You might already know, or at least suspect, that restaurant food isn’t quite as nutritious as it could be. Chef David Cook confirmed that at the recent Lunch & Learn at Gather Food Studio in Colorado Springs. His talk was titled “How Chefs Fool You,” and he revealed some tricks chefs use to create memorably flavorful dishes.
Cook, chef and co-owner of Gather Food Studio, has 20 years of restaurant cooking under his belt, and he makes no excuses for some of his tried-and-true methods.
“It’s the science of how flavor enhancers work on your brain,” he said. “Butter, fat, sugar, cream and salt. Home cooks use some of these ingredients, but not as much as chefs.
“Sugar makes food look shiny. Butter — we put it in everything. Oil and cream too. For chefs, these are inexpensive flavor enhancers.”
He really got my attention when he explained how chefs make a great-tasting steak.
“We salt and pepper the steak, then slather it in melted butter before it’s put on the grill. And we continue basting it with butter while it cooks. Then just before serving, we top it with a slab of compound butter. All this makes the beef shiny, and the butter lubricates the mouth, which makes you want to eat more. Butter is a big one!”
And then there’s salt.
“We put salt in everything. Everything,” he said. “Even coffee.”
Home cooks underseason their food, he said.
“Chefs are notorious for heavy salting,” he said. “It may be the long hours and the amount of coffee they drink. Many are smokers, which kills taste buds and leads to heavy seasoning.”
But speaking of salt and butter, he says, “stay away” from iodized salt and use sea salt instead. As for butter, stick to the unsalted kind.
“The salt in butter can vary greatly between brands and even within brands,” he said. “I use unsalted butter and add salt as I feel is needed for the best flavor.”
Cook noted other restaurant practices. Watch for fancy words on menus that actually up-charge dishes. Pommes frites? They’re french fries. Aioli? Mayo with garlic.
Best time to dine at a restaurant?
“Dine at eateries during the week,” he said. “Tuesdays are great. It’s a slower day, and you’ll usually get better-prepared food and service. Most restaurants get food delivered on Tuesdays to restock after the weekend rush, and another delivery later in the week to prepare for the weekend. The food you get on those days will be fresher.”
The Lunch & Learn classes are a deal. Generally they cost $20, which gets you get a gourmet lunch (with recipes) and an interesting culinary discussion. Topics vary. Visit gatherfoodstudio.com.
Contact the writer: 636-0271.