Food & Drink

9 ingredients chefs need to stop using

Eating out at restaurants these days might give you a serious case of menu-boredom: didn't you just see all these same items at the last place you ate? It's not just you. Chefs are sick of the déjà vu, too. Déjà vu, too.

To draw attention to the plight of overused ingredients and jaded diners, we asked some of our favorite chefs what they’re tired of seeing.

Sriracha

"It's not the ingredient itself: it's the lack of a deft hand which has a hold on the bottle, and doesn't know that a little goes a long way."
-- Chris Santos, executive chef, Beauty & Essex and Stanton Social (New York, NY)

“What started out as a condiment is now on every plate, from Sriracha mayo to Sriracha wings to Sriracha tuna salad to Sriracha potato chips. It's morphed into a ubiquitous flavoring, and it's on too many dishes.”
-- Brian Zenner, executive chef, Oak (Dallas, TX)
 
“I love Sriracha, but I’m sick of it! It’s way overused. People say it’s good on everything, but it really has no place in desserts. I think it’s easy to take something that's versatile and put it on anything, but does it taste good?”
-- Michael Armstrong, executive chef, Bodega Negra (New York, NY)
 

Faux caviar

"I think the faux 'caviar' trend has come and gone, but I still see it here and there. Little beads of Tabasco or balsamic do nothing for me. They usually have no flavor and just get in the way. If you want those flavors, just add the ingredient or make a sauce or reduction. If you want caviar, use caviar.”
-- Hosea Rosenberg, chef/owner, Blackbelly Market (Boulder, CO)

Tomatoes (out of season)

“Kitchens have got to stop putting tomatoes on salads when they’re out of season. I can understand using a slice of beefsteak tomato on a burger set (we do it) during the colder months, but when you go to a restaurant in the middle of winter and they have a caprese salad, it’s usually terrible. Ripe tomatoes in season are heavenly. Hard, mealy tomatoes in wintertime are disgusting.” 
-- Hosea Rosenberg, chef/owner, Blackbelly Market (Boulder, CO)
 

Brussels sprouts

"A side of Brussels sprouts is ubiquitous; it seems like it's always either done with bacon or with some kind of fish sauce vinaigrette. We can do better than that. It's cheating to serve Brussels with bacon because everything is good with bacon."
-- Paul C. Reilly, chef/proprietor, beast + bottle (Denver, CO)
 

Truffles

"Truffles are an indulgence, and they should be served that way. When I see truffles on a menu, I'm looking for more than just a drizzle of oil or a few shavings. If you’re going to put truffles on the menu, go all out with an abundance of slices and really let your guests indulge.”
-- Thomas Rice, chef, TÊTE Charcuterie (Chicago, IL)

bacon
Sebastian Davis

Bacon

“Don't get me wrong, we sell a lot of pork belly and all other delicious pork parts at TWO, but I feel we do them all pretty well. If someone is going to offer bacon on everything and anything, at least make your own. We all know what commodity bacon tastes like, we don't need to go to a restaurant to have that experience. I frickin’ love pork belly as a star component on the dish, but I feel some people don't pay attention to the quality of product. If you're braising/sous vide-ing it, then find a product with a better meat to fat ratio. Then you’re not selling your guests a dish with 95% fat on it. No two pigs are the same, nor are their bellies. I certainly don't want to go out and spend my money on something over the top, fatty, and inedible.”
-- Tom Van Lente, chef, TWO (Chicago, IL)

“It’s so great, but it’s in everything. You can go through a meal from start to finish with every course tasting the same. Enough already!”
-- Ralph Scamardella, chef, TAO Group (New York, NY & Las Vegas, NV)
 

Balsamic vinegar (on salads)

“This trend reminds me of raspberry vinegar in the '80s. It is simply too sweet for most salads, and does not allow the natural sweetness of lettuces or the colors of other ingredients to shine.”
-- Michael Kornick, chef, mk (Chicago, IL)
 

Beets

“Chefs and restaurants are using way too many beets. In the last few years, they've been used to the extent that they're becoming cliché. I feel like every restaurant has a beet salad at this point. I love them enough that I don't want them to go away, I just would like to see more interesting presentations that showcase the sweet and earthy flavor of the beet. Is it possible to be tired of seeing things, but when they're on the menu you can't stop eating it? Is that the definition of insanity? Or addiction? Not sure.”
-- John Caputo, chef, Labriola Ristorante & Cafe (Chicago, IL)
 

"Perfect" fruits and veggies

“Chefs need to stop using 'pretty and perfect' fruits and vegetables. Consumers are no longer looking at uniformity as a marker of quality. Lopsided produce, irregularly-shaped tomatoes, and imperfect fruit are signs that food comes from the earth. The real importance is flavor and nutritional value. Besides, buying 'ugly' mitigates perfectly fine food that often is thrown away.”
-- Thomas Horner, executive chef, Rockwood Grill at JW Marriott Desert Springs (Palm Desert, CA)

Lee Breslouer writes about food and drink for Thrillist, and thinks you can never have too many beets on a menu. Follow him to more opinions on vegetables at @LeeBreslouer.