Ordering a meal at a restaurant certainly comes down to personal preference, but according to professional chefs, there are certain foods that should be avoided. Insider polled restaurant industry employees to find out which foods they would never order and why—and their responses probably include at least one of your usual orders. From safety concerns to cooking methods that suggest you've been served the worst cut, this is how chefs navigate the menu to ensure they always get the best dish:
- Well-done meat: "Chefs don't typically appreciate well-done orders unless there is a very specific reason for the request (elderly, pregnant, etc.)," says James Briscione, director of culinary research at the Institute of Culinary Education. "They typically reserve the least desirable cuts (thin, tougher pieces) to cook well done. In general, less attention is given to well-done orders."
- Mussels: If there's one meal on the menu that's likely to cause food poisoning, it's mussels, says Mary Dumont, chef and owner of Cultivar in Boston. "I never order mussels at restaurants. I know people love them and I'm meticulous about their storage and care if I serve them, but all it takes is one bad mussel and you're down for the count," she says.
- The seafood special: Avoid fish specials, especially those that fall on Mondays, at all costs. "Specials are tricky in restaurants," says Silvia Barban said, executive chef at Aita and LaRina. "It could be the most fresh and delicious special, but in some restaurants, specials are the way to clean up the fridge."
Inspired to stay in and cook your own meal? Stock up on these five essential tools top chefs swear by.