HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

A Chef Said

j
jhopp217 Jun 17, 2012 04:36 AM

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.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Rilke RE: jhopp217 Jun 17, 2012 05:00 AM

    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. mamachef RE: jhopp217 Jun 17, 2012 05:43 AM

      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
        j
        jhopp217 RE: mamachef Jun 17, 2012 06:11 AM

        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
          mamachef RE: jhopp217 Jun 17, 2012 06:34 AM

          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
            j
            jhopp217 RE: mamachef Jun 17, 2012 09:30 AM

            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
              John E. RE: jhopp217 Jul 14, 2012 06:36 AM

              Dunkin' Donuts makes some pretty good coffee.

            2. re: mamachef
              babette feasts RE: mamachef Jun 17, 2012 10:33 PM

              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
                mamachef RE: babette feasts Jun 18, 2012 12:11 AM

                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
                  h
                  hyde RE: mamachef Jul 9, 2012 06:15 PM

                  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
                huiray RE: mamachef Jul 8, 2012 01:58 PM

                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. Caroline1 RE: jhopp217 Jun 17, 2012 08:51 AM

            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. m
              mangiare24 RE: jhopp217 Jun 17, 2012 09:21 AM

              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
                s
                sedimental RE: mangiare24 Jun 17, 2012 09:28 AM

                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
                  j
                  Jackie007 RE: sedimental Jul 17, 2012 10:29 PM

                  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, "Aww....you're human, too!"

                2. re: mangiare24
                  EWSflash RE: mangiare24 Jun 17, 2012 07:47 PM

                  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. c
                  Chowrin RE: jhopp217 Jun 17, 2012 09:50 AM

                  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.

                  1. ipsedixit RE: jhopp217 Jun 17, 2012 12:16 PM

                    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.
                    __________________________

                    Really? Why?

                    Many a chefs -- notable and otherwise -- peg their favorite meals as an In N Out burger, or some other greasy fast-food concoction. (See link: http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes...

                    )

                    And when restaurants close up shop (many after midnight), you'll find chefs not at some other 5 star establishment or even cooking up their own meal, but at some hole-in-the-wall joint probably enjoying something you'd consider much too plebian.

                    And with all due respect, anyone who thinks a person who can enjoy a Big Mac does not have a "discerning palette [sic]" is either arrogant or ignorant, or both.

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: ipsedixit
                      j
                      jhopp217 RE: ipsedixit Jun 17, 2012 12:53 PM

                      I think you missed my point. I was surpised that he was so impressed by the Big Mac, not the fact that he would eat it in a pinch. He basically said he'd go out of his way for a Big Mac. And I'm sorry, in a pinch, yes we all settle, but I don't know too many people who are good cooks, let alone chefs, who will settle for a Big Mac.

                      And a greasy spoon or a burger joint are far different than a fast food joint. I know many people who call up my local burger joint as they are getting off work to make sure the kitchen is still open. They wouldn't be caught dead driving the same distance for a Big Mac.

                      1. re: jhopp217
                        ipsedixit RE: jhopp217 Jun 17, 2012 12:58 PM

                        No, I did not miss your point.

                        I understood you to mean that your chef friend would go out of his way for a Big Mac -- not that it was simply edible.

                        I stand by what I said.

                        I just think it's a bit insulting to suggest (even assume) that only those with untrained or unsophisticated palates will appreciate a Big Mac (or any other type of fast food). And I say this as a non-Big Mac fan (although I do appreciate other fast food items, esp. the Filet-O-Fish.)

                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          huiray RE: ipsedixit Jul 9, 2012 12:01 PM

                          I concur.

                          Ditto about the Filet-O-Fish. It is a thing of beauty.
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/725347
                          :-)

                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            s
                            staughton RE: ipsedixit Jul 11, 2012 06:14 AM

                            Well said. Some people view food as a competitive arena for one-upmanship, and will grab at anything in their attempt to come out the "winner". They ignore other aspects of eating, especially the emotional component that is built on memories and non-food associations. It's not always just about the finest ingredients and a recipe that's perfectly executed. If it were, then all the uptight, anal people who can afford to dine in the most expensive, impossible-to-get-a-reservation high-end restaurants would be having a LOT more fun--and those people gnawing on pigs' knuckles and Grandma's way-too-sweet macaroni salad at their family reunion wouldn't be so damn happy.

                            1. re: staughton
                              Caroline1 RE: staughton Jul 13, 2012 10:03 PM

                              I once read a short stort about a young wife who drove herself nuts trying recipe after recipe trying to find a way to make the great mashed potatoes her husband always talked about his mother making. Finally, they travelled "back home" so she could meet his mother. Turned out his mother made rather lumpy "non-gourmet" mashed potatoes that he related to the warm, lovingly prepared and shared meals of his only-child/single-mother childhood. Sometimes who you share a meal with is the best seasoning.

                              1. re: Caroline1
                                Mattkn RE: Caroline1 Jul 13, 2012 11:22 PM

                                Ohh Caroline, I can relate. My husband has always raved over his Mom's mac and cheese. Almost to the point of wax-poetic. Several years and 1400 miles of travel later, I finally got to taste/observe this highly desired recipe. My many attempts were good, delicious even, but just not the same as Moms. I anxiously hovered in the kitchen ready to take copious amounts of mental notes. Imagine my surprise when she busted out two boxes of save-a-lot mac and cheese from the kitchen cabinet. She proceeded to throw one "cheese" packet in the trash. Then she over boiled the noodles, added one packet of the "cheese" and added a half pound of hand chunked Kraft cheddar cheese. The Kraft part was important! She stirred like crazy but no amount of stirring could completely melt the cheese, but it sure as hell broke up the overcooked noodles.

                                It was hideous, HIDEOUS. I'm still biting my tongue five years later because I would never yuck my husband's yum, but C'MON!!!

                                1. re: Mattkn
                                  jmcarthur8 RE: Mattkn Jul 14, 2012 03:51 AM

                                  This one has major yuck creds. It's okay.

                          2. re: jhopp217
                            mamachef RE: jhopp217 Jun 17, 2012 01:35 PM

                            Oh, my. I get cravings all the time for garbage food, and nothing but the item in question will satisfy it. If I want cheap, crappy filling-station nachos w/ dayglo cheese and suspect pickled jalapenos, it won't be sated by my own homemade nachos with real cheese and home-canned peppers. Same with my hand-ground, hand-selected ground beef sirloin burger with heirloom tomatoes, homemade mayonnaise, and shredded romaine (and maybe home-jarred bread and butter pickles, for special...) - if what I want is a gray,cardboardy MickeyD's cheeseburger, with half-melted oil cheese, dehydrated onions, ketchup and limp dill pickles, mine is just not gonna do it.

                            1. re: mamachef
                              EWSflash RE: mamachef Jun 17, 2012 07:49 PM

                              You nailed it- nothing but the item in question will quell the craving. That's the key

                              1. re: mamachef
                                huiray RE: mamachef Jul 9, 2012 12:00 PM

                                I would hope that something like Southern Fried Chicken n three would not qualify as garbage food. :-)

                                1. re: mamachef
                                  j
                                  Jerseygirl111 RE: mamachef Jul 17, 2012 09:23 PM

                                  Half melted oil cheese.....mmmmm (insert Homer yummy sound here).

                                  Jerseygirl111

                              2. re: ipsedixit
                                j
                                jhopp217 RE: ipsedixit Jun 17, 2012 12:54 PM

                                And when I mean getting of of work, I mean from higher end restaurants

                                1. re: jhopp217
                                  ipsedixit RE: jhopp217 Jun 17, 2012 12:58 PM

                                  And, yes, so did I.

                                2. re: ipsedixit
                                  b
                                  bluex RE: ipsedixit Jun 17, 2012 01:30 PM

                                  Totally agree with ipsedixit. The idea that you would make a judgment about this chef's palate simply because he enjoys the occasional Big Mac (and, yes, goes out of his way to get them), is arrogant and/or ignorant.

                                  The things people love to eat often involve a lot more than skillful preparation and/or quality ingredients. Everyone has something odd that they love to eat, no matter how often they eat, or prepare, amazing food. It's personal and not something everyone is going to understand. Often these things are tied to good memories from our childhood that we subconsciously relate to the taste of the item.

                                  Kind of sounds like you're just so disgusted by Big Macs that you're not able to see this clearly.

                                  (Also, I haven't had a Big Mac since I was a child and I hardly ever eat fast food, since I live in San Francisco, where there is way too much good food, so I'm not a fast food defender or anything.)

                                  1. re: bluex
                                    e
                                    escondido123 RE: bluex Jun 17, 2012 01:42 PM

                                    Kraft dinner in the blue box. When I feel like that, which is maybe every month or two, my four cheese penne is not what I'm looking for. And I have to say if the chef lives in the US, he certainly wouldn't have to go "out of his way" to get a Big Mac.

                                    1. re: bluex
                                      l
                                      Lizard RE: bluex Jun 18, 2012 02:04 AM

                                      Also agreed with Ipsedixit. And questions if the occasional taste for fast food aside, why would one assume that a person, after a long day of cooking, would want to spend an evening painstakingly preparing a meal? And how could someone who works chef's hours even manage to keep a stocked home larder? let's not forget your friend's other favourite : anything someone else is cooking.

                                    2. re: ipsedixit
                                      ipsedixit RE: ipsedixit Jul 8, 2012 12:34 PM

                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8574...

                                    3. tommy RE: jhopp217 Jun 17, 2012 12:29 PM

                                      Sounds like this guy's palate isn't discerning.

                                      1. s
                                        Steve RE: jhopp217 Jun 17, 2012 03:43 PM

                                        Don't forget a Big Mac is cheap, quick, and readily available at all hours. I might crave one too if I were a chef.

                                        1. e
                                          escondido123 RE: jhopp217 Jun 17, 2012 08:41 PM

                                          About once a month I do some necessity shopping that takes me right next to a Rubio's. Always have just one fish taco and it is delightful. (Though if I wanted to go to the time and trouble I believe I could create one with a more tender tortilla....but I don't want to.)

                                          1. huiray RE: jhopp217 Jul 8, 2012 02:18 PM

                                            As others here have said, I don't find it odd. My understanding is that various chefs feel the same way, and many also seek out food - especially after work (or even during work) - that I sense you would be reluctant to let cross your lips. ;-)

                                            A few CH links...
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8549...
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/857470

                                            Then there's also stuff like this...
                                            http://www.suntimes.com/lifestyles/31...

                                            1. Crockett67 RE: jhopp217 Jul 9, 2012 10:39 AM

                                              "anything anyone else is cooking"... always welcomed with me as well.

                                              1. Midlife RE: jhopp217 Jul 9, 2012 05:51 PM

                                                From what I recall...... Julia Child liked Big Macs too.

                                                Sometimes it just rubs me the wrong way to hear people denigrate a person for enjoying something that millions of people also like. Not EVERYTHING must be up to some abstract culinary standard to be enjoyed.

                                                This morning 1was telling my wife I'd seen a news story about our local county fair serving chocolate-covered bacon. She thought it sounded wonderful. Sounds 'iffy'.... but who knows.

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: Midlife
                                                  Will Owen RE: Midlife Jul 9, 2012 06:47 PM

                                                  In the course of her 90th birthday interview, Julia confessed that one thing she always had in her purse was a list of every In-N-Out between San Diego and Santa Barbara.

                                                  And she was never a chef. To the best of my knowledge, the only cooking she did for money was on those shows.

                                                  Oh, and the chocolate-covered bacon? It's silly expensive, but you gotta try it! Insanely good.

                                                  1. re: Will Owen
                                                    Midlife RE: Will Owen Jul 9, 2012 11:14 PM

                                                    Should have known she had better taste than McDonalds. ;o]

                                                    1. re: Will Owen
                                                      e
                                                      escondido123 RE: Will Owen Jul 11, 2012 09:14 AM

                                                      Julia Child was trained in France. She taught cooking in France. She cooked many thousands of dishes while writing her classic two volume "Mastering The Art of French Cooking." No, she never worked in a restaurant, but I certainly consider her a chef.

                                                      1. re: escondido123
                                                        g
                                                        GH1618 RE: escondido123 Jul 11, 2012 11:00 AM

                                                        She said herself that she was "neither French nor a chef."

                                                        1. re: GH1618
                                                          e
                                                          escondido123 RE: GH1618 Jul 11, 2012 11:21 AM

                                                          I know that she did, but I think that term no longer means only someone who is head of a kitchen restaurant. And I guess I just got irked by Will's statement that "the only cooking she did for money was on those shows." Sounded dismissive to me.

                                                          1. re: escondido123
                                                            Will Owen RE: escondido123 Jul 11, 2012 11:33 AM

                                                            "but I think that term no longer means only someone who is head of a kitchen restaurant." You may think that, but Julia very clearly didn't and I don't either. It's like referring to someone as a "General" who's never been in the military. And no, I was not being dismissive, not of St. Julia anyway; she was using essentially the same argument.

                                                            Julia considered herself a cook, and wore the mantle proudly, as well she should. There are cooks who are chefs, and chefs who prefer not to cook, but if the best cook on the planet does not run a professional kitchen, he or she is simply not a chef. Period.

                                                            1. re: Will Owen
                                                              e
                                                              escondido123 RE: Will Owen Jul 11, 2012 12:20 PM

                                                              Though I do notice that most dictionaries use "cook" as the secondary meaning for the word "chef" so I guess there are other opinions on the subject.

                                                              1. re: escondido123
                                                                g
                                                                GH1618 RE: escondido123 Jul 11, 2012 01:38 PM

                                                                Most ordinary dictionaries are merely descriptive of common speech, not authoritative, especially in the context of a profession. No one is obligated to dumb down his speech to conform to common misusage.

                                                                1. re: GH1618
                                                                  e
                                                                  escondido123 RE: GH1618 Jul 11, 2012 08:23 PM

                                                                  There have been many, many decades when women were not allowed to do the job that would give them the title "chef." Sorry I don't hold it in such high esteem as you do.

                                                  2. s
                                                    staughton RE: jhopp217 Jul 9, 2012 07:21 PM

                                                    I think I once worked for this chef. Is he a big guy named Eric with Cuban ancestry? I know I've heard that line before. I've worked at some high-end restaurants in SF and NYC and I've eaten incredible food on three continents, but, like your chef-friend, I will occasionally succumb to the Big Mac. I'll take McDonald's over those mid-priced chains like Appleby's/Chili's/Olive Garden/etc. any day. Like a cheese doodle or an Oreo, it is what it is. Maybe you just had to grow up eating it every few weeks/months over the years. I've gone years without it, but I can still enjoy it now and then. Especially when I'm hungover! For the past 5 years I've been cooking for my family, and I have to agree with his "anything anyone else is cooking" as well. You get really tired of your own cooking when you make dinner 6-7 times per week.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: staughton
                                                      k
                                                      KSlink RE: staughton Jul 10, 2012 01:06 AM

                                                      Sounds like all of us in the business are in agreement. While discussing what to have for dinner one night at work, my sous chef and I both agreed that we wanted "something that doesn't taste the way this kitchen smells!".....

                                                      1. re: KSlink
                                                        Caroline1 RE: KSlink Jul 13, 2012 10:20 PM

                                                        But I also believe that nearly all home cooks succumb to that same sort of ennui every Thanksgiving when they sit at the table with burned out taste buds and olfactory glands while everyone else raves about how good everything is. When I've just finished cooking any "feast" that has kept me in the kitchen tasting and seasoning for hours on end, there are two things I can do if I want something that "tastes good." One is to sneak into the kitchen for a quick PB&J. The other is to give my senses about three hours to come alive again. I suspect a Big Mac might work too.

                                                        1. re: Caroline1
                                                          jmcarthur8 RE: Caroline1 Jul 14, 2012 04:02 AM

                                                          That's the problem with cooking your own meals, Caroline! No flavor surprises. I love it when my sons cook, because I don't know what's going to come into my mouth when I sit down at the table. We who cook for and serve others don't realize what a gift we are providing to our family and/ or guests.

                                                          1. re: Caroline1
                                                            k
                                                            KSlink RE: Caroline1 Jul 14, 2012 07:26 AM

                                                            Truth be told, one of my favorite go to post work "meals" was a nice big bowl of Raisin Bran cereal, consumed while flaked out on the couch in front of the TV.....;}

                                                            1. re: KSlink
                                                              Caroline1 RE: KSlink Jul 14, 2012 11:33 AM

                                                              Works for me!

                                                              1. re: KSlink
                                                                eclecticsynergy RE: KSlink Jul 15, 2012 11:42 AM

                                                                Amen to that, K.Slink. It's comforting, it's both simple and easy. And it's nice and cool!

                                                        2. j
                                                          jhopp217 RE: jhopp217 Jul 11, 2012 12:10 AM

                                                          Seems like a lot of people took this as a personal insult and felt it necessary to return with insults. I'm sorry, but I grew up in a household where a great meal was had....and much higher quality than most restaurants, every night. I grab the occasional whopper, but the prices aren't so cheap it's a deal anymore. I won't apologize for not understanding someone I would look up for their culinary exploits desiring a Big Mac. They could have said a slice of pizza and I'd have the same reaction.

                                                          I know many people "in the business" as so many of you claim and few of them crave mediocrity when it comes to food. In fact most like something better than the patrons are being served.

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: jhopp217
                                                            m
                                                            MonMauler RE: jhopp217 Jul 11, 2012 08:09 AM

                                                            I'm sorry, jhopp, I just cannot appreciate your sentiments on this issue.

                                                            Firstly, the Big Mac was a culinary revolution. It is certainly amongst the most well-known and consumed burgers created. This, although not terribly salient, would most likely be appreciated more by a professional than someone not "in the business." As you noted in the OP, your chef friend says he knows everything in the special sauce "and still can't make it as good." A lot of this viewpoint is probably buffered by nostalgia, but the point is it's true to him ... and I'm sure plenty of other acclaimed chefs feel they "can't make it as good."

                                                            More on point is your comment about prices and how cheap these "inferior" products are. In my area the Big Mac runs around $5, including tax. Sure, I could get a better burger nearby, but then I'm looking at minimum 100% increase in price, at least a 200% increase in time, probably more than a 25% increase in caloric load, and, as so many on this board have importantly pointed out, an infinite rate increase on effort. When you add up all of the various costs associated with that better burger, the Big Mac is actually quite a deal.

                                                            And, it's tasty, too. I don't disparage fast food; there are options at many fast food establishments that I enjoy. To take your pizza example, I often have a slice of cheese pizza from a place nearby for lunch. The slice runs me a little less than $2, and I can walk out of my office and be back with the slice in approximately 10 minutes. Sure, I can go grab a gourmet sandwich about the same distance away, but it's going to run me more than $8, I'm going to wait longer, and it is going to be much more substantial than I prefer. Or, I could make my own lunch before coming to work in the morning, but those precious minutes in the morning are highly valuable to me, and what I have on hand may not be as appealing as a slice of pizza. As a result, pizza (or liquid lunch) usually wins out over more culinarily acclaimed food or something homemade.

                                                            And I absolutely have to say that my experience with the dining habits of those "in the business" is wildly different from yours. More often than not, I see owners, chefs, cooks, and servers eating chicken fingers, a basket of fries or chips, a salad tossed together from leftovers, or ordering something from McDonald's, Chipotle, a pizza joint, etc., rather than something "better than the patrons are being served."

                                                            Sure, the Big Mac isn't my favorite thing to eat, but it doesn't surprise me that it would be highly regarded by a respected chef.

                                                            1. re: MonMauler
                                                              Kris in Beijing RE: MonMauler Jul 11, 2012 10:45 AM

                                                              Fully concur.
                                                              Big mac-- Order. Pay, Eat and enjoy. Repeat when necessary-- even to the point of circling back around.
                                                              After work-- even for those not in the business-- Preparing A Meal really requires too much from my day-drained brain* when what I want is something I like to eat that I can eat soon, and go to bed soon.
                                                              Leave Work-home-bed can be a 2 hour experience as it is.
                                                              Leave Work-drive through-home-bed only adds another 20 minutes.

                                                              * as I frequently do Once A Month Cooking [OAMC] I Do have stuff that's pretty much ready to go at home.

                                                              If I just don't have the "mental energy" to deal with preparing food, what person who has been in a kitchen for 8++ hours would?

                                                              1. re: MonMauler
                                                                j
                                                                jhopp217 RE: MonMauler Jul 11, 2012 11:43 PM

                                                                Ease and cost was never really my main point. Obviously a $2 lunch alternative at the local pizza joint is great (I'd kill to live somewhere where the slices were only $2), but my point was on a day off. I don't know what it's like to do it for a living and I know dining in one's own restaurant is old hat, but I rarely eat fast food unless there is almost a necessity. For a multitude of reasons. Also, a Big Mac alone isn't fulfilling in size, where as for a few dollars more you can get an 8oz burger with something other than pink slime. Just saying. I like to have a spurge of fast food on occasion, but not when I have the better product at home waiting.

                                                                1. re: jhopp217
                                                                  m
                                                                  MonMauler RE: jhopp217 Jul 12, 2012 07:48 AM

                                                                  Oh, I see what you're saying. On a day off makes a lot of difference to this discussion. I, too, don't know many professional chefs or cooks that are going to McDonald's or the ilk on their days off unless many adult beverages have been consumed.

                                                                  Most of the professional chefs and cooks I know only have one day off a week ... two if they're lucky. On their days off a lot of them go to restaurants or otherwise have others cook for them. It being the summer, a favorite pastime of those I know in the biz is to have friends over and grill out. Somebody will pick up some meat, others will coordinate sides, everybody brings drinks!, and we just hang out. I was at just such a cook out this past Sunday. I was responsible for the steaks (prime strips) and the Sierra Nevada.

                                                                  However, I stand by my original statements. For most of the people I know in this profession, their life is an extension of their job rather than the other way around. They work, sleep and eat on a different schedule than most everyone else, and they don't generally get paid all that well; thus, convenience and cost would necessarily be the prime criteria for the wide majority of their meals. This being the case, it definitely doesn't surprise me that those who have been in the business a while, grew up in it, or are otherwise lifers would find a Big Mac to be amongst their favorite foods.

                                                                  1. re: MonMauler
                                                                    huiray RE: MonMauler Jul 12, 2012 08:22 AM

                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8543...

                                                                    1. re: MonMauler
                                                                      j
                                                                      jhopp217 RE: MonMauler Jul 12, 2012 01:55 PM

                                                                      I tried to stress day off and going out of their way for a Big Mac. I also said that they stressed anyone else cooking. Ironically, right after he said this, he left for a day of fish. When asked what he was fishing for, he said "anything I can come home and grill."

                                                                2. re: jhopp217
                                                                  cowboyardee RE: jhopp217 Jul 11, 2012 12:01 PM

                                                                  You're really not far from the take-home point here: How good you are at cooking has little to nothing to do with what foods you find comforting or crave-able.

                                                                  I know a decent number of professional cooks. True, certainly not all of em enjoy fast food. Some (a lot actually) seem to want sushi or a bahn mi and a beer after a shift. Some just want a roast chicken or meatloaf (as long as someone else cooks it). Some want a Big Mac. Very, very few seem to crave the kind of food they make in their restaurant.

                                                                  You associate food of great quality (a little vague, but I'll let it slide) with home and comfort. Professional cooks often associate it with work, heat, stress, and lower back pain.

                                                                  A personal example, if you'll be so kind as to forgive my lack of humility - I'm no slouch as a cook. I've worked a lot on technique, and do fairly well for myself. I cook a lot, Heck I even go over to friends' houses and wind up doing the cooking there. So what is it that I might crave most at any given moment? Certainly not my own cooking. I crave Philly cheese steaks (with whiz), my mom's vaguely Portuguese pork and chicken roasts, and fried chicken made by the Colonel or the Sailor Man. All things I don't make (okay, I make fried chicken, but not the same way) but loved growing up. It's weird - I love the process of cooking and take pride in my results, but as far as actually eating the food goes, I take more pleasure in things that I grew up with and things that others make for me, even if they're not as precisely executed.

                                                                  It's not that quality and execution don't matter. It's just that quality and execution can be secondary to comfort and fond associations, especially if you're surrounded by food all day.

                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee
                                                                    ttoommyy RE: cowboyardee Jul 11, 2012 12:41 PM

                                                                    "It's not that quality and execution don't matter. It's just that quality and execution can be secondary to comfort and fond associations, especially if you're surrounded by food all day."

                                                                    I agree 100% cowboyardee. Out of all my friends and family, I am by far the most accomplished cook and baker; I even had my own specialty baking business for a few years. But what do I crave when I have a day off from work and I'm home alone? A store-bought corn muffin for breakfast and a Hormel spiced ham and American cheese with Hellman's mayo on a kaiser roll, deli coleslaw and a bag of Dorito's for lunch. All fond memories from childhood and hence "comfort food" now.

                                                                3. Bill Hunt RE: jhopp217 Jul 14, 2012 09:54 PM

                                                                  Nor can I, but then tastes and preferences are very, very personal. What I might love, he might hate. Same for you. It could be hatred at first bite. That is why few of us looks alike, chooses the same foods, and the same automobile. A McDonald's anything, including fries, would be way, way down MY list, but that does not mean that another person, might not love it. Heck, I read many articles of US travelers, who spend a month "in country" somewhere, and cannot wait to have a Big Mac. I, OTOH, have not had one in 40 years, and really have zero inclination to do so. Should a travel-buddy desire one, so be it. I will dine elsewhere, and zero recrimination.

                                                                  Just me,

                                                                  Hunt

                                                                  1. JuniorBalloon RE: jhopp217 Jul 16, 2012 10:48 AM

                                                                    I think some people are miss reading the OP. The question wasn't, "What is your guilty pleasure?" or "What do you eat after an exhausting shift?" It was, "What are your favorite foods?" Big Mac does not make my top 20. I've eaten them and they are tasty. They do fill the bill of quick easy and filling while not completely sucking. And while it doesn't neccessarily mean he has a lousy palette, it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility and would certainly make me question the food he produces. I might be wrong and he could make some great stuff, but when a Big Mac is what you aspire to?

                                                                    Makes me wonder what a chef would have to say they like for you to question their palette? I'm sure everyone has something that would make them go "Hmmm.".

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: JuniorBalloon
                                                                      huiray RE: JuniorBalloon Jul 16, 2012 10:38 PM

                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8549...
                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8549...

                                                                    Show Hidden Posts