Sneaky Meat: Survey Finds Chefs Sometimes Sabotage Vegan Dishes

Categories: Food News

vegan wall.jpg
Careful, chefs. You might find yourself against this wall.
Food Network magazine this week released the no doubt intentionally provocative results of an anonymous chef survey, in which chefs copped to stealing ideas, showing up for work sick, recycling bread and sabotaging orders that were sent back for recooking.

As a former restaurant server, I've seen chefs do all of those things. But even I was surprised that a full 15 percent of survey respondents admitted to putting animal products in vegetarian dishes.

I have no idea whether the meat-sneaking chefs hate vegetarians or are just too lazy to look for flavor in something other than chicken stock. The survey suggests the former, since one respondent recalled seeing another cook -- which might be the kitchen equivalent of the old "friend of mine" dodge -- pour lamb's blood in a vegan's entrée.

Perhaps the Food Network quizzed the nastiest, coldest-hearted chefs it could find, since the survey also showed a mere 54 percent of them were pleased when couples became engaged in their restaurants. I have no idea what the other 46 percent are thinking. Perhaps something along the lines of "Damn those lovebirds! Now they're going to want to eat in my restaurant every year to commemorate the occasion. What did I do to deserve this?"

So let's say the number's slightly inflated. It's still disturbing that there are chefs out there who are willing to exploit their customers' trust and take it upon themselves to rejigger their diets. Chefs are not gods, and it's not up to them to override decisions with ethical and religious underpinnings. Heck, it's not up to them to override irrational decisions, either: If a customer wants a steak well-done, he should be able to get it without the chef running it through the dishwasher, as one of the survey respondents reported doing.

I'm not a vegetarian. I admit I've never given much thought to the purity of vegetarian food at restaurants, although I bet it's a hot topic on various meat-free discussion boards. In the past, I suspect I would have attributed those message threads to vegetarian paranoia. Now, I'm sorry to say, I know better.


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54 comments
Revend
Revend

I am very health conscious person and i take care of my food. I learned lot of ideas about meat with reading this post. If this will happen to my chef then i will kill him. Anyway its a fantastic and interesting post.

7bridges
7bridges

 I'm militant about my food! I will pick through the bish if I have a drop of doubt to ensure that my food is meat-free. I'm not going to rely on someone else to uphold my standards, regardless of circumstance/payment/etiquette.

Reputation Management
Reputation Management

A "dish" may be served on dishware, or may be eaten out of hand; but breads are generally not called "dishes".

Kimberlee
Kimberlee

I have been a cook at a restaurant for the past 2 years. Granted, it is a pain when someone wants something special ordered, but its my job to make their food properly, not to sabotage their food because it doesnt please me. They are paying enough for the food as it is, plus tip. If someone with special dietary needs comes into my restaurant, im happy to accommodate them. If we cant do it, either myself or the server will go talk to the customer. Its sick when people want to sabotage someone's food, especially putting animal products into a vegan/vegetarians food. I'd be lying if i said i never thought about putting "floor spice" into a belligerent customer's food, but i would never take action on those thoughts. Its ignorant people like that who make vegan's lives harder, and can make someone very ill, but all they care about is their own precious time (that they are getting paid for) and fuck the rest.

Jeanette De Foe
Jeanette De Foe

What most people who aren't chefs don't realise (not just vegans/vegetarians) is that preparation for everything on the menu is done WAY in advance. When a chef gets an order, they'll most likely have all the prep ready to go on their bench, put it all together, cook it quickly, and have it out to you quick-smart. If that wasn't how they did it you'd be waiting an hour every time you ordered something.

This is of course after weeks/months of perfecting the recipes, trying to create things that people will really enjoy. So when an order comes in that asks for things to be significantly modified, it's not just a lot of hassle, but kind of insulting to the chef as well.

Speaking as both a chef and as someone with dietary requirements, if you do have special dietary requirements, it's helpful to book ahead & let them know so their preparation can accommodate you. And just be really really polite and understanding, cos it ain't easy having to change your entire workflow to accommodate a minority.

Samael
Samael

I would gladly murder a chef that did this. But I would not dare harm an animal.

Sam
Sam

Vegan 22 years, never really talk about my dietary choice. I never make a big deal when dining out with friends. Just look for a vegan option on menu because I know establishments and chefs have been abused by some angry vegans and will sabotage.IT IS NOT the job of the establishment to alter their menu or stop everything and serve me like a personal chef.Sabotage? Childish yes and maybe an affront to their lack of skill in not knowing how to toss together a vegan dish.Fellow chefs,Accept it as a challenge and upgrade to your skill. Oh yeah and did I tell you after practicing a vegan diet for 18 years I became a partner in a vegan establishment. A good one too. And did I tell you that staff were hassled by VEGANS on a regular and NOT the many NON VEG customers? This was a 100 percent vegan restaurant right down to the cruelty free cleaning supplies.Did I also tell you I walked away from it after several years because the VEGAN customers misguided their anger to staff and myself. My most enjoyable and loyal customers? CEO's who had been vegan for 15 or more years who never discussed being vegan.After I made my decison to cut and run I was contacted by two other owners who eventually walked away for the same reason. Still vegan though. Shouldn't be a big deal. I have worked in the industry for a few decades and have faces all sorts of requests.

Vega Vegas
Vega Vegas

From a business perspective in a poor economy, restaurants and caterers who choose not to market to vegan consumers do so at their own risk. Agreed the number of vegans is small compared to those who would be content eating a meal with animal products.

But what these *business people* perhaps have not considered is that the vegan community embraces good vegan service with a *huge* amount of referral marketing via blogs and word of mouth. While the community is not large, our impact usually is.

Charlotte
Charlotte

Trolls like 'fuck with my food and DIE' aside, there seems to be rather a lot more aggro coming from omnis here than from the veggies.

I find myself talking about my dietary choices at pretty much every meal out I share with people - not because *I* want to push my choices on anyone, repeating the same things over and over again really isn't terribly interesting to me, but because the people I'm dining with always ask me about them. I have to say though, those conversations are always mutually respectful, I get the impression the debate is a little less heated here in the Netherlands than it is in some other places.

Re. the article, I'm not particularly surprised, but I do find it incredibly disrespectful of said chefs. We're paying to eat at your establishment, it's a simple economic transaction, what's so hard about giving us the food we ask for? I also wonder whether they would be equally gleeful about putting pigs' blood in the food of a Jew or Muslim, or secretly feeding beef to a Hindu - or are religious dietary choices somehow more acceptable?

Heath
Heath

Again, I don't see the point of contention for both camps. My experience has shown that meat-eaters have less tolerance for vegetarians/vegans than the other way around. Again, this has just been my experience. I am not a vegetarian.

Evz
Evz

Ren, observation isn't anger... Do you suppose that's the only reason anyone might disagree with you?!

Sometimes... we just think you're wrong. ;-)

I think 'don't inflict your views on unwilling others' is a darn good rule, regardless of which side of the meateater/ planteater fence you're on... i won't sneak broccoli into anyone's steak, and you guys chill out with the lamb's blood & such in my soup; then we can all get along perfectly nicely, and enjoy blowing all our money at nice restaurants as God intended!

CaitieO
CaitieO

Actually, people who need to retain as much calcium as possible, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, should not eat animal products because they contain too much protein. Especially meat and eggs contain too much protein, which flushes calcium out of your system (even if you're taking calcium supplements). Yes, this is not an allergy to meat and eggs, but it's a concern for those who want to go out to eat once in awhile and have issues with calcium retention. As a vegan (a healthy vegan with great skin...talking to you, BrotherMaynard) I just accept the fact that I am taking a chance if I choose to go out to eat. However, when my mom was going through chemo, it essentially sucked for her. She had major issues with her bones (broke a couple) so any animal products were not an option at that time. I guess what I'm saying is, going out to eat is nice, but you're deciding to take part in this luxury knowing that you're paying far more than the cost of the ingredients for your meal. Why can't you get your head out of the clouds when it comes to what's going in your food? Eat at home or order a salad.

Maybe you've run into too many holier-than-thou vegans,but my experiences have been very different. All vegans I've talked to (when i was a meat-eater/dairy-consumer and as a vegan) see their lifestyle as a personal choice and don't waste as much time judging people as so many of you seem to think. I know I have better things to do (ignore the fact I'm posting on a forum at 11:40 am on a friday). I really don't care what other people choose to do and I don't see my choices as being any better than theirs. Everyone has different beliefs, and those beliefs expand beyond the spiritual.

Defensive non-vegans, please stop making the social scene so awkward when you find out we're vegans. No one is doing it to threaten your lifestyle, please don't get in my face about how much you love eating cows. I know they're delicious. I've had a burger. I will sit and watch you eat your burger with delight and not judge you one bit. I don't care! Let's be friends... or at least comrades in the pursuit of good food.

jonolan
jonolan

They're messing with the freakish Vegans; how can ANYONE think that's a bad thing?

Please! These weirdos shouldn't be in real restaurants anyway. They have their own places to eat where they won't bother normal people.

Ren
Ren

@Jamey: Point taken. It was a generalization on my part. I didn't mean to imply that all vegans are militant; unfortunately, it's the vocal minority that seem to represent everyone else.

@Evz: You sound like a very angry individual. Ordering a salad is not forcing your views on me; constantly hounding me with pseudo-scientific factoids about why I shouldn't eat meat, sneering at me from the next table when I order a steak, pushing unwanted literature at me when I walk down the street, having the attitude that you can get me to choose a vegan lifestyle if you just give me the right "facts", these are the types of things I was referring to. For people like that, veganism is less of a life choice and more of an agenda.

terky
terky

I am a vegan and I HATE going out to mainstream restaurants for this very reason, yet at the same time, I am often obliged to eat out by work and I dread making my lifestyle an issue.

I always stress to the wait staff that I desperately do not want to inconvenience the kitchen. If they choose to serve me a $50 peanut butter sandwich I would eat it with no complaints and be thrilled for the opportunity. Plain boiled spaghetti is also fine. If you are willing to put a bit of olive oil on it, I would praise your effort forever. I'm happy to just order 2 side salads and if you can manage to put them in a single bowl so I don't look like a freak, there is a large tip waiting for you.

Please chefs, before you decide to take out your passive aggressive tendencies on unsuspecting vegans, realize that we are not at your restaurant because we wish to inconvenience you. We are likely there because work requires us to be or because there is some very special family event happening that would be unforgivable to miss. Please just serve us the plain boiled spaghetti without lambs blood and charge us whatever more for the order. I am willing to pay a premium to not have unfamiliar foods introduced into my diet. After twenty years with no meat, milk, etc., even very small amounts cause very painful gastric distress for a good 48 hours.

Evz
Evz

Lemme get this straight... in the same breath, you're saying that (a) i'm somehow forcing *my* lifestyle on *you* by ordering a meat-free salad, and that's bad; *and* (b) if *you* choose to force your lifestyle on *me* by putting bacon fat in my salad just for spite, then that's fine.

um, yyeeeaaaahhhhh.... logic fail!

People like different things, for different reasons; it's no one else's business WHY i like the foods i do, any more than when other customers request extra butter, no msg, or diet coke vs regular coke... chefs/ restaurants should try to give customers food they like; the end! That's the whole point of chefs and restaurants.

The rest of this stuff is just petty nonsense... not surprised it happens, but surprised people defend it. Bad business practices, & general rudeness... good inspiration to eat in!

Jamey
Jamey

@ChickChef - that's always been my thinking. Veg*ns generally have money that's worth just about as much as non-veg, so I would think if you can provide something that a certain segment of the population would enjoy and come back for, it would make sense for business.

@Ren - there are certainly those that you speak of in existence, and there's not much you're going to do to change that. My hope is that you can let go of those stereotypes and understand that (just as most stereotypes prove) not *all* veg*ns are like that, and that most of the time we just want good food, and will appreciate the effort and enjoy being treated just as any other foodie would when served.

Ren
Ren

The reason there is so much hatred towards vegans is not because it's different, but because, as stated earlier, they try to force their lifestyles and views on everyone around them. If you want to avoid animal products then that's great, I respect your choice to do so, but by the same token, allow me to enjoy my porterhouse and spare me your disgusted looks, finger pointing and protesting. It's the vegan/Peta holier-than-thou attitude that rankles.

ChickChef
ChickChef

Above all, I'm a business person. I want veg/ans and omnis to feel free to spend every last red cent on my food so I'll do what's necessary to keep 'em happy. I think too many chefs try hard to be edgy or angsty and have forgotten that the point of cooking for others is for them to have a GOOD experience with the food. Substitutions piss me off a bit, but false advertising veg dishes is not going to happen in my place.

kellie
kellie

Of course there are more important things to worry about. And I, as a fledgling vegan, would never advocate hurting another living thing - even Dick Dickerson. But I am neither ignorant, nor complacent. There are vegan advocates who will and do test food in suspect restaurants and expose those unrepentant frauds.

There is hatred toward vegans because it's different. People don't like the status quo challenged. I was one of them. For forty years I refused to see that my choices in food conflicted with my stated ethics. Would I like the world to see things my way? You bet. But it's an individual choice. I won't inflict my ethics on you. Please don't inflict your ethics on me.

Heath
Heath

Some people choose to eat meat, some people choose not to eat meat. Why there is such bad blood between the two camps is beyond me. Don't people have bigger things to think about?

Jamey
Jamey

Comments, as always, are quite a riot from the omnis in the bunch - and, as always, are a waste of time to try to even reply to in an intelligent manner.

SO, in reference to this article, I would hope in the cases when someone politely asks about special dietary requests, be it vegan or allergen related, that a chef would either tell you "no," before "acting" like they are complying with your request and serve you the exact opposite. Unfortunately, the statistics presented don't surprise me.

Dick Dickerson
Dick Dickerson

I'm going to open a vegan only establishment and put meat in everything. When vegans want to stop acting like extremist petulant little children maybe the rest of the world will get off their ass.

Eric
Eric

Yet another argument for patronizing vegan-only establishments, ideally those owned by vegans, not people looking to cash in on trends.

Dick Dickerson
Dick Dickerson

I'm a chef and I almost ALWAYS put meat products in vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Vegetarians and Vegans are absolutely obnoxious scum as proven by the commentators here.

Look at these morons who want to kill chefs but throw a hissy-fit if someone kills a chicken...Furthermore they always seek to push their lifestyle on everyone else in the rudest and most annoying manner possible...Like those sluts who take their clothes off in Peta ads to get attention.

Enjoy your meat vegans...Piss me off, or show up to my restaurant with your hippy clothes and unwashed hair and I will put a piece of chicken-anus in your falafel.

icecycle66
icecycle66

A chef cooks a recipe. If you do not like the recipe stay home and make what you want yourself.

bshock
bshock

I'm not surprised by this. I've read some of Tony Bourdain's books, and he's very up front about despising vegetarians. At best, he considers them suckers who deserved to be bilked out of their money by low-value foods.

Bourdain apparently believes that he (and presumably everyone) has an obligation to eat everything available in life, and therefore vegetarians are subhuman because they reject this obligation. I was pleased to see him live out this ideal on his tv show "No Reservations," when he visited Namibia and was served warthog anus. I hope that he carries out the policy further, and goes on to consume various types of feces.

Vinny
Vinny

@Chris FPlenty of people are extremely allergic to eggs, maybe not so much with meat.While eating meat may have allowed our species to grow brains to the point they are at now, this is mainly related to the inability to find enough non-meat food at the time, which is not the case at all now.Maybe you're the one who should not "be silly" or at least don't act like you know what you're talking about when you clearly don't.

Chris F
Chris F

@GailNo one's allergic to meat or eggs.Don't be silly.There are just those people who opt for a vegan life style so they can feel some moral superiority over all of use animal killers.Far be it from them to realize human intelligence more than likely was born out of our early ancestors ingesting animal products.Maybe they'll slowly devolve. It's a devolution!

Gail
Gail

This is the worst kind of betrayal of trust. And vegetarian or not, this should come as disturbing news to anyone with food sensitivities who eats at restaurants. But I wonder what the survey results would be if they polled chefs and asked how many of them added unwanted ingredients to an order when the customer specified that they are allergic to the ingredient. I'm guessing it would be close to zero, as no chef would risk intentionally making a diner sick. Take heed vegetarians and vegans: If you dare to dine at a non-veg restaurant and want your meal animal-ingredient-free, say that you are deathly allergic to meat, eggs, and dairy when you place your order.

Justin
Justin

It seems there are two kinds of Vegans out there. The kind that are cool and laid back about what they have to put up with and choosing the best option between what they're offered due to their own personal limitations...and the kind that want to make it their personal crusade to impose their beliefs with religious zeal and complain when all restaurants don't bow to their personal, SELF-IMPOSED, diet.

Zack
Zack

If you're a vegetarian or vegan, don't bother eating out unless it's a strictly vegetarian place. Most cooks or chefs are too lazy/too busy/too underpaid/too sadistic to care for your dietary wants, not needs. Chances are your veggie burgers are either dropped in the deep fryer or cooked on the same flat top as regular burgers. Sorry, but unless you're going to a vegetable specific, your cook or chef has a monstrous ego and most likely hates you for no reason.

M0ose
M0ose

I find it quite funny how people didn't expect this. I mean really, you don't fuck with the people handling your food. It's just the unwritten rule of the road. Though I will say it's definitely not up to the chefs to judge but it's not like some surprise that this is happening.

Anyone ever been to a Burger King?

Elda Jenkins
Elda Jenkins

@Cliff: "Segway" should be "segue." Do agree with you about how messy the article is, though.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I agree with Cliff Note...this is a thrown together, pretty poorly written article.

And who cares about vegans and vegetarians, anyways?

BrotherMaynard
BrotherMaynard

Skinny malnourished vegans with bad skin, bone density issues and an attitude threatening to kill anything on the internet is pretty funny.

Hanna Raskin
Hanna Raskin

Sam and Anon, thanks for catching our numerical typo. It's been fixed.

cliff notes
cliff notes

can you please take a highschool journalism class. This article is all over the place. Only 3(out of 6) paragraphs point to the main theme.. you have a paragraph right dab in the middle that goes off on another subject (marriage proposals) without any segway.. then the next paragraph stumbles to try to link back to some sort of other accompanying theme of why chefs mess with peoples food in general but not necessarily in the specific manor of the theme (meat in vegi food). Then you end your article by telling the reader that you are making a wild guess because your are not a vegetarian nor did you do any research on vegetarianism.

is there even an editor at the observer that reads these blog postings?? or is it ok if it's amateur hour if it's a blog posting??

sam
sam

54% + 44% = 98%

Unfortunate
Unfortunate

janet, im sure your corrected sandwich was ran through the dishwasher; next time just get a refund and the complementary from HQ.

Ishan
Ishan

If the chef has High Blood pressure and the doc said no more salt or its the end...wonder how they would react when their chef just does what they have been doing... :)

I love to be at the next table watching them.

Im just saying... what goes around, comes around....now or in the future.

Its all about Karma.

Anonymous
Anonymous

A lot of the "chefs" I've known are lazy stoners who work in a kitchen because it is the only place that will hire them.

janet
janet

I was a victim of ordering a veggie burger made philly style. When I opened it to apply some salt and pepper, I noticed pieces of bacon. Of course I noltified the manager and he made sure I got a corrected sandwich. I also notified the corporate office and received a complimentary dinner.

Anon
Anon

"the survey also showed a mere 54 percent of them were pleased when couples became engaged in their restaurants. I have no idea what the other 44 percent are thinking;"

Probably something along the lines of, "How do numbers work, again?"

erin
erin

I only worry about this at "american" restaurants. We seem to have more than our fair share of total shitheads.

Amee
Amee

We vegetarians kind of know this or expect this but don't want to know. Some restaurants/waiters are really good about saying "the rice is made in chicken stock" etc. The more informed we are upfront, the more likely we are going to go back to that restaurant. It's like the good friend that would tell you that you have spinach in your teeth. :)

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