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Jun 17, 2012 04:36 AM

A Chef Said

Was at a BBQ a few weeks ago and one of the guests was a chef that owns three restaurants in NYC. Someone asked him what his favorite things to eat are and he quickly replied "anything anyone else is cooking and a Big Mac." I laughed and I said "a Big Mac?" He said "yep, I know everything that goes into it and the sauce and I still can't make it as good." Had to be the weirdest thing I've ever heard. I personally think Big Macs are disgusting, but was shocked to hear someone, who I believed to have a discerning palette, praise it.

I know we all have our odd guilty pleasure, but I can't imagine having the luxury of being a chef and settling for a Big Mac.

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  1. I have heard that James Beard himself loved McDonald's fries. . . . though of course these were the McDonald's fries of decades ago, when they were still fried in tallow.

    1. The above is true of my sainted Julia Child too, re: the tallow-fried French Fries of yore.
      I'm sure you must mean, "the luxury of having all those ingredients to choose from" as opposed to "the luxury of being a chef," because believe you me, girl, there is nothing luxurious about this job. Re food: we're lucky to get a bite of family meal pre-shift, and during service there's no way in hell anything's going down the hatch because there's no time. 8-15 hours of nothing but turning out food, expediting, ordering, and filling in on weak spots on the line create a rabid desire to go home directly after the House is closed for the evening....maybe sometimes we'll stop at a bar, or grab something in a restaurant that's still open, but more often than not, who wants to put a hitch in the "getting home" part of the evening? The drive thru seems like a great option, and sometimes there's nothing like a delicious grotty Big Mac to fill the bill. I'm sure if I was working at McDonald's I'd share your aversion after awhile, but after I've spent the evening making upscale foodstuffs for other people, it's the last thing I want, and fast food tastes pretty darn good.

      8 Replies
      1. re: mamachef

        What I meant by luxury, was more about ability, not commenting on the amount of work. I am far from a cook by any means, but there is something about making a really good meal at home that completely trumps anything I can get out. I can't imagine having access to good food and settling for a Big Mac. A Whopper maybe, but not a Big Mac, hahah

        1. re: jhopp217

          Well, I have to agree with you about the quality and flavor of a home-cooked meal trumping anything you could get at a fast food temple. I guess my response was predicated on the actuality of being a chef and hating everything about the place at the end of your shift and being desperate to get home but needing to fill the growl-spot so you can get to sleep, and in that instance, nothing in the world tastes finer than a fast-food burger, preferably one with secret sauce or onion rings, made by someone, ANYONE else. Even a 'bot.
          And the fact is, when you're faced with top- of- the- line, best-quality ingredients all the livelong day, even they get to looking tedious, and the things that can be made from them, especially the things already being made in the restaurant, are the last thing in the world you want to look at. Granted, on a slow night, it can be really fun to put together a meal for the line during a lull, and the availability of choice ingredients can, yes, inspire the imagination, but those times are rare, and sometimes imagination is lacking due to burnout or other assorted restaurant-work-related maladies.

          1. re: mamachef

            I definitely understand what you are saying. I am very friendly with a group of people who work in a restaurant and they all go to Dunkin Donuts across the street to get coffee instead of drinking the coffee there. They all eat there, so it's not because of any reason other than just wanting something that isn't from work.

            1. re: jhopp217

              Dunkin' Donuts makes some pretty good coffee.

            2. re: mamachef

              Even if you don't hate the job, if you get off late and sweaty sometimes there are just no other options than fast food. Irony, oh irony...

              1. re: babette feasts

                I've never hated my job entire - I wouldn't have stayed if I had. I was speaking about the distaste for the environment post-shift. It's transitory - by the next day, after a shower and sleep, I love it again.

                1. re: mamachef

                  i had a roomate for a while who was a cook, when we would have a night off i would cook and ask him what he wanted, invariably the answer would come back something like:

                  " can we have a piece of roast meat and baked potatoes? if you serve me something with cilantro on it, i will have to kill you"

                  it took me a while not tobe bummed out by this.

              2. re: mamachef

                No, what jhopp actually said was:
                "...but there is something about making a really good meal at home that completely trumps anything I can get out."
                This would cover the situation of jhopp's home-cooked meal being better than anything he/she could get at Per Se or French Laundry or Alinea or Masa or Koi Palace, for example. He/she must be the best chef in the USA.

          2. I don't find that remark by a chef is at all surprising. Most people think that just because a chef cooks with Perigord truffles and foie gras at work all day/night that he cooks with the same ingredients at home. RARELY the case! Not only that, after you've cooked and smelled something all day, how much do you want to eat it that night? If you're the cook in your family, how great does Thanksgiving dinner taste to you when you sit down with the family? MY Thanksgiving dinner is a turkey sandwich at 11:00pm. By then, the turkey tastes great. Works in restaurant kitchens too.

            The other thing that people rarely consider is that it doesn't matter whether you're the chef owner of a four star restaurant or the owner of a McDonald's franchise, what you are worth on paper and what you are able to pay yourself (take home pay) can be worlds apart! In today's world, most "chefs" and professional cooks feel they have to go to culinary school to be taken seriously within their career field. That means they usually take on their first job heavily in debt. Have you ever watched "Chopped," and listened to what those professional chefs talk about what winning ten thousand dollars will mean to them? Have you paid attention when some of the "cheftestants" on Top Chef disclose their annual income? And Top Chef contestants are all full professionals that are newly garnering national attention. There is lots of satisfaction in becoming a chef, but becoming a chef is no guarantee of a landing a prize ticket on the Gravy Train!

            Bottom line is that for some well recognized chefs today, a Big Mac just may well be the kind of "luxury" food they can afford. That, and most people's favorite foods are tied to happy times in their lives. The food itself is a Pavlovian (non-culinary Pavlov!) trip to feeling good.

            Yeah. I can believe a Big Mac does that for some chefs. Even lots of chefs, maybe. Not my personal choice, but hey, live and let live. And oh, yeah; I am NOT a chef! '-)

            1. Sometimes the body just craves a down and dirty meal. Variety is the spice of life. Maybe there is some kind of taste memory from his youth associated with the Big Mac that makes the chef want it. So many factors behind what we eat. I know after a vacation in Italy and eating at great restaurants for two weeks I can't wait to have a good old American fast food fix when I get home!

              3 Replies
              1. re: mangiare24

                Exactly. I cook amazing meals nightly for my family and friends. I use top of the line ingredients and appreciate really labor intensive food creation ( I make my own butter, mayo, crackers, etc). I also really work at food and wine pairing. My palate is discerning...but not narrow. I also love cheetos, crispy chicken sandwiches, and orange pop. I guess I don't see anything wrong or unusual with having a wide variety of choice and taste.

                1. re: sedimental

                  Like you, I cook a lot and it's labor-intensive cooking. It's a running joke that I always send pics of my meals to my one friend and she tells me that she hates me because all my food looks better than her's and I'm making her hungry.

                  Tonight, I was feeling supremely lazy. I sent her a pic of a hot dog and a big scoop of macaroni salad. Her response back was, "'re human, too!"

                2. re: mangiare24

                  Too true. I think if we're honest with ourselves, we all have some shamelessly naughty food (or should I say "food") that tugs at us in spite of our otherwise good palates. I like Burger King burgers over McD or almost any fast food burgers other than Whataburger, but I don't eat fast food burgers enough to be an expert. When I changed jobs and started taking call, and got called in in the middle of the night, when I finally got out I would have an overwhelming urge for a Twinkie. Or two, since that's how they're packaged. Fortunately the all-night markets always have them. Also, I've learned to field some of those late-night calls that aren't a real emergency.

                3. there is one McD's that makes the sauce right...
                  Ya hafta get out to the Big Mac Museum before you can say you don't like the sauce.