Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Follow Friday: @Taste_Workshop

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Michele Redmond is a chef and dietitian in Arizona who’s passion is helping people live well through enjoyment of food. She refers to herself as a “food enjoyment eating activist”  (love it!) and says that she has no patience for promoting restrictive eating as a solution to obesity – AMEN to that! She wants to help people create their own healthy eating environments where “food is a solution, not a problem”.

When I asked Michele if there was anything in particular she’d like me to share about her, she said that she’s planning to launch her own blog next month where she’ll be ranting about “our crazy food/eating culture” so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, you can find Michele on twitter at @Taste_Workshop or on her website The Taste Workshop. Her website has information about current and past events on great topics like knife skills and cooking with fermented dairy.

When Monika (last week’s Follow Friday) suggested Michele for a Follow Friday post she told me that Michele has helped her with recipe development and that she’s “big on helping people feel confident about appreciating how our sense of taste works”. Thanks for introducing us Monika!

If you know a dietitian who I should feature in a Follow Friday post, please send me your nomination(s)!

 


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Can a chef trick you into preferring inferior food?

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Image of seafood saffron risotto taken by Gail on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Did anybody else see this article about a chef tricking restaurant patrons into indicating that they preferred an inferior version of saffron risotto over one using higher quality ingredients?

Diners were led to believe that they were helping the chef choose between two versions of a dish for a new menu item. The first used a “rich homemade chicken stock” and was introduced by means of a plain card listing the ingredients. The second version used “bouillon powder diluted with plain old tap water”. However, it was introduced by the “chef” (actually the restaurant owner pretending to be the chef) with a story about its origins from a childhood memory as well as a description of the provenance of each of the ingredients.

Seventy-seven percent of the diners rated the “inferior” risotto as preferable over the higher quality version. They also consistently rated this version more highly in “terms of perceived quality, overall taste, aesthetics, smell and portion size”. 

These “results” were interpreted as showing that people can be duped by chefs and that this is a result of the celebrity chef culture. Of course, this wasn’t a scientific experiment and doesn’t necessarily tell us this at all.

It may be true that people were influenced by the introduction of the food and the presence of the chef. We’ve certainly seen that food names and presentation can influence perceived quality through research done by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. However, this wasn’t scientific research and it irritates me that the article frames it as such. It’s entirely conceivable that the diners did actually prefer the “inferior” risotto. After all, the only apparent distinction between the two dishes was the use of homemade broth versus bouillon powder. Considering that many of us have palates that prefer the taste of salty food, diners may really have thought the bouillon version was better. It would be interesting to see the results of a true experiment examining the influence of the presence of a chef on the perception of meal quality.

I also find the whole “ha ha, we sure fooled you” sentiment a little over the top here. I mean, come on. It’s not like they tricked diners into believing the double down was fine dining. They swapped one ingredient, the broth, in a risotto recipe. It’s still practically the same recipe and it’s still freaking risotto.