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No Ketchup. No Substitutions. No Customizing.

Hot & Cool Trends

Take it as a sign that maybe the economic recovery really is underway.

Remember back in the early dark days of the Great Recession when there were stories about how merchants were really bending over backwards to accommodate customers’ wishes? How prices were negotiable, etc. etc.?

Well, a new restaurant trend seems to be picking up steam in New York City that goes in a decidedly different direction. More and more chefs are taking a hard line stance against patrons’ requests for customizing meals, saying no to substitutions, banning ketchup, even taking salt and pepper off of table tops.

It’s not just at high-end establishments, either. This new Chef Knows Best attitude seems to be spreading across a wide spectrum of eateries.

Here are some of the latest lines in the sand being drawn in some Gotham restaurants, as reported by Diane Cardwell, writing for The New York Times.

  • A West Village gastropub refuses to substitute any other cheese for its Roquefort-topped cheeseburger
  • A Lower East Side bistro allows no ketchup to be served with its popular french fries
  • A bagel shop that refuses to toast the bagels
  • Restaurants saying no to taming the heat of spicy dishes
  • David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants won’t substitute or provide vegetarian alternatives

The esteemed Chef Chang is quoted in Cardwell’s article saying, “The customer is not always right.” Some of these special requests are ridiculous, he says.

It seems culinary purists like Chang have tired of trying to accommodate every diner’s whim. Perhaps it’s a backlash against the Starbucks mentality of specifying every ingredient that goes in one’s order.

It will be interesting to follow this trend and see if it makes its way west of the Hudson River. Then maybe we'll know, better economic times have really begun.

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