by Buck Reed

Food Rants. PERIOD.

Okay, I have been writing this article for a while now, and I normally am a pretty happy-go-lucky kind of guy. For well over six years, I have been sharing my thoughts on a variety of food topics without any malice or thought toward any specific subject and usually with a little humor (some might say with as little as possible). But, now that we appear to be out of the pandemic, and things are getting to be a bit more normal, I want to share a few pet peeves I have with what is going on in the food service industry.

First, cauliflower is as good as it is going to get. Yes, you can cook it two or three different ways, and that’s about it. It makes a wonderful soup if you match it with something, you can boil it and serve it with butter, and, if you can tolerate the smell, you can roast it. Stop putting it in pizza crust, making “rice” out of it, or making “vegetarian macaroni and cheese” out of it. The last dish is not clever or new. When we made it back in the day, we called it Cauliflower Au Gratin. You either like cauliflower or you are normal.

I understand that the pandemic threw a monkey wrench into the restaurant business and that it might take a few years to get things back to normal. And, I know I am old and might be looking at this one through the eyes of someone who longs for yesteryear. Wait staff need to step up. That means simple things like knowing the menu of the establishment you are working in. Being able to answer simple questions about the ingredients and preparation of each dish is going to make you look more professional and make your job much easier.

I would say that in my day, if you mentioned to a good waiter or waitress that you wanted them to forego tips in favor of a flat hourly rate, you might have a mutiny on your hands. Being a server is a noble profession that requires a lot of skills, including sales, customer relations, and multitasking. Almost every server I have ever worked with made bank, or at least knew they would make it up on the weekend. Once they accept a flat rate, that will be all they will be able to make, as tips will disappear as fast as the menu prices go up.

Being in the food service industry as long as I have, it is easy for me to spot a dirty establishment. If the dining room is a bit disheveled, unorganized, or dusty, then I guarantee the kitchen is as bad. A dirty bathroom is a sure sign that the staff is not keeping up. Further, damage to the furniture and the carpet or cracked tiles is an indication that management is not paying attention to their establishment. I don’t mind seeing mouse or rat traps outside a business; most places have this problem. At least they are doing something about it. But if you see the trash dumpster or used oil bins, and they have bags or buckets that cannot fit in the receptacle, then that establishment has a problem, and I can assure you that it is a big one.

Finally, let me say as a lifelong cook that there is most definitely a proper way to cook almost all foods. Let’s start with hand-cut or boardwalk French fries. Some might even call these fresh-cut fries, which is actually not the case at all. These fries need to be cut from a variety of baking potatoes, then blanched in the fryer once, stored cold, and then refried to produce a crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, product that is delightful to everyone. To just fry a fresh-cut potato and serve it is just a hot mess next to your burger. The same goes for chicken wings. Seriously, I think any bank that is dealing with the food service industry needs a chef consultant to look over the cooking methods of any new establishment to make sure they are doing it correctly. There is actually a chain of wing places in Frederick that believes they can change the tried-and-true wing cooking method developed in Buffalo and put out a good product. (They don’t even have blue cheese dressing!)

Okay, suffice it to say, I got it out of my system. Please note, I have not mentioned any names concerning my rant; however, if you know of someone committing any of these transgressions, leave a copy of this article in their view. I will take the hit. Next month, I will be back to my wonderful self as I butcher the English language while describing the varieties of wild mushrooms available to you and your kitchen.

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