated ways we actually experience and process tastes.

                                              Anyway, I'm not saying that smoking does not dull one's 'microphone.' I'm just saying that there's a lot more to those senses than just one's nose and mouth.

                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                Your brain may be an integral part of taste but the fact remains that if your tastebuds are indeed damaged or affected in some way, you may not be able to taste regardless of how much your brain or experience tells you what you should be able to do.
                                                Consider the traditional taste test using phenylthiocarbamide. One can either taste this or not and your genetics will determine your ability to taste this compound. The foundation of taste is in your mouth as in tastebuds. Other senses add to the overall experience: rest is habituation and learning, which is what I'm saying. The foundation is altered in a smoker: the resulting dish is a result of memory/accommodation for the alteration and learning what would taste "right" to a consumer based on experience and mentorship of the "appropriate taste". Which is kind of what you are saying, no?

                                                1. re: freia

                                                  totally disagree. smokers can taste food, they aren't cobbling together a memory of what food tasted like, or a "learned response" of what food is supposed to taste like. that's absurd-- if smokers could not taste food, virtually nobody would smoke at all, smokers wouldn't spend money on food they can't really taste/enjoy....

                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                    I'm not saying they can't taste food at all. I'm saying their ability to taste fully may be altered. I used the example above to illustrate the point that a tastebud's ability to taste a compound is essential to the tasting process. If the sense of taste is altered as it is with smokers, other factors become more pronounced. Just as they do for colorblind fashion designers who can't distinguish certain colors but still knock it out of the park every day. Sigh.

                                                    1. re: freia

                                                      i see what you're saying, but i think it would take a lifetime of very heavy smoking to have these effects, and we know that people's tastes are affected by the aging process, anyway. mostly i am disagreeing with your "color blind" analogy--smokers don't have an inherent deficiency in their palate as a result of their habit-- for all we may surmise, they may be better off than the folks who constantly wear very heavy perfumes.

                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                        If you look into research about nicotine (and slso other components of cigarettes) you will see that it doesn't take a lifetime to have significant effects but rather short times to do damage, e.g. lung cancer, taste receptors etc)

                                                    2. re: soupkitten

                                                      Nobody said that they can't taste food anymore just that their receptors are damaged enough that they are not even close to tasting food like they did when they didn't smoke. And I also disagree with cowboyardee that all these other parts of a smelling/tasting sensation can make up to damaged receptors. (I agree that tasting is very complex and far beyond just receptors but a very first and integral part are the recpetors and if they are damaged you will have a significantly impaired taste function.

                                                      1. re: honkman

                                                        i don't think "significantly impaired taste function" is what you (necessarily) get, at all. the conclusion that it's such a night and day difference is contrary to experiential data and common sense. by that logic smokers and nonsmokers shouldn't be able to enjoy the same family meal, there should be "smoking" and "non smoking" sections/dishes on menus and chowhounds should base their restaurant recs on whether the kitchen staff smoke, or not. there certainly shouldn't be (past or present) any chefs or sommeliers who smoke-- but clearly there are, and many of them can describe flavor minutiae in more detail than you or i.

                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                          Not at all. What I'm saying is that one's functions, if impaired gradually, are adjusted for with respect to the impairment. What I'm saying is that if you can't taste salt very well, and you season food, you'll probably oversalt it. In which case it is returned to the kitchen or never makes it out the door. The second time you season, you can barely taste it, but the head chef or patrons say it is perfectly seasoned. You recall that a moderate pinch of salt (you recall the amount, its easy to do) gave that faint taste of salt to YOUR palate, which is perfectly seasoned according to the head chef and/or patrons, so that's what you do.
                                                          Its adjusting for a lack of sensation which is a well known side effect of smoking. I know my dad, after he stopped smoking (was a smoker for 20 years) noted that he could suddenly TASTE food, and he had forgotten how good orange juice was. I suspect those smoking chefs, when they stop, might have a similar experience.
                                                          Sometimes I wonder if the correlation between weight gain and ceasing smoking is due more to a regained accuity of taste sensation and less to the substitution of one habit for another.

                                                          1. re: freia

                                                            But how does that apply to smoking chefs at the top level using different and new flavour combinations? Am I to believe that they simply run into them by blind luck and can't judge whether or not their flavours work without the opinions of others? I don't smoke myself but I know chefs and cooks who've quit and I haven't heard them proclaim such a dramatic difference in the way things taste nor cook that much differently than before.

                                                            1. re: freia

                                                              I really can't imagine that there are smoker-chefs out there, who when seasoning a dish, compensate for their "damaged" taste buds by adding less salt to satisfy their non-smoking patrons. They are chefs. They serve what tastes good to them.

                                                              And you have made a few comments regarding feedback from mentors or head chefs having an affect on making sure that even a smoker-chef can put out a dish without over-seasoning it. But, since "so many" chefs smoke, wouldn't it stand to reason that a mentor would also have these "dulled" taste buds?

                                                              If many chefs are smokers, and many chefs cook great food, then I guess smoking doesn't actually "kill" the sense of taste. It seems pretty straightforward to me.

                                                              1. re: Justpaula

                                                                Well a chef does not necessarily makes food that tastes good to them. I don't know a single chef that likes everything on the menu. A chef learns what a dish is suppose to taste like and creates it the same every time. Consistency makes are breaks a restaurant. If this was the case you would only have patrons that liked everything that you liked and if the chef did not like Beef it would not be on the menu. He is not going to make many happy customers not having steak.

                                                                Being a good chef is making food that is suppose to taste a certain way taste like it every time he makes it and more importantly it has to taste good to the general clientele

                                                      2. re: freia

                                                        I never disagreed that smoking damages one's smell and taste receptors. My points were:

                                                        1: They're not quite as damaged as many never-smokers in this thread seem to think. Reading this thread, one might believe that smokers can't taste anything at all. The difference is more subtle than that. A chef who smokes isn't 'guessing' what would taste good to a non-smoker. He or she can still tell the difference, and with a few exceptions, the same things taste good to both smokers and non.

                                                        2: In the case of chefs, specifically, having a trained palate makes for better acuity of taste and smell (they've upgraded their brains' mixing board, so to speak). For chefs who don't smoke, this just means better taste acuity. For chefs that do smoke, this means that their sense of taste and smell isn't as bad as non-smoking non-chefs assume it is.

                                                        Your example of certain bitter compounds that some people taste and some don't is accurate. But it still only applies to part of the taste apparatus. What I wrote above still applies.

                                                        You're almost there. BUT, it seems you're not fully taking me at my meaning. The nerve endings in your mouth and nose are NOT the foundation: they're merely part of the apparatus of taste. Likewise, your other senses are not merely adjunct to your mouth and nose while while eating; they literally can change the way food tastes. And similarly, your prior experiences (taste memories, associations, degree of recognition; i.e. the degree to which your palate is trained) literally change the way food tastes.

                                              2. how does a smoking chef adjust the food for his own tastebuds? Surely non smoking diners would find it too salty, spicy, herby and so on? Clearly this is not true.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: smartie

                                                  I think you'll see some theories discussed if you read upthread that would answer this question.

                                                2. I am a chef (at least I used to be) Long hours and low pay drove me out.. I still cook alot. I moved on to Th IT field and Have trippled my pay from working in the kitchen. I will one day get back but as a owner/chef.

                                                  I have strong opinions on what a restaurant's responsibilities are to their customers.

                                                  SO many ingredients these days are chosen for other reasons other than taste and healthfulness. So may time ingredients are chose by cost and longevity of shelf life. I would never used ingredients that were unhealthy or unnatural.

                                                  SALT. The most overused flavor enhancer used in kitchens. What separates superstar chefs from runofthe mill chefs is the ability to cook without it. There is not too many out there that can.

                                                  Smokers 100% of the cooks that worked under me that smoked when asked what something needed for flavor adjustment said you guessed it SALT. And When I asked them what to adjust it with if they did not have salt, No response.

                                                  I have an ability and some others I have met have the same ability, I never met one who had this ability and was a smoker. The ability is to taste something and to reproduce it.

                                                  My opinions in restaurants, not saying it is possible but this is my vision.

                                                  Cook with 100% nonGMO ingredients
                                                  Use no ingredients that contain any SOY of any kind
                                                  Use no Ingredients that Contain Canola (rapeseed oil)
                                                  Have no Employees that Smoke

                                                  Make a profit off the Restaurant (the hardest part)

                                                  This restaurant does not exist. If it does and you know about it let me know I would love to visit it. Contact me at livelifemsav@aol.com

                                                  19 Replies
                                                  1. re: livelifemsav

                                                    Interesting that you have a down on rapeseed oil. Where I am in the world "extra virgin" rapeseed oil is promoted as a premium product with a premium price to match.

                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                      Rapeseed was used for an industrial lubricant. The have Modified it to be less bitter by removing erucic acid. They fed rapeseed to cows and has been link to Mad cow Disease.
                                                      The Manitoba Government Paid the FDA Millions to put Canola Oil On the Not known to be hazardous list so they could sell it in the USA. All of this is Enough for me to remove it from my Diet. I would rather use Peanut oil or other healthy oils. I am Against genetically modified foods.

                                                    2. re: livelifemsav

                                                      "Use no ingredients that contain any SOY of any kind" = What's wrong with tofu ?

                                                      1. re: honkman

                                                        I am not against NON-gmo Soy IN the whole form. I do believe that soy broken down into sub ingredients is too heavily used. soy in the whole form is fine cause you are not going to eat 20 lbs of soybeans in a day. The photo estrogen are also refined with these sub ingredients. Look at the ingredients in processed and convenience foods. It is in everything. It is not unheard of for an average person to eat 20 to 50 lbs of soybeans sub ingredients in a day This includes the Photo estrogens. These photo estrogens lead to all kinds of health problems in Males and females.

                                                        My point is if you are eating whole soybean.( includes products that include the whole soybean(nothing removed)) you will have to eat a whole lot of them before you ingest enough Photo estrogens to reach unsafe levels

                                                        1. re: livelifemsav

                                                          sorry to seek some clarification-- i hope you are aware it is impossible for "average persons" to consume 20-50 pounds of *anything* per day... do you perhaps mean to say that people can consume 20-50 *grams* containing soy-based ingredients per day... or maybe you meant to say 20-50 pounds of soy per person per YEAR? ....the error does not help your argument in any case, but it is funny! maybe very understandable, if there is a bit of language/translation issue, i am sure i don't know....

                                                          also, i believe you mean to refer to phytoestrogens (one word), not "photo estrogens." i personally know what you meant, but not everyone would be able to refer to a correct reference using the other term, and certainly it would be outside of the searches.

                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                            Yes plagued by auto correct and was writing too hastily yo proof read.

                                                            I was not saying that anyone would eat 20-25 pounds. Some of the soy sub ingredients require 20-25 lbs of soybeans to create a few ounces,. And those Phytoestrogens are concentrated as well. so eating 1 ounce of said sub ingredient equates to eating 20-25 pounds of soybeans that nobody would ever do. This is just an example. to clarify what I was trying to say.

                                                      2. re: livelifemsav

                                                        So you are saying that to be a superstar chef you have to be able to cook without salt? What's wrong with cooking with salt?

                                                        1. re: dmjordan

                                                          No, Not really.

                                                          What I am saying is there are some many other Healthy thing you and put in food instead of salt to make food palatable. Salt is overused and is used as a crutch my many chefs to make food palatable. It requires much more talent to make delicious food without added salt.

                                                          I know people who eat a lot of salt that the first thing they do is reach for the salt (before even tasting their food)

                                                          I have within the past year reduced my sodium and sugar lever by 90% The food and beverage I used to love both salty and sweet are now sickly sweet and overly salty. We as a Nation are addicted to salt and sweet not to mention fat. The problem is as with all addicts we overindulge more and more each time, this brings us to an unhealthy lifestyle.

                                                          Most cooks use these 3 major crutches(fat, salt, sweet) to stimulate their patrons endorphins. However that is all that is stimulated as the 3 crutches are used in such high concentration that the overwhelm any other ingredient in the dish.

                                                          1. re: livelifemsav

                                                            For most chefs who use salt liberally, it's not a crutch - that implies chefs use it in place of other flavorings, whereas any decent chef tries to build flavor on many levels. Instead, it's just the way to most effectively keep one's customers happy. How much salt tastes right in a dish is most closely related to how much salt one normally eats, and there are a lot more people who eat salt with abandon than there are people who severely restrict salt. If a chef were to cut back on salt across the board, no matter how skillful they are with their other ingredients and their cooking, they would still be putting themselves at a disadvantage when cooking for people who eat a lot of salt.

                                                            Likewise, I don't find salt, sugar, or (with some exceptions) fat to overwhelm other flavors. Salt especially seems to amplify other flavors. I've read of experiments where people chewed mint gum for a while until the mint flavor was minimal, and then tasted a little bit more sugar - the perceived flavor of the mint increased, even though no more mint flavoring was added. IME as a cook, and also from my reading, the perception of aromatic 'flavors' are actually increased by the presence of flavors that your mouth alone is sensitive to (sweet, sour, bitter, umami, fatty, and especially salty)

                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                              I agree. My point is that most people who eat a high salt, fat, sugar diet have a flavor palate that only tastes those things. Not that a the other flavors are not there That is all they taste. and by lowering the amount of fat, salt, sugar would appear to that person as a food being bland.

                                                              We are not helping these people by giving them what they want we are contributing to their deficient palate.

                                                              What I was trying to say is We as chefs have a responsibility to create healthy flavorful foods. That is the difficult part. getting enough people to appreciate the other flavors out there and perhaps make them a bit healthier along the way.

                                                              1. re: livelifemsav

                                                                I still think it's a little more complicated than that. There are indeed people with poor palates who eat a lot of fat, salt, and sugar. Then there are people with good palates who eat a lot of these things. And there are people who like a lot of salt but not much sugar, etc. Tom Colicchio, for instance, has admitted a preference for heavy salting, and extrapolating from his comments while judging cooking competitions, I doubt his palate is sub-par. Many exceptions apply for individuals.

                                                                Exceptions aside, is there an overall association between preference for high sugar, salt and fat with greater tendency towards poor or mediocre palate? I'm not sure, but it sounds plausible enough for a hypothesis. But even if I grant you that, you've got a chicken-and-egg type problem in your argument: Do people have poor palates because they've grown used to salt, sugar and fat providing the main flavors (or maybe because these things have dulled their sense)? Or do people who just happen to have mediocre palates naturally gravitate toward salty, sweet, and fatty foods? And if it's more that latter case, does pushing more subtle, arguably healthier, and more complex foods actually do anything to increase the appreciation of said foods, or are chefs who deliberately limit flavors that their customers prefer simply banging their heads against the wall?

                                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                  I agree. I could argue both sides.

                                                                  The reason most people who enjoy food eat is to trigger endorphins in the brain. This is where addictions come in. I was not saying that a single person craves all 3 bit i am sure there are some that do. I am saying pick your poison. I am not really saying people that crave these things have mediocre palates. I am saying that people with mediocre palates gravitate toward their vices.

                                                                  I am not saying a chef that gives people what they crave is any more superior than one that gives people a new flavor experience. I talking about My opinion that Chefs should incorporate some items on their menu that does not contain heavy salt, fat or sugar. And don't get me started on portion size. That has become an epidemic in the USA based on the illusion of value.
                                                                  That being said I have enjoyed are light debate and you have made me think a little more in new light. I am morphing my opinions a little more with each read.

                                                            2. re: livelifemsav

                                                              "What I am saying is there are some many other Healthy thing you and put in food instead of salt to make food palatable"

                                                              Salt is not unhealthy for most people, many have just been brainwashed into thinking it is the boogieman, much like MSG.

                                                            3. re: dmjordan

                                                              Salt should only be used in small quantities and is a flavor enhancer. If you are using salt to gain flavor you are using it incorrectly.

                                                              And superstar chef is not a title worth anything. it is a media title. It means very little to me as a gauge of a persons skill in the kitchen.

                                                              1. re: livelifemsav

                                                                You contradict yourself; first you say that salt is a flavor enhancer, then you say that if you use salt to gain flavor you are using it incorrectly - !

                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                  yep I misspoke err mistyped. . salt is in fact a flavor enhancer. Or at least that is how it is suppose to be used. when abused it is used to create flavors that just are not there.

                                                            4. re: livelifemsav

                                                              This + no gluten would be a dream come true.

                                                              1. re: chefathome

                                                                I understand that some people cannot handle Gluten in Foods. I know that Gluten is also pushing the envelope as an ingredient that is used in shortcuts in food processing plants to obtain a desired texture. Since I would not be using any Processed foods in my big restaurant plan I would be eliminating 90% of unnecessary gluten.

                                                                However, I understand that some people have zero tolerance for gluten in their diet.

                                                            5. I can tell you this....of the restaurant industry as a whole I would say 70% of the industry smokes. I myself having owned several restaurants/bars over the years have started and stopped smoking probably a dozen times over the years. I assume it's a stress related hobby.........but I would say it has the highest rate of smokers than any other profession.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                That's my experience, as well. I know a lot of people in the food service industry, ranging from owners to dishwashers, and the wide majority of them smoke. Based on nothing but personal experience, it seems to me that cooks are more likely to smoke than anyone else, followed closely by servers.

                                                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                  "I assume it's a stress related hobby..." - You have stress in most jobs and I might argue that there are many jobs where you will have significantly more stress than in the restaurant industry.

                                                                  1. re: honkman

                                                                    I going to venture, the most smoking I've seen is a tie between the restaurant industry, and hospitals/nursing homes, believe it or not. At least people in the health field should know better.

                                                                  2. re: jrvedivici

                                                                    I understand the stress in the business. I worked in the industry up to sous chef. It was an unhealthy stress level for me. I got out of it.

                                                                    However I don't care how good the food is, if the server come to the table smelling like smoke, I will loos my appetite and never come back. I am really sensitive. If someone spends 5 mins in an elevator with a smoker and then comes by me I can smell it on them.

                                                                    This also goes for people who use way too much perfume. I can't take it even if I enjoy the fragrance. too much is too much.

                                                                  3. I predict that in time, smoking in the food service industry will become a thing of the past, or nearly so. There is less smoking by each successive generation of the American public, thanks to education, peer pressure, and price. When I started working as a letter carrier, nearly 30 years ago, smoking was permitted, and common, inside the building. Considering how much paper is being moved by clerks and carriers, it's absurd that this was ever allowed. Then it was banned from the interior of post offices and other mail facilities. After several years, largely because of the productivity lost through cigarette breaks, it was banned entirely. By the time that happened, most of the smokers who worked there when I started had reached retirement age, and there were not many smokers in the younger workforce that succeeded them.

                                                                    1. The most interesting thing about this thread is that it highlights a very common myth about what makes a cook good or great. Namely that a good cook is a cook who has a very fine sense of taste and smell.

                                                                      The appeal of this kind of thinking is obvious - it's kind of romantic; the differences between a decent vs good vs great cook aren't necessarily obvious to laymen (the difference is subjective in the first place and often boils down to nothing more than the thought process behind their skillful cooking/branding/imaging IMO); and good cooks can often seem to have highly discriminating palates due to a combination of familiarity with ingredients (or having a 'trained' palate, which in effect does actually improve one's acuity of taste) and no small amount of BS in the food press.

                                                                      But the truth is that attributing a cook's skill to his sense of taste or smell is much like attributing a painter's skill to his genetically gifted eyesight or a musician's skill to her inborn acute sense of hearing. True, in any of the three cases, it is unlikely that the corresponding sense is absent or so badly damaged as to be nearly absent (though even then, remember Beethoven), but what really makes a cook or a painter or a musician skilled is knowing how to cook, paint, or make music.

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee


                                                                        I have worked with cooks/chefs with great palates and others who just cook 'by rote'. The latter have memorized how particular dishes or components are made by making them over and over under the eye of someone with more skill or experience. I worked in a hotel with a woman who had been working there for years and years. She could make all the soups the hotel offered regularly, very, very well, but give her something not on the list or change the quantity needed significantly and she was lost. But people like her, who slog it out unrecognized, are very necessary in the business (just made me think of a guy Mr S worked with at another hotel. All the guy did all day was slice meats and cheeses. Not glamorous, but necessary). Not everyone can be (or wants to be) a superstar.

                                                                        1. re: Sooeygun

                                                                          The problem with this style of cooking is you can never count on any fresh ingredients having the same quality and same flavor profile. These people while extremely necessary in the kitchen and can follow a recipe written or non-written. could not do the necessary adjustments to make the recipe consistent when dealing with ingredients that are not consistent.

                                                                          A really great Chef can create a consistent product with inconsistent Ingredients.

                                                                          1. re: livelifemsav

                                                                            "A really great Chef can create a consistent product with inconsistent Ingredients."

                                                                            I suspect this isnt actually true, much as one might hope it would be. The Michelin starred chefs who I have met and/or particularly respect for their cooking go to great lengths to ensure consistency of supply.

                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                              The reason so few are consistently spectacular is because it's hard to do.

                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                I suspect it's a little bit of both. A great gymnast on a balance beam doesn't lose her balance as often as a mere mortal would. But said great gymnast is also better at keeping from falling off the beam when she does lose her balance.

                                                                                Good cooks both understand the importance of great ingredients and also are better able to hide the deficiencies of subpar ingredients.

                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                  Don't get me wrong consistent ingredients make a chefs job a whole lot easier. But when natures involved it is impossible to get consistent ingredients. and it is a lot easier to source those ingredients than make adjustment. That being said there are time where no amount of adjustments can me made and an item then needs to be removed from the menu. Sources ingredients from other countries brings its own inconsistencies. Now I am not talking about quality of ingredients I am talking about inconsistencies that are effected by weather and countries of origin.

                                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                                    and if something sub-standard is delivered to the kitchen, it gets sent right back.

                                                                            2. In all the industries I've worked in - hospitality is where I've encountered the most smokers. I'm an on/off smoker (currently on - sad to say it's my go to crutch for stressful times) and I've noticed a huge difference in my sense of smell and taste for periods where I am smoking compared to when I don't. I wouldn't say my sense of taste/smell is that bad when I smoking as to overseason, but I taste things so much more intensely when I've laid off the cigarettes for a few weeks/months.

                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                              1. re: feggy

                                                                                @feggy, that's one of the reasons people tend to gain weight when they quit smoking. Not only are you compensating fro that hand to mouth thing going on with food, but the food tastes better when you're sitting down to a meal, so you tend to eat more

                                                                                1. re: cgarner

                                                                                  That's why there's so few overweight smokers. Food doesn't taste as good to them so they don't eat much.

                                                                                  1. re: FrankJBN

                                                                                    Actually, smoking really speeds up your metabolism. So when you quit, your metabolism slows down significantly.

                                                                                    And your craving for nicotine turns into craving food.

                                                                                    1. re: FrankJBN

                                                                                      i know more overweight smokers than i do thin ones, especially since more than 2/3 of americans are fat.

                                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                        I'm an exception too (and not an American, although the UK is the fattest country in Europe) - I lost 100lbs in 2010 and didn't smoke late 2009 - early 2012. Well aware I am an exception to the rule though!

                                                                                        1. re: feggy

                                                                                          We (and the media) love single-bullet theories. Cigarettes, type of food, amount of food, psychological factors, age, hormonal issues, and other environmental factors (such as prescription drug side effects) are just a few of the many factors involved in weight gain and obesity.

                                                                                2. The late Don Jose Ignacio Domecq, who died in 1997, known as 'El Nariz' (The Nose) for his amazing sense of smell, was the acknowledged king of sherry tasters and a smoker.

                                                                                  If only he hadn't smoked, huh?

                                                                                  1. as you age, your sense of smell and taste diminish... does that mean that older Chefs are no longer able to properly season because of the diminished senses?

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: cgarner

                                                                                      there may be some truth to this. But everyone is different.

                                                                                      some may be affected some may not. as you age cells do not reproduce as fast or at all. so it would make sense that some of your taste buds would change.

                                                                                      I have not really thought about that. let me think on that far a while and ask my GF who works at the VA to pose some questions.

                                                                                      I guess it would depend on the chefs ability to establish a baseline (calibration) and be able to adjust what food used to taste like and what it tastes like now.

                                                                                      Now That I think about it . didn't your taste buds as a child change from when you you became an adult. Would't it make sense that they would continue to change as you get older.

                                                                                      Food for Thought (pardon the Pun)

                                                                                      1. re: livelifemsav

                                                                                        I have never so much as touched a cigarette or any form of tobacco, but my palate is very different now than when I started cooking 40-odd years ago. I think it is more sensitive than it once was. I cut way back on salt 3 decades ago, and though I've always had a sweet tooth, I now prefer less sweetness than when I was younger, and enjoy sweet-and-sour more than I once did. I have taken prescription meds for 15 yrs. Depending on the medication, that can affect one's taste buds. I have no idea if they do or don't, in my case. I think the memory of what food once tasted like is unreliable. We can't be sure we remember accurately, and in terms of prepared purchased items, we have no idea if the ingredients have changed (most likely yes). If you are 60, you probably loved Hostess cupcakes as a child. If you tasted one now, you'd be disappointed. There's no way to conclusively prove why.

                                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                                          Depending on the medication, that can affect one's taste buds.
                                                                                          greygarious, this is so accurate! my husband can't enjoy many beers that he used to drink anymore becuase they taste either 'off' or just plain sweet to him now because of medications that he takes

                                                                                    2. I get so turned off when I find out a chef smokes "cigarettes"...is it just me?

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: vonalsburg

                                                                                        When you write "cigarettes," do the quotes mean you're referring to something other than cigarettes? If so, what?

                                                                                        1. re: vonalsburg

                                                                                          Personally, I couldn't care less if a chef smokes. I only care about one thing - is his or her food good? I do acknowledge and accept that some people are so turned off by smoking that it influences how they react to people who do.

                                                                                          But still, it seems to me that we frequent a restaurant for the food. Just as we choose our friends for common interests and their personalities. For me, smoking doesn't rank as any worse than biting fingernails. If they tortured puppies, that would be a deal-breaker.