Restaurant Food and Salt

I searched for an answer but I couldn’t find any. I think there should be factual answer for this question. Mods feel free to move this to IMHO if appropriate.

Are there any restaurant Chefs out there?

My wife and I eat out fairly often, and we usually go to nice restaurants. When the food comes she immediately grabs the salt and adds some, without ever tasting the food. (She’s a salt-a-holic and likes her food on the salty side). She figures that chefs normally underseason food since customers may not appreciate the same level of “seasoning” the chef might think appropriate. Preparing bland food of course means the customer can add whatever seasonings they want.

I believe that chefs normally season food as it should be consumed, and that customers should sample the food first to see if additional salt or pepper is needed. They can then add all the salt or pepper they want… but that chefs don’t prepare bland food as a rule.

So the basic question is, do chefs purposely underseason food so that customers can add seasoning later or do they pre-season food based on how spicy they think the dish should be?

I realize that 10 different chefs might do 10 different things… but what do most chefs do and why do they do it?

In general, most chefs will season the dish the way they feel it should be consumed.

If we are talking dennys, she might have a point, Chez Drach @ $50/plate, don’t let the cook see you he might be highly offended.

Former chef/current restaurant GM here. In my experience, a chef would not intentionally underseason a recipe so that the customer can “fix” it. Dishes should always leave the kitchen as close to perfection as possible…temps, presentation, consistency, and flavor.

Not a chef, but I’m trying to imagine Gordon Ramsay intentionally preparing bland food so the customer can “fix” it. Can’t quite do it…

That is proper etiquette.

When paying close attention to one’s weight, eating out is often discouraged, since the food is often oversalted (as well as the larger portions.)

If I’m at an unfamiliar restaurant, I won’t modify anything until I’ve tasted it. This includes salt, hot sauce, barbecue sauce, butter, pepper, etc. Once I’ve tried it, I may make modifications.

Exception: Fresh ground pepper on a Caesar salad.

If it’s a restaurant that I know and go to regularly, then I know what to expect, and I’ll know whether it needs some green Tabasco sauce, Parmesan cheese, or fresh ground pepper.

I can’t recall ever needing to add salt to anything in a restaurant, except the occasional baked potato.

Thanks eveyone. As I said, my wife is addicted to salt and pours it on without checking first to see if it “needs” it. Some people can’t seem to get enough salt in their diet! And yes, I know there is a link between salt intake and hypertensive disease…

She probably doesn’t even realize how salty her food is getting. See if you can get her to slowly cut back, and eventually she’ll notice how gross oversalted food is.

Of course, you’ll never get me to stop pouring salt on a nice cold hunk of roast beef…

The fact that chefs prepare food to be “correctly” seasoned, does not mean that your wife is wrong for always adding salt. If she prefers extra salty food, then the vast, vast majority of properly prepared restaurant foods will seem under salted to her, because almost no chef would keep his job while salting food to levels she likes.

Remember that (despite what many professional chefs will tell you) taste is subjective. Some people like their food unsalted; some need a salt lick on the table. Some like hot dogs with that grotesque yellow stuff that’s known in ball parks as “mustard”; some like hot dogs with spicy brown mustard; and some like them with catsup.

The way your wife likes her food isn’t “wrong,” no matter what anyone else says.

Still–I’d always rather taste the food first before adding seasonings.

A perfect question for Cafe Society. Moved.

samclem GQ moderator

My husband also likes his food very salty. I don’t, but I’m a pretty good cook, and I season appropriately for the tastes of most people. I used to get offended when he would salt his food before tasting, until some poster here (I forget who, but he made a good point) suggested that my husband knew my cooking, and knew that I used less salt than he preferred, hence the pre-tasting salting.

Whoever that poster was, thanks for heading off a lot of marital arguments.

I use salt sparingly in my recipes, but then I know, that my cooking audience invariably overseasons/oversalts everything, so I kind of leave it up to the persons preference. If I make something for an audience outside of my usual “people”, as a “chef” I season slightly left of center (a touch liberal) with salt and pepper. I think moist chefs do… of course it depends on what they are seasoning, I might overseason my meat, and cut back for a more flavorful sauce ferinstance.

While you find “oversalted” food gross many will find “undersalted” food gross. Just eat your food and let your wife salt (assault?) hers.

Why do people care about someone elses salt preference?

Because a high intake of salt over an extended period of time is hazardous to your health?

In terms of high blood pressure, that’s not necessarily true.

There’s research that shows that some people are most “salt sensitive” than others. In a salt sensitive person, higher salt consumption increases blood pressure. But if you’re not sensitive, salt consumption has little effect. Probably many people who have high blood pressure are salt sensitive and should decrease their salt usage, but if you’re healthy and don’t have high blood pressure, you don’t need to decrease salt use “just because.”


What do drier chefs do?

For the same reason that they care how someone else wants their steak cooked, or what condiments they put on their hamburger, or what mixers they want in their drinks…

It baffles me completely. I really could not care less what you eat or how you prepare it as long as it doesn’t produce some obnoxious sound or noxious odor that would ruin my meal.