Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Blame the Chef

According to this fascinating piece, chefs are at least partially to blame for the fact that many people eat too much. How's that, you might ask? Well, by serving too much food, of course.

The article cites a study done by Clemson University and published in the journal Obesity that found that many chefs are ignoring USDA guidelines for portion sizes and, for example, dishing out 6-8 ounce servings of pasta instead of the recommended (Are you sitting?) 1 ounce serving.

Ahem, if you are overweight and you order a bowl of pasta that looks too big, don't eat all of it. Duh.

The study also discovered that 59 % of the chefs interviewed were actually idiots who knew nothing about human physiology and nutrition, to wit

Surprisingly, only 41 percent said calories consumed were the biggest influence on a person’s weight. The majority of chefs believed fat content and carbohydrates matter more. [Emphasis mine]


So there you go. If you eat out a lot and are overweight, blame the chef. Why not, given that there may be a better than even chance that he or she is a dope anyway?

Oversized Portions? Blame the Chef

12 comments:

Crazy Raven Productions said...

1 ounce?!?!?!? Who ARE these people? Anorexics?

Tags said...

I don't blame the chef, I blame the reataurants for not putting a scale at every table.

IdahoRocks said...

Seriously, Bob, I think you need some new reading material....either that or you're not spending enough time on charcuterie....

Nice to have neighbors with farm animals, isn't it? Living about 90 miles north of Doma Coffee, I have that in abundance although I haven't taken advantage of it with any charcuturie yet. But I do have great products here from farm fresh eggs (my farm lady friend)to Scottish Highland Beef (my friend and mechanic has a 50-head herd)to lamb (too many rams in the wool herd) and pig (my best friend has a weakness for them). I do the gardening bit...and reap the benefits all winter.

In two days I'm heading south towards the Russian grocer in Spokane, WA, and thought I'd pick up either sausage casings or a pork belly at local USDA Wood's Meats...it's about time I truly indulged in my own charcuterie....

Tags said...

restaurants, I mean

The Foodist said...

...brain, it hurts!

But did the study look into how portion sizes got to be this big in the first place? McFatties offering sides of things to increase the amount we eat in one sitting? free refills on sodas, coffees, and iced teas? how about people thinking that small portion sizes are too fancy (My parents right there)?

Its the good ol game of lets point the finger. Same how its never the servers fault when an order comes out wrong, its all the kitchens right? even though he put it through the POS wrong....

It doesnt take a genius to figure this out. We requested, no... DEMANDED more food on our plate and when it makes us fat..we blame the people willing to do anything to give us what we want to make us happy.

Ahhh Hypocrisy never tasted so good.. now if you dont mind, I have a one ounce portion of pasta that needs a ladle of 6 oz of sauce...

Jennie/Tikka said...

I had somebody ask me about this the other day. A guy asked me "Why are the portions so tiny at white tablecloth restaurants?" My immediate answer was, "If you ate that in a "standard-sized" portion with the fat, cholesterol, cream/butter/sugar/salt, etc. content being as high as it is - it'd probably kill you." I tried to explain to the guy that oversized portions of stuff aren't a bargain - they're what makes you fat. Actually, he got it and admitted it made sense, but then again, firefighters are pretty smart people to begin with.....

ArtfulSub said...

It's Clemson, not Clemsen. And I'm cancelling my donation to the Alumni Fund over this outrageously wasteful "study".

Sean said...

While it's easy to mock these kind of sensationalist news/blog posts, which all too frequently take the objects of their consideration out of context, I think there is something valuable to be gleaned here. Reducing the discussion of obesity to one of personal choice and free will may feel good but it ignores many of the extenuating factors which contribute to the problem. We shouldn't "blame" chefs for Americans' expanding waistlines but we should also acknowledge their crucial role in feeding many of us on a routine basis.

For instance many studies have demonstrated that people have a hard time gauging exactly how much food they are served versus how much they actually need. Feed two groups of people the same portion but serve one on a significantly larger plate than the other. This sort of visual trick has physiological consequences: people eating the "smaller" portion will feel respond feeling less satiated. The conclusion that these types of studies as well as the one you referenced draw is that people are poor judges of what they actually consume. Without proper information, how can we appeal to free will and personal responsibility as the answer to the obesity problem? Like in a democracy, an uninformed electorate is easy prey to the whims of the informed elite.

One possible change that could help to correct these problems at least with respect to restaurant meals, is to teach chefs to correlate what they see visually with the amount of food they think they are serving their customers. One need not appeal to any guideline on "proper" serving size; the exercise would merely to learn to correctly identify what 5oz of pasta actually is versus what one perceives it to be. Coupled with some basic knowledge of nutrition and perhaps the option for smaller courses (at reduced prices), this could go a long way towards reducing restaurants' role in the obesity problem and thus reducing its potential culpability among the general public.

Jennie/Tikka said...

Sean -

All chefs go through Nutrition classes as a routine part of school. We also go through psychology and marketing classes. People won't generally pay for what they perceive is a "bad deal." The small portions you see at many white tablecloth-type places are considered too small, even though they are better portioned. Unless people have huge take-home leftover boxes they typically feel they've been cheated and won't frequent that restaurant. Similarly, if you don't use a lot of proteins and fats, people likewise don't feel they ate anything that actually satiated their hunger. Chefs, managers, and owners have to have a mechanism for getting people to come in and eat and "we have teeny tiny properly proportioned meals and you'll be hungry in two hours after leaving" isn't a good marketing slogan - while "you get a busload of food for cheap and won't eat again for DAYS," sadly, is ;)

Jennie

tyronebcookin said...

Just to bring it back to simplicity, people used to compliment me by telling me, 'your making me fat!'...

but in private I would say, 'NO, you are making you fat...I didn't open your mouth and make you stuff excess amount of food down your throat and make you swallow it, and I didn't make you pay for it...I also never suggested you eat a basket of house bread because there are free refills and 2 butter pats smeared on each one'.

Individuals need to take responsibilities for theirselves.

If a temptation is offered it is up to you to resist and your fault alone for not resisting.

Just ask Jesus, Budha, Ghandi, mother Teresa or your last culinary instructor...

Such a lame 'finger pointer' to put it on the Chef...and if he didn't produce, he may have to find another job...and then his family would be looking for big cheap portions so as not to starve.

Ha!

tyronebcookin said...

Also, scientifically speaking...(paraphrasing)fats send signals to the brain that tell the 'person' they are being 'satiated' this is also true with feeling full, but science says this 'trigger' is usually 15 to 20 minutes late while the stomach is digesting thats why people stuff their selves to being miserable or eating proper portion sizes of 'healthy' food and not feeling full.

Smaller portions of higher fat content with 10 minute breaks between plates?

John Kovalic said...

The problem for me with this story is, what restaurants were the chefs at who were interviewed? Portion sizes at places like The Cheesecake Factory *are* obscene. Many "white tablecloth" places in Madison and Chicago (the scenes I'm most familiar with) are far more realistic.

Yet the article also presupposes that people eat out at these kinds of places on a regular basis. As a commenter on the original story pointed out, few venues could survive on leaving their customers hungry. And compare calories of a meal at Bouchon with a Big Mac, super-sized fries, apple pie and shake. Hell, even with a Giant Gulp diet soda instead.

One ounce of pasta would put any Italian restaurant out of business. (And is that cooked weight or dry, by the way?) Do they mean as a side-dish? Four onces of pasta (uncooked) is roughly 400 calories. The sauces are going to be far more determining in the relative "healthiness" of a dish of pasta than the actual pasta itself.

And on, and on. Reason enough why I take such articles -- even those in reputable papers -- with a grain of salt.