Anthony Bourdain gave it to us straight in Kitchen Confidential, his impossible-to-put-down tell-all about the behind the scenes of New York City restaurant life: brunch sucks.
But we didn’t listen. We were all too hungover to care.
Bourdain pulls no punches. Brunch, he explains, is the chef’s opportunity to use up all the ingredients that weren’t used during the week. Is the brunch special a seafood omelette? That means the shrimp special promoted on Monday didn’t sell. If you order the omelette, you’re eating six-day-old shrimp.
Now, I’m all for eliminating food waste. It’s why I make bone broth with chicken carcasses and something I call “kitchen sink couscous” which involves roasting every last vegetable in my fridge and tossing with couscous and a spicy olive oil sauce.
But I don’t want to be the food waste solution for restaurants. I am not a dumpster. Perhaps they should buy less; perhaps they should donate the extra food to food banks well before the expiration date. But what they should not do is feed me a garbage omelette.
Chefs also hate brunch. Not only are they hungover and exhausted, they hate cooking brunch food, which Bourdain explained in his 1999 New Yorker essay “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,”:
We hate the smell and spatter of omelettes. We despise hollandaise, home fries, those pathetic fruit garnishes, and all the other cliché accompaniments designed to induce a credulous public into paying $12.95 for two eggs. Nothing demoralizes an aspiring Escoffier faster than requiring him to cook egg-white omelettes or eggs over easy with bacon. You can dress brunch up with all the focaccia, smoked salmon, and caviar in the world, but it’s still breakfast.
Hollandaise sauce illustrates the hatred chefs have for the brunch diner perfectly: because it’s made with raw eggs and butter, it should be made to order, one small batch at a time. But that’s not what happens; instead, a line cook — possibly reeking of last night’s tequila and coke — makes a huge vat of it before service starts. And then it’s ladled onto one plate of eggs benedict after another.