"Homemade" restaurant food

On my way into work I passed a sandwich shop that advertised “homemade” cookies. Then I noticed a chain deli offering “homemade” soups. What exactly is this supposed to mean? I can understand a euphemism such as “homestyle.” But “homemade” seems nothing other than false advertising.

I’ve only ever seen food touted as “homemade” with small ‘Mom and Pop’ types of establishments. Since the “homemade” food tends to be sandwhiches, cookies, soup, etc., I just assumed that it was food that the owner had cooked at home and brought to work to sell.

Is that terribly naive of me? :frowning:

It simply means it was made in one big batch at some place like at home and then gets sent out to the different places. (If it’s a chain) If it’s a small deli that’s just owned by one person or something then that most likely means it was made there on site like they would at home. This also means once they run out for the day that’s it because they can’t just dump some in a pot and heat.

I thought this was going to be a thread about making restaurant style food at home, but now I realize that would be Homemade “restaurant” food and not “Homemade” restaurant food.

Homemade means they don’t get it out of a can or some other pre-packaged form. They make it on the premesis & probably don’t add preservatives aside from salt & sugar. "Homestyle means the product comes our of a can that says “just like homemade” or some such nonsense.

Not sure I get the distinction (and of course, the “definition” is neither enforceable by law nor necessarily consistent across the board.)

I seriously doubt the sandwich shop in question bakes cookies on the premises. I don’t believe they even have the facilities to do so. Same with the deli and the soup. Which makes me believe they get their cookies and soup from an outside supplier. If that is the case, do you believe the “homemade” designation refers to a lack of preservatives? Batch size? Something else? Does it make a difference if the central supplier transports the soup fresh or frozen?
If a cookie shop such as Mrs. Fields (are they still around BTW?) does not use preservatives, and makes their cookies in the store, are they homemade? How about if they are made in a central store, and shipped fresh daily to the satellite locations? What if the ingredients (chocolate chips for example) contain preservatives?
And aren’t a good portion of entrees in any restaurant “homemade” to the extent that they are made to order, and not simply out of a can or reheated pre-prepared servings? Heck, I can even special order a Quarter Pounder. But I wouldn’t call it homemade.

I understand adjectives such as “fresh”, “organic”, “preservative-free”, or even “homestyle like your momma used to make”. But “homemade” food in a restaurant or store always strikes me as inaccurate.

When I worked at Subway, we had “homemade” cookies. What this meant was we took the premixed, preformed cookies out of the box, put them on a cookie sheet and baked them ourselves. Voile, fresh out of the oven, baked on the premises homemade cookies. Rather like our fresh baked bread.

Strictly speaking (in my mind’s dictionary anyway), “homemade” means made mostly from scratch. I would call anything I make at home (constructed from basic ingredients) to be homemade. Hamburger Helper can be made at home, but since it comes in kit form, I wouldn’t call the resulting product homemade. I would not call anything served at MacDonald’s homemade because, even though they do “make” the burgers right there on the spot, everything they have to work with is shipped to them already made. MacDonald’s “restaurants” are nothing more than hamburger assembly lines. If they started with the ground beef right there & mixed in the eggs & bread crumbs & spices to make the meat patties, I would be more willing to call their burgers homemade.

Food loses its freshness over time. I believe that “Homemade” is an attempt by the merchant to advertise that the food and/or ingredients are removed as much as possible from processing. I would call tuna salad homemade as long as they cut up the celery & pickles & ground the pepper at the time the batch was made, and then served it in the same place as it was made. I would not expect them to buy an actual tuna fish at the fish market or make their own mayonaise.

Personally, I would prefer that homemade cookies be mixed and baked right away, but with cookies you can probably get away with mixing the batter, freezing it & then baking later while still keeping the “homemade” flavor. You can’t get away with this for tuna salad though, so the word has to be applied carefully & selectively. Examples of how the application of the word changes depending on the food:


• Homemade pizza: Pre-made crust, canned sauce, grated mozz., pepperoni sliced from a stick.
• Non-homemade pizza: Already assembled in-a-box frozen disk, or one that comes in kit form.

• Homemade soup: Frozen pre-cut veggies, canned consommé, meat from the animal & salt/pepper/spices to taste.
• Non-homemade soup: Campbell’s® or Chunky®, I don’t care how good they taste. Even though technically you “make” the soup at home (i.e. the MacDonald’s dilema).

• Homemade macaroni & cheese: cheese sauce made from a roux of butter (even though I didn’t churn it myself), milk (even though I didn’t milk the cow), flour (even though I didn’t mill the grains, or do whatever the hell is involved in making flour) and an assortment of cheeses that I can assure you I will never attempt to press milk curd myself). Add pre-packaged elbow noodles (even though I didn’t make the pasta myself) & sprinle some dried parsley on top.
• Non-homemade m&c: Kraft® m&c, even though they started out with basically the same ingredients I did.


My last example has brought me to conclude that “homemade” is meant to suggest that most (preferrably all) of the “processing” of the food is done in the same place where it will be served. If I make 50 gallons of my best homemade tuna salad here at home with all fresh ingredients, then freeze & divide it into 50 one-gallon containers & ship it to my delis all over the eastern seaboard, I would not consider it homemade by the time it got made into sandwiches.

It’s a grey area, for sure. And the language is probably not regulated with the same strict guidelines as the phrase “low fat” is on packaged goods. Restaurants can probably misuse the term “homemade” because there is no official definition.

Maybe somebody else can see the definition I’m trying to arrive at & arrive at it using less words. How very odd that handy hasn’t been here to c&p the dictionary.com entry for “homemade” yet.

How about “assembled on premesis using mostly primary ingredients”?

“Homemade” stands for absolutely nothing. Most certainly it has zero to do with anything being prepared at home or the like. Speaking as someone who has been a professional chef, all food sold in commercial establishments must be prepared in a health inspected kitchen. Most residential kitchens cannot possibly pass code inspection for proper segragation of food stuffs and preparation areas.

About the most that you can hope for is that the food is prepared in small batches from scratch. I would not bet any amount of cash on 90% of the places that claim this though. As to Attrayant’s tuna salad:

**Personally, I’d consider any mayonnaise bearing food that has been frozen to be a potential health risk and most certainly a ruined product. But that’s just snooty little me.

This reminds me very little of a great cartoon that hung on the wall of Mama’s Royal Cafe in Oakland, California. It showed the interior of a restaurant with a prominent sign over the counter proclaiming “Mama’s Home Cooking”. A customer is irately pointing to his food and making an obviously displeased face about it. To all of this, the waiter is saying;

Like the sign says, ‘Mama’s home… cooking.’

We all have opinions of what homemade does or should mean, but the I think OP has it right. It is advertising bulls**t.