I am officially appalled.
In the NYT today, there is a beautiful pistachio bundt cake. That is made with Jello instant pistachio pudding mix. The article goes on to talk about how the restaurant pastry chef created the recipe for Momofuku Nishi with both the pudding and… wait for it… boxed vanilla cake… but it was too sweet. So he made it from scratch and it wasn’t fake enough.
Sure, I get people use these ingredients at home. But that pistachio Bundt cake is $13 a slice.
I’m moving beyond appalled into speechless.
What decent pastry chef would rely on a boxed mix?
Well, I get it, but as the last sentence of the article infers, there are some differing opinions.
I, for one, am not going out to a restaurant expecting to Artificial Color, Cottonseed Oil, Mono- And Diglycerides, Artificial Flavor, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1 or Bha As A Preservative.
If I order pistachio cake, I’m looking for actual pistachios.
I’ll let taste be my guide
I am unsurprised that a high-end chef is using commercial, industrialized product in their creations. I mean, it wasn’t too long ago that a chef using sodium citrate to emulsify a cheese sauce would have been called gross, and of using ‘industrial additives’ to sully the gustatory experience. Then, a little later, doing such a trick became ‘molecular gastronomy’, along with sous vide machines (LAB EQUIPMENT!) and chemical ‘spherification’. Now, any schmuck can order sodium citrate off Amazon, along with guar gum, soy lethicin, and a zillion other ‘formerly commercial use only’ additives. So, why not just get the product that already has them in there, blended to near perfect consistency on a scale a single chef and their crew could scarcely dream of?
A pistachio Bundt cake made with instant pudding was super popular among home cooks of the 1970s. Today it would be TikTok famous, LOL. The cake found its way into my aunt’s repertoire and introduced me to all things pistachio. Haven’t had it in forever.
I think there’s a fine line between a shortcut (i.e. using commercial premade products) versus “from scratch”.
For example, you go to a pizzeria (not a chain, but a bespoke Neapolitan pizzeria one thats both APN and VPN certified), of course you expect such a place to proof their own dough and make their own sauce and cheese but do you expect them also to make their own sausages? Pepperoni? Cure their own salami? Press their own olive oil?
Or how about a burger place? Again, not a fast food or fast casual place (like McDonald’s or Shake Shack) but let’s say Au Cheval or Peter Luger’s – a real tried-and-true sit down place. Sure the patties are going to be ground in-house, but what of the bun? Do you expect the restaurant to have baked their own hamburger bun? Or the sauces? Ketchup and mustard? From a bottle, or do you want in-house ketchup? Would a person even prefer in-house over tried-and-true Heinz or Del Monte?
It’s a fine line.
To expect everything that is plated – either savory or sweet – to be made completely in-house and from scratch is both unrealistic and misguided.
I’m a person who sees greys, not just black and white.
I don’t like the taste of soup base. Plenty of kitchens use it, and I go back to the places that either don’t use it, or are using one I can detect
I also dislike Kraft and most commercially prepared salad dressings. So many mom & pop restaurants that are trying to cut costs use commercial Caesar dressing / Italian/ balsamic. I will go back to these restaurants, but I won’t order salad when I go back.
Interestingly , my fish and chips shop offers both Kraft tartar and homemade tartar. The customer specifies which one the customer would like, or both!
(Keyrock the unfrozen caveman lawyer; your world frightens & confuses me)
In keeping with the theme, ingredients for homemade tartar sauce:
Kraft real Mayonnaise
Heinz (Kraft) dill relish
A bit of dill or parsley, lemon juice, and salt
Couple tablespoons minced onion
Not you in particular, but most people will not recognize or even know that their “favorite” restaurant offering is actually commercial, bulk stuff from Sysco or US Foods.
At one of my previous restaurants, we used pre-made commercial egg rolls from Sysco. We simply amped it up by serving it with our own dipping sauce (nothing groundbreaking, but basically honey, Sriracha, peanut butter and a bit of carbonated water), and customer after customer proclaimed our egg rolls the best they ever had and begged for our recipe …