Vermont Restaurants – Hiding Dirty Secrets?
In just the past few months, I’ve heard some pretty unsavory stories about restaurants in Vermont, from the people who work there (and one good comment!). We’ve all heard the urban legends about what goes on behind the closed kitchen doors of restaurants, but most of of us ignore these sordid tales in disbelief. Myself included, always thinking that my food is prepared in a clean wholesome manner. How wrong I was! A couple people I know work at McDonalds in the Burlington area and neither one of them eat their employer’s fast food.
According to them, it’s a fast paced environment where cleanliness takes a back seat to cranking out the orders. Reports of sandwich buns and meat dropped on the floor only to be quickly snatched up, wrapped and handed to the customer is something that happens quite often. The one thing that I took comfort in was the fact that I usually just go for the coffee. Wrong again! It would seem that the coffee brewing equipment isn’t always cleaned between batches and new coffee is brewed directly into old coffee that has set for a long time. Then, when the container is cleaned, sometimes not thoroughly, leaving soapy water at the bottom to mingle in with the coffee. I guess that accounts for the off taste coffee that you get at McDonalds on occasion. One employee asked why the coffee carafe wasn’t cleaned thoroughly and was told that the “coffee is only a dollar, so what do they (the customers) expect?” This customer now makes his coffee at home and saves a few hard earned McBucks!
Another report comes from a former employee at a well known cafe in the area that gets high ratings and praises from most of it’s customers. However, looks can be deceiving as food items are frequently dropped on the floor and hurriedly put back on the plate without as much as a “dusting off”. Are you hungry yet? If that doesn’t put you off, maybe you wouldn’t find moldy cheese and other such items so tempting. To save money on ingredients, these are often covered over with some type of sauce given a fancy name. A rose by any other name? Wilted veggies are often hidden in this manner and some fruits beyond their expiration date are pureed into sauces and mixed with other ingredients to hide their more unappetizing nature. Think twice before ordering “specials” as these are often old food at or nearing the expiration dates, priced lower and heavily promoted to sell before its way too late. People rave about this cafe but I wouldn’t go near it without a botulism test kit.
Next on the block is Asian restaurants. Someone who has cooked at many Asian restaurants in the area (let’s call him Sam) confirmed some of our greatest concerns. Yes, they do substitute cheap ingredients for the more authentic (expensive) ingredients. Some of the food is not prepared fresh at all but in bulk, the day before and some of the “specialties” such as won-tons and egg rolls, etc. come directly from local supermarkets (most often Costco) and are microwaved for your dining enjoyment. That’s skimping but I can give them a pass on that.
What really disturbs me is that one Asian restaurant that I recently became aware of, serves dishes with meat and vegetables that are either spoiled or rancid. The owner actually takes food that the cook has tossed into the trash as expired and insists that it be blended in with other food in the dish so that the customer won’t notice. A rather obvious piece of broken glass was found in a soup. The owner of the restaurant removed the glass and served the soup anyway, obviously ignoring any smaller glass particles that may have been present. Because the sauces and curries are prepared in bulk ahead of time and contain fish sauce, many diners who have requested strict vegetarian and no fish sauce are promised one thing but end up with fish sauce anyway.
Probably the most disgusting part is where unfinished portions from one customer’s dish are served to other diners who haplessly order the same dish. Nobody wants to eat won-tons from a stranger’s dish. I will not name this particular restaurant but I will end this on the note from “Sam” the cook, who begrudgingly states that most of us “ignorant foreigners” don’t know what real Asian food is anyway and that he gets a laugh out of people who often comment on how wonderful the food is. Oh, and be careful about complaining about your food or making a change. What you are served as a replacement may contain some unpleasant surprises from an insulted cook. No plastic gloves either during food preparation. Cigarette stained and unwashed hands with dirty fingernails to boot. Hate to even think about what happens when one of these guys gets a knife cut and continues to handle food anyway. As for nail fungus, ’nuff said!
I guess we didn’t need “MythBusters” for this one at all. This is one urban legend that is fact!
As for the one good comment, a waitress at Uno’s on Shelburne Road candidly indicated that it “sucked that we cannot eat Uno’s food here during our breaks”, due to the fact that the kitchen is very, very clean and the cooks are so fussy about the food that they don’t even want employees snacking.