A Shanghai Chef vents his frustration

Like the twisted Anthony Bourdain Tell-all, but without humor or depth, a netizen claiming to be a hotel chef in Shanghai has aired his grievances and the internal secrets of his business.  I discovered (via China Smack) the excellent blog Veggie Discourse, who translated the diatribe, which appeared initially on a popular Shanghai BBS, Mop.  I highly recommend you read the whole post, which includes amazing pictures.  If you are so inclined, the original post in Chinese is here.  From living conditions to ‘Old Oil’, it is fascinating commentary.  Click through to see my favorite quotes.

It’s the first diatribe I’ve seen (remember, I’m new here) describing the conditions in hotels & restaurants as well as the people who staff them.  The post is worth reading whole, but here are my favorite food comments:

Responding to the Gutter Oil scandals in Chengdu and elsewhere in China, he writes:

Our restaurant buy oil from typical suppliers, and we call it refined oil. Because of the frequent need to fry food, we reuse the oil. The recycled oil is called “old oil” but is different from gutter oil. When you see this color (below), you know it is “old.” We make Sichuan spicy oil from it. Conventional wisdom in our business says that recycle oil is carcinogenic. What people don’t realize that the oil is all genetically modified. I don’t understand the details, but I do know that 90% of the chefs give birth to daughters.

China is famous for MSG and other food additives, which have been part of Chinese cuisine for a long time.

Additives. This poses a serious problem. Without additives the quality of our food regresses back to the 70s. Presently many additives are being marketed as condiments. The types of dishes I prepare require a plethora of additives, including the poisonous and the banned. We even use melamine occasionally.

Why So many additives? Because the meat sucks.

The ratio of beef to water used to be 1 to 1. Now it is 2 to 1. Why? Because the beef we buy already has water injected in. We don’t put in water to cheat the customers. It is necessary for the texture. But some of the beef in smaller restaurants are fake. They are made of poultry and gigantic amounts of food coloring. Nitrate is also used frequently because it improves the meat texture and adds a moist red color.

On to chicken:

One chicken costs 15 yuan, (Mark: about $2) but both the buyer and the supplier are colluding to keep some of the profit. Who can vouch for chickens this cheap?

Sanitation. As a frequent diner in Shanghai, I’ve seen much of this. Then again, i’ve seen similar things in the US.

In reality sanitation is a joke. We just add tons of MSG. Even when preparing food we don’t much attention to cleanliness. To give an example, we use our bare hands for everything. After cooking the dish, I will then go on to arrange the plate. We use stinky towels to wipe dinnerware.

Seriously folks, visit Veggie Discourse for the whole post, especially for the pictures! It’s absolutely fascinating.