This week's restaurant nightmares: Our little secret
It’s never a good thing when one of your signature products is suddenly vilified as a killer. In this case, it’s the industry’s most popular side dish by far, french fries. Findings of a potential danger have yet to be widely noticed, but the nightmare could only be starting.
And, of course, that wasn’t the lone development that gave restaurateurs some restless nights this week. Included in this week’s roundup are a few moves by restaurateurs that might have seemed delicious but ultimately provided painful lessons.
Here are the week’s nightmares, Ambien not included.
If you notice fewer science nerds scarfing down your french fries this week, hope they have no friends. Their solitude might slow the spread of new revelations that suggest (but don’t prove) a connection between the highly profitable side and an early death.
The news hasn’t rippled far beyond the scientific community, which was set astir by the findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The data, gathered over an eight-year stretch, found that adults who ate fries more than twice a week had double the chances of dying prematurely.
Potatoes were not the villains, according to the report. People who ate baked or mashed taters at the same rate as fries fans showed no greater mortality. And there was a connection between deaths and consumption of fried potatoes in other forms, like tater tots and hash browns.
The study wasn’t an indictment of restaurants, or even fries. Rather, it concluded that people who died young were more likely to eat fries, but did not draw a cause-and-effect connection. Whatever made some participants more likely to die might also have driven them to eat fries, hash browns and tater tots more often.
When chefs overboil
Brace yourself for a shocker: Chefs can sometimes be temperamental. When a standout in Los Angeles thought one of his culinary creations was about to be trivialized as a mere novelty, he decided not to play along. Chef Wes Whitsell halted a photo shoot of the deer burger he’s serving in his Manuela restaurant because he thought it’d be portrayed as a gimmicky oddball, along the lines of Spam fries.
The problem was, that became the story to two journalists from Foodbeast, the popular website for sports diners. Without any depictions of the venison burger, they recounted Whitsell’s emotional reaction to their presence and intentions instead. The portrayal included Whitsell somewhat irrationally yelling to bystanders, "They're trying to put my deer burger next to some Spam fries!!!"
The writers said in an aside to readers that Whitsell’s fears were unfounded. But they did acknowledge that the website has featured the novelty of Spam fries in the past on its Instagram feed.
When the owner of a New Hampshire restaurant had to close indefinitely because his two kitchen staffers ran afoul of immigration rules, he turned to the local community for emotional support. Pedro Aguirre shared his travails on social media, explaining the two employees of La Cabana Mexican Grill had been seized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for issues in their past, including a DUI violation.
The incident also drew considerable local media coverage.
But instead of getting just sympathy, Aguirre drew fire, too. In posted comments, the restaurateur was accused of whining. “I am sure the ACLU will get on it and help him out,” read one comment.
“No tears here, send them all back and enforce the laws!” read another.
Aguirre has operated his restaurant for two years.