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The Sysco Truck


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An interesting listing of Chefs and restaurants that rely on Sysco for "foodstuffs". Interesting interviews. From Slate:

"Recently, New York magazine reported that Thomas Keller uses frozen Sysco fries at his Bouchon bistros. (While a company spokeswoman wouldn't confirm the brand, she confirmed the use of frozen fries.) Mickey Mantle's Restaurant, an upscale sports bar, serves Sysco's pre-made soups, like Manhattan clam chowder and vegetarian black bean. And then there's Edgar's restaurant at Belhurst Castle, which has won numerous awards of excellence from Wine Spectator magazine. There, the kitchen takes Sysco's Imperial Towering Chocolate Cake out of the box, lets it defrost, and then sprinkles it with fresh raspberries before serving it to diners. "We've had a lot of success with that cake," executive chef Casey Belile says. The Edgar's menu, of course, does not list the dessert as a Sysco pre-made cake, but it does charge $8.95 for the experience." Complete article here.

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Interesting (odd?) that the article chose Bardia's, of all places in the US, for a quote:

"Bardia Ferdowski of Bardia's New Orleans Café in Washington, D.C., purchases only raw and unprocessed Sysco products such as flour, potatoes, and beef, and receives frequent deliveries so that ingredients are as fresh as possible."

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Interesting (odd?) that the article chose Bardia's, of all places, for a quote:

"Bardia Ferdowski of Bardia's New Orleans Café in Washington, D.C., purchases only raw and unprocessed Sysco products such as flour, potatoes, and beef, and receives frequent deliveries so that ingredients are as fresh as possible."

There is much commentary coming from self-proclaimed foodies and food experts, who say everything has to be fresh (natural, organic, artisinal, locally-grown, picked yesterday, etc. etc) to be good. It just ain't so.

I have eaten Bouchon's french fries and they are some of the best you'll ever find. If they come in frozen, so what? I don't know if they're a "higher-quality frozen fry" or the restaurants preparation technique is just that good, or both, but what is on the plate is super and as far as I can tell certainly hasn't suffered because the potatoes were frozen along the way. Michel Richard uses frozen peas I believe. I once spied a box of berries at Maestro which was the same national brand that I had bought in the Safeway a few days before.

How many chefs can be going to local markets all the time to get everything they need? I'll bet even the ones who get themselves press stories like that only get a fraction of what they use that way, and that includes France and Italy. The rest is delivered on a truck. There is no other way 99.99% of places could stay in business. Am I wrong? Tell me.

Should restaurants be required, or expected, to state on their menus where everything came from, and what was prepared in-house?

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Interesting (odd?) that the article chose Bardia's, of all places, for a quote:

"Bardia Ferdowski of Bardia's New Orleans Café in Washington, D.C., purchases only raw and unprocessed Sysco products such as flour, potatoes, and beef, and receives frequent deliveries so that ingredients are as fresh as possible."

They probably had to go that far down before they could find someone willing to admit that they used sysco products.
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Malawry had some interesting things to say about Sysco on one of her food blogs over at eGullet. I'll post a link if I can find it. It was while she had a gig cooking for a sorority house.

I imagine most large operations use Sysco for something, unless they're sourcing artisinal bleach or dish cleaners.

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There's a Sysco store in Jessup, MD that sells their products to the public. You can get just about everything they sell to restaurants (#10 cans of products, stock bases, industrial size boxes of food and spices, kitchen supplies, seafood, etc). And if they don't have it in their store, they can order it from the warehouse. I usually order a case of canned plum tomatoes when I make my tomato sauces.

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If Mssrs Keller, Richard and others are rewarded Michelin stars and all but Michelin sycophantic praise (so far) for the quality of [their] frozen vegetables and preprepared items, whose consistency or taste they are not able to replicate themselves, they are frauds, undermining craftsmen and Holden Caulfields who continue and pursue an honest trade on a personal level. Either the lab technicians in R&D or those who place the orders in F&B should be mentioned in the establishment's highest culinary distinction.

A chef's merit is based on their ability to work a product from raw to plate, not from catalog. They rest on their gilded laurels and are a detriment to others' work by cheaply inflating their mystic standards. Furthermore, prices relayed onto the consumer should reflect labor rather than shipping, so long as they can differentiate hand-made from factory.

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For my money, there's an awfully big distinction between uncooked ingredients (including, for instance, potatoes pre-cut in the shape of fries and frozen) and fully prepared dishes (like the "pre-made soups" and "Imperial Towering Chocolate Cake" mentioned in the article).

Frankly, it does seem a little deceptive to me to pull out a pre-prepared Sysco cake, sprinkle some berries on it, and sell it at what I imagine is a very large markup at a supposed fine-dining destination. (If that is what Edgar's is. I don't know anything about it.) But I care much less about the provenance of ingredients that arrive at the delivery door in need of the chef's creativity and labor.

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I have had the french fries at Bouchon, and I just can't believe they were Sysco frozen. Maybe Sysco is doing something special for Keller. I don't even recall those fries being uniform in shape, a sure way to tell if they were frozen. Who knows. If they were frozen they were damn good!

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I don't even recall those fries being uniform in shape, a sure way to tell if they were frozen.

How would the shape be a sure way to tell if they were frozen? Obviously that theory has been shot to Hades.

I'm no Sysco lover, but we have to accept they didn't get where they are by being stupid. If there's a market, they'll supply it. Why couldn't they offer "variegated cut" frozen fries as one of their 400,000 items. If they aren't, somebody apparently is because Bouchon has already been quoted as saying they use frozen fries.

And come to think of it, why couldn't Sysco be offering duck fat too?

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Sysco is a huge company that supplies a huge variety of things, in all levels of quality. Is it any different thatn a restaurant using Firehook bakery for its bread? Many restaurants outsource its desserts because they can't afford the cost of a dedicated pastry chef. As to French Fries, they are better frozen than freshly cut because they have had a chance to dryout. Love them or hate them, frozen FFs when cooked properly in the right oil at the proper temperature are the only way to go.

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How would the shape be a sure way to tell if they were frozen? Obviously that theory has been shot to Hades.

Have you every seen frozen french fries? If they are using frozen fries at Bouchon in Vegas, it is not average tasteless Sycso frozen fries, that's all I am saying.

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Have you every seen frozen french fries? If they are using frozen fries at Bouchon in Vegas, it is not average tasteless Sycso frozen fries, that's all I am saying.
I would bet that most of us have no idea when we're eating a "tasteless" Sysco product most of the time - I'm talking about the unprocessed stuff, not the prepared foods. They are everywhere.

This is interesting. ChefEx.

ChefEx is a new program designed to deliver the culinary world's finest products to discerning chefs. Only the highest quality products and ingredients will be used from artisan producers.

SYSCO will help directly connect customers and suppliers through ChefEx. As we continue to add new suppliers, it is our desire to help customers differentiate themselves and their menus with these unique offerings.

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A lot of this doesn't strike me as being any different than hearing that a restaurant bought onions or potatoes at Giant or ordered their spices from Penzey's. It isn't that much different than what you'd get right off the farm.

If, however a restaurant that makes it a point to tout the artisan, local, organic or specially "sourced" nature of their foods and they use something "sourced" this way, we'd have the right to be outraged. If Chez Panisse was serving berries with honey from South America in February or Restaurant Nora was serving Harris Teeter "Rancher's Choice" beef or Blue Duck Tavern's house made bratwurst from German Reserve, PA (how is it house-made and from PA at the same time anyway?), I'd see the problem.

If I found out that Maestro orders its Tipo 00 flour and napkins from Sysco or that the Kit-Kat or "Breakfast at Citronelle" really come frozen off of a truck, I could care less.

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A lot of this doesn't strike me as being any different than hearing that a restaurant bought onions or potatoes at Giant or ordered their spices from Penzey's. It isn't that much different than what you'd get right off the farm.

If, however a restaurant that makes it a point to tout the artisan, local, organic or specially "sourced" nature of their foods and they use something "sourced" this way, we'd have the right to be outraged. If Chez Panisse was serving berries with honey from South America in February or Restaurant Nora was serving Harris Teeter "Rancher's Choice" beef or Blue Duck Tavern's house made bratwurst from German Reserve, PA (how is it house-made and from PA at the same time anyway?), I'd see the problem.

So would it bother you if Bouchon's website described it like this?

The French word "bouchon" describes a particular style of cafe that has existed in the province of Lyon for centuries. Bouchon, opened in 1998, lives up to this designation, offering authentic French bistro fare of a quality not to be found elsewhere in the United States.
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Perhaps Bouchon serves Sysco's Imperial Phantom Plus French Fries, which use "SYSCO's special Clear Coat technology" to give them "excellent holding time and crispness - up to three times longer than the average fry." As a result of being "specially processed in salt brine" and "their skin-on, homestyle appearance and flavor," they are "the perfect complement to an upscale entree or gourmet sandwich."

Bouchon may not serve Sysco's Conventional Cut French Fries, which appear to lack the special Clear Coat technology.

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Perhaps Bouchon serves Sysco's Imperial Phantom Plus French Fries, which use "SYSCO's special Clear Coat technology" to give them "excellent holding time and crispness - up to three times longer than the average fry." As a result of being "specially processed in salt brine" and "their skin-on, homestyle appearance and flavor," they are "the perfect complement to an upscale entree or gourmet sandwich."

Bouchon may not serve Sysco's Conventional Cut French Fries, which appear to lack the special Clear Coat technology.

Cook's Illustrated recently did a piece on french fries and recommended they be coated with cornstarch then left to dry for a while before frying. Makes 'em extra crisp. I'll bet Sysco's "special clear coat technology" does/is something similar. Just like Burger King's specially crispy fries. The chemistry's the same, regardless of price point.

And while we're discussing bistro authenticity, I'm willing to wager that many, if not most, bistros in France these days use frozen fries. As such, that would make Bouchon's fries "authentic bistro," wouldn't it? [Edit Disclaimer---I was composing this sentence while the two posts above were being posted, so I hadn't seen them]

IMHO, all restaurant menu descriptions and publicity writings should be approached with the cynical mindset, not the trusting mindset. I'll further bet that Alice Waters' place is not innocent of the Sysco truck, or one of their competitors.

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The French word "bouchon" describes a particular style of cafe that has existed in the province of Lyon for centuries. Bouchon, opened in 1998, lives up to this designation, offering authentic French bistro fare of a quality not to be found elsewhere in the United States.

What, they don't use any frozen frites in Lyon?

Actually, I don't believe that Keller's Bouchon (judging by the cookbook, I haven't eaten there yet) is an authentic Lyonaise bouchon so much as a (reportedly) excellent bistro. Bouchons specialize in weird sausages, offal and other icky things that I happen to like very much, whereas you don't see any of that in the cookbook (does he even have tripe)? Given that there are only 21 "registered" bouchons in Lyon and the competition is no doubt fierce and crafty, I'll wager that any bouchonaire using frozen frites from the Lysco Lyon would be ratted out immediately and lose their certification.

Cook's Illustrated recently did a piece on french fries and recommended they be coated with cornstarch then left to dry for a while before frying. Makes 'em extra crisp. I'll bet Sysco's "special clear coat technology" does/is something similar. Just like Burger King's specially crispy fries. The chemistry's the same, regardless of price point.

Wooo...I'm not sure equating Cysco with Burger King and Cook's Illustrated makes any of them look good.

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Are people really surprised that even high end places get (*gasp*) food items from Sysco or similar? That has got to be the worst kept "secret" of all regarding even exalted temples of gastronomy. In many cases it probably the best and only way to get consistent, quality produce in the off season.

I'm astounded at Sysco's reach, though, good or bad. When I was waiting tables we spent one night after closing sitting at the bar looking at a recent supplier catalog and cracking up about all of the crazy, random crap that could be ordered.

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Actually, I don't believe that Keller's Bouchon (judging by the cookbook, I haven't eaten there yet) is an authentic Lyonaise bouchon so much as a (reportedly) excellent bistro. Bouchons specialize in weird sausages, offal and other icky things that I happen to like very much, whereas you don't see any of that in the cookbook (does he even have tripe)? Given that there are only 21 "registered" bouchons in Lyon and the competition is no doubt fierce and crafty, I'll wager that any bouchonaire using frozen frites from the Lysco Lyon would be ratted out immediately and lose their certification.

Wooo...I'm not sure equating Cysco with Burger King and Cook's Illustrated makes any of them look good.

I don't have any idea where that pink stripe came from at the top of my quote. Must be a bug in the invisioin upgrade.
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This discussion reminds me of the time a couple of years ago that I stopped for dinner at the Elk Cove Inn on the Mendocino coast. As I was parking, I noticed a Sysco truck parked close to the back entrance. Talking to the proprietress about it, she just laughed. She pointed out (as if I didn't know) that it is at least three hours up a winding coastal highway or over mountain roads from the nearest big city with wholesalers. Did I realize that no restaurant in those parts could afford the time or gas to drive all over the place gathering up the pristine local ingredients on a daily or weekly basis? Heck, Ft. Bragg was enough of a schlepp up the coast as it was to get some of the fish. In other words "get real!"

But here's what their website and menu say:

Our 2006 Chef de Maison, Jeremy Baumgartner believes that with his skills, the natural beauty, intimate, ocean view dining room, fresh, organic ingredients and local wines meld to form a perfect blend of relaxation and enjoyment. He bakes his own fresh artisan breads daily to complement generous salads of fresh greens that still speak of their morning in the garden. And he's perfected house made pasta and desserts that add to the menu's essence of freshness and care.

Chef Jeremy 's menu combines the zest and freshness of regional dishes with a robust infusion of mouth-watering , exotic worldwide flavors, making for well-rounded, enjoyable meals. . . .

ZEBO serves satisfying portions of unique, globally influenced American cuisine— meats, seafood, fresh greens, pastas, and delectable desserts — whose fresh, organic ingredients call this area home. Our beef and fowl are free-range and hormone-free. ZEBO supports Mendocino County’s GMO-free initiative, along with our local fisheries, organic farmers, wild food foragers, and food artisans.

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The source of the product reflects integrity and selfless consequences. Whether it be blood diamonds, sweat-shop shoes, mega-mart sales, unsolicited irritating penis enlargement doo-dads, inefficient vehicles or farms that pollute drinking water. In some western countries, restaurants and such are held accountable to what is claimed to be made in house under penalties of consumer fraud. Food is the foundation of our existence and restaurants have thrived before the resourceful advents of Messrs Birdseye and Appert, despite seasons. If even the French were eventually able to properly fry a previously scorn potato, surely Mr. Keller's empire can figure out the solanum tuberosum matrix.

Discriminating consumers who cannot appreciate the charming nuances and virtues of handblown glasswares over Libby's Dollar store chalices might as well chug-a-lug from the bottle. However, while I may not be able to differentiate a genuine Roycroft antique from a replica, were I to purchase the forgery from a well reputed dealer who, while making no claims of the authenticity, is well renown based on exclusive awards for their inventory/practice/trade/workmanship, I would consider the sale of a cheap duplicate veiled deceit.

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As to French Fries, they are better frozen than freshly cut because they have had a chance to dryout. Love them or hate them, frozen FFs when cooked properly in the right oil at the proper temperature are the only way to go.
Wait, I missed this yesterday. Are you serious? I disagree. I've had some fine restaurant frites, but none compare to my own fresh double-cooked taters. I can taste if anything has been added, and find coated fries disgusting.

Bouchon's website says nothing about the provenance of the ingredients, only the skill of the cooks. Click to see. So are they still guilty of "veiled deceit?"

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Bouchon's website says nothing about the provenance of the ingredients, only the skill of the cooks. Click to see. So are they still guilty of "veiled deceit?"

The guilt is not theirs, my dear, it is yours/ours. Quoting myself from yesterday:

...all restaurant menu descriptions and publicity writings should be approached with the cynical mindset, not the trusting mindset.

Translation: What they say isn't deceptive. It's through the assumptions you make about what they didn't say that you are deceived--by yourself.

Needless to say, this isn't limited to the restaurant biz. This is a flaw hardwired into the human brain which we all use all the time, and is used against us all the time. Welcome to real life. How's that for cynical.

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The guilt is not theirs, my dear, it is yours/ours. Quoting myself from yesterday:

Translation: What they say isn't deceptive. It's through the assumptions you make about what they didn't say that you are deceived--by yourself.

Needless to say, this isn't limited to the restaurant biz. This is a flaw hardwired into the human brain which we all use all the time, and is used against us all the time. Welcome to real life. How's that for cynical.

Rest assured that I am hardly some credulous young ingenue ready to swallow whatever PR bullshit is flung my way. :o Mr. Pepper was the one prattling about consumer fraud.

Most people don't even care enough to be deceived, as long as it tastes good.

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Why?

I think if we looked at the resumes of most of the posters who would rail on chefs' flowery descriptions of menu items partially sourced by Sysco, we would find that many of these same people are also experts at (to borrow from Poivrot's metaphor) tunring a replica into a Roycroft antique.

I think everyone is guilty of some selective marketing. Would you order the "Pan-Seared Sysco Scallops with a bed of Sauteed Organic Sysco Spinach and topped with strips of Crispy sysco bacon"? Probably not. Its just like the outlandishly tasty looking pictures of Mcdonalds burgers on the menu and the scorchingly hot models talking on the phone in late night party line commercials.

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http://www.metafilter.com/73725/OMNOMNOMopoly

Sysco : whether it's Wendy's, Applebee's, the local diner, a fancy restaurant, the cafeteria, or Guantanamo Bay, it's what you eat. Serving over 400,000 businesses, the "Wal-Mart of Food Service" has all the bases covered, from "Unique 3-D technology gives you the look and texture of a solid muscle chicken breast, at a fraction of the cost" to more gourmet offerings.

[3D technologies? Ewww]

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http://www.metafilter.com/73725/OMNOMNOMopoly

Sysco : whether it's Wendy's, Applebee's, the local diner, a fancy restaurant, the cafeteria, or Guantanamo Bay, it's what you eat. Serving over 400,000 businesses, the "Wal-Mart of Food Service" has all the bases covered, from "Unique 3-D technology gives you the look and texture of a solid muscle chicken breast, at a fraction of the cost" to more gourmet offerings.

[3D technologies? Ewww]

Mmmmmm... soylent chicken.....

Boxed beef? WTF? "That's because we start with only the healthiest, most premium steer calves, chosen for their genetic superiority :lol: and low body fat. Fed a high-energy grain ration, these calves mature much more rapidly than those on standard diets...twice as fast, in fact ;) ."

Yes, please come and enjoy some of our eugenic ubermensch mutant beef...

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http://www.metafilter.com/73725/OMNOMNOMopoly

Sysco : whether it's Wendy's, Applebee's, the local diner, a fancy restaurant, the cafeteria, or Guantanamo Bay, it's what you eat. Serving over 400,000 businesses, the "Wal-Mart of Food Service" has all the bases covered, from "Unique 3-D technology gives you the look and texture of a solid muscle chicken breast, at a fraction of the cost" to more gourmet offerings.

[3D technologies? Ewww]

Assume nothing when you see the Sysco truck, because most likely they are delivering:

Drinking straws

To-Go boxes

Paper napkins

Styrofoam cups

50 lb. bags of flour

Plastic forks, knives, spoons

etc. etc. etc.

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Boxed beef? WTF? "That's because we start with only the healthiest, most premium steer calves, chosen for their genetic superiority :lol: and low body fat. Fed a high-energy grain ration, these calves mature much more rapidly than those on standard diets...twice as fast, in fact ;) ."

Yes, please come and enjoy some of our eugenic ubermensch mutant beef...

Sorry to harsh on your parody, but every piece of beef you've ever bought from a grocery store, with the possible exception of the dry-aged stuff from Whole Foods, is "boxed beef" - they break down the primals and put them in boxes to ship, since whole carcasses are hard to stack on the truck. The rest is standard marketing schlock - of course all the meat they sell comes from genetically superior bovine triathletes. :o
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Sorry to harsh on your parody, but every piece of beef you've ever bought from a grocery store, with the possible exception of the dry-aged stuff from Whole Foods, is "boxed beef" - they break down the primals and put them in boxes to ship, since whole carcasses are hard to stack on the truck. The rest is standard marketing schlock - of course all the meat they sell comes from genetically superior bovine triathletes. :lol:

That's true. Basically just about all beef sold in any store, included Whole Paycheck AFAIK, is processed at what in the biz are picturesquely called "disassembly plants," "cryovaced" and boxed, and shipped east/west by truck to your neighborhood store. That has been the method since the 1960's. Same is true, to a degree, for pork, lamb, etc. The only meat typically shipped whole these days is chicken (also in boxes of course), and even that is becoming less frequent as immigrant labor is used in the plants to cut the pieces and ship them prepackaged to the store (those packages of chicken parts that say Perdue or Tysons on the wrapper). Normally beef is shipped in primal cuts, but to an increasing extent it is also being cut into sales portions at the plant and shipped to stores in air-tight inert gas packages ("case-ready") for direct display, thus eliminating all store cutting. Wal-mart has pretty much converted to this method, and others are not far behind.

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The antidote to the above anecdote, is to go to a "real" butcher, like Halalco or The Lebanese Butcher in Falls Church, for lamb or goat--they'll carry a whole carcass out from the cold locker and cut it up on a bandsaw in front of your eyes. Or go to The Organic Butcher of McLean for beef--they get whole carcasses and break them down on site, and also do dry aging of steaks and roasts.

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