Two Chefs On Why Brunch Sucks (And Why You Shouldn’t Listen To Them)

Two Chefs On Why Brunch Is The Worst (And Why You Shouldn't Listen To Them)

We see this time and again: a major publication publishes an article attacking the thing you love the most. Maybe someone is telling you that your drinking habit might someday give you cirrhosis, because “science.” Um, okay, dude. Not buying it. Could be that someone is saying your porn habit is ruining real life sex for you. Your coffee is bankrupting you, your cigarettes are giving you cancer, and your 3 a.m. pizza sessions are taking you from rad bod to dad bod. I can accept all of this slander. But where I draw the line is brunch. Nobody is allowed to besmirch the name of brunch, not even the people who have to work brunch shifts.

Thrillist sat down with some brunch cooks and turns out, they don’t necessarily love to cook brunch. And to that I say: whoooooo caresssss. Their arguments are falling on hollandaise-covered deaf ears.

For most of us, brunch means mid-morning bliss, full of fun-in-the-sun day drinking, shared plates of French toast, and a few slabs of crispy, hangover-curing bacon. But working brunch? That’s another story entirely. While you’re tipped back in your chair, sipping Bloodies and taking it sleazy, a group of hungover cooks is sweating it out. And for a place that specializes in dinner service, brunch can be a costly, annoying chore, and the temptation to phone it in is very, very real.

The temptation to phone in any job is very, very real. Why should working brunch be any different. I’ll be out to brunch, my wait staff can be out to lunch. We’ll be lazy sacks of shit together. I’ll just be the lazy sack of shit with my triple fluid arrangement of water cup, cup of coffee, and mimosa. Ne’er a hangover that didn’t crumble to that triple combo.

So what does that mean to you? It means brunch is overrated, folks. Ask any cook and they’ll tell you, paying $15 for pancakes and shitty mimosas cranked out by the culinary B-team isn’t exactly a steal. From a restaurant’s perspective, brunch is just an opportunity to make a quick buck until there’s bigger fish to fry — sometimes quite literally.

Things that are overrated: Derek Jeter’s defensive legacy, Nirvana, Jim Carrey’s sense of humor, sex in weird places. Things that are not overrated: Brunch. That’s just #factsonly.

I chatted up two chefs, each with years of experience manning the omelet station, to get their firsthand — albeit anonymous — perspectives on why your favorite weekend ritual is, in fact, a total joke.

Because just two chefs is enough to make sweeping generalizations about an institution such as brunch, beloved more universally than Paul McCartney.

Your market omelet is last night’s dinner special
Here’s the thing: Restaurants rarely, if ever, get food deliveries over the weekend, so your Sunday feast is probably not the freshest. Remember Bourdain’s whole bit about not ordering the fish on the weekend? That ‘ish has been sitting around getting smellier and slimier since Thursday or Friday. But, regardless of stock, a restaurant’s gotta pay the bills, and that means repurposing the week’s leftovers into a fancy-sounding brunch menu.

Not like I’m going to a sushi joint for brunch. I mean, sure, there might be something not so fresh in my omelet, but it’s also not like the eggs, cheese, and bacon are “old.” I think.

“Brunch is a means of making more money and obviously, if you have extra product on hand, you want to sell it,” says a New York City chef we’ll call Pete. “Say you got some nice baby turnips at the market and they didn’t sell all week. Do you throw them away and take a loss, or do you make something new with them and try to sell them?”

Look, I get that the restaurant needs to get theirs. But if they’re passing their health grades and people aren’t coming out of the restaurant melting like they’re Nazis who just opened the Ark of the Covenant a la Indiana Jones, I’m fine signing that social contract of risking the leftovers.

I highly doubt the average hard-working bruncher would knowingly pay for last Tuesday’s broccoli rabe folded inside their scrambled eggs or Italian baked eggs featuring Thursday’s deconstructed lasagna leftovers.

Have you ever made a dinner and not had leftovers? I eat leftovers for lunch like every day of the week and twice on Sunday – once at brunch and probably once for a snack. There’s nothing wrong with leftovers. And, sidebar, that broccoli rabe folded inside scrambled eggs sounds pretty dope.

The best cooks are sleeping off Saturday night
“Labor is costly, most places can’t afford to have more than a skeleton staff on,” Pete explains. “You want the better staff on the busier shifts, so that leaves the newer staff to pick up brunch.”

Nine times out of 10, the kitchen staff is far from the restaurant’s best and brightest. Much of the culinary world runs on a military-like hierarchy, and chain-of-command allows the folks at the top, with their crisply buttoned whites and goofy hats, to spend Sundays at home with the kids or hitting the snooze button in a booze-fueled haze.

Even the plebian chefs need to get in their reps, and if I have to eat their delicious crabcakes benedict that somehow falls slightly below where the head chef’s crabcakes benedict checks in, I’m okay with that. I’m too hungover to notice the difference anyway, right?

“The head chef usually takes off on Sunday because it’s the only day he can actually stay home,” a Chicago pastry chef named, um, “Carla” explains. “So the quality of the food is nowhere near what it is on weeknights, and it’s definitely not being overseen by the same chefs that oversee dinner.”

I do my best brunching on Saturdays. Where’s the head chef on Saturdays? I’m thirsty for the answer, but at the same time, it doesn’t matter. If I wanted high-quality chow, I wouldn’t get myself so inebriated that I risk not even keeping the food down. But brunch is a gateway drug and after several mimos, food tastes like food tastes like food. That’s about it.

Your bottomless mimosa or Bloody Mary is a cheap money ploy
Bottomless mimosas and Bloody Mary bars might sound too good to be true — and that’s because they are. If a restaurant’s going to run any sort of all-you-can-drink promotion, it’s sure as hell going to stick to swill.

Um, duh? Nobody should be going into brunch expecting to bamboozle the establishment, robbing them blind of their top shelf shit. Everyone knows restaurants make their cheddar on the drinks, so why should I expect anything different for brunch? I know the price of admission, but I’m willing to pay to play, so just let me irresponsibly buy an overpriced concoction of Andre and Sunny D in peace.

“Don’t expect the drinks to be high or even middling quality,” Pete tells me. “When I ran a bar, my average well liquor cost around $6 a bottle, and I could get 25 pours out of that. You can do the math there.”

There’s never a good reason for losing money in the restaurant business, especially not over something as frivolous as a made-up mid-morning bingefest.

Again, I don’t think any brunchers are expecting establishments from just taking massive losses on brunch just to satisfy us gluttonous bingers. But I draw the line at “frivolous made-up mid-morning bingefest.” You can’t be attacking brunch like that; I take that shit personally. There’s nothing made-up about brunch. It’s real and it’s spectacular. And while most – if not all – bingefests are frivolous, they’re always better with the lights on.

They’re all totally judging you
“Brunch, in a nutshell, is just two words mashed together into a shapeless meal,” says Pete. “So, you want to wait in line and overpay for a plate of eggs and toast? That’s great, we’ll seat you shortly. Some smug twit with an overweening sense of self-importance must have come up with brunch. Or, more likely, some cunning restaurant owner who saw an opportunity to take advantage of hungover people.”

Praise be to the holy trinity (Brady, Belichick, and Kraft) for giving us the smug twit with an overweening sense of self-importance for coming up with one of earth’s eleven things that give me happiness: brunch.

The people making your meal, the people serving your meal, the people cleaning up afterwards — they all think you’re a gluttonous sucker. I mean, they’re happy to take your cash, but they’re not going to respect you for forking it over. Do you really think these folks would be caught dead wasting an off-day blowing their tips on cheap Champagne and even cheaper orange juice?

Do I really think my peers who work in the restaurant biz would be caught dead wasting an off-day blowing tips on cheap champagne and even cheaper orange juice? Wait, you mean brunching? Yes, I do expect them to. In fact, I’ve spoken at length with my favorite server at my favorite brunch spot about the jealousy coursing through her veins that she’s unable to join us taking down three carafes of pineapple mimos, so I’m sure she gets her fix during the week somewhere. And if not, it’s just because they’re saving money to take a month long trip through southeast Asia to launch their travel blog and accompanying Instagram account.

“Friends shouldn’t ask friends to do anything that starts before 3pm,” Carla says. “But now I have to go to an 11am bachelorette brunch? And we have to get there at 10am so we can stand in line? What kind of boring-ass person invented going out to brunch?”

While a bachelorette brunch does sound kind of nightmare-ish, the friends asking friends not to emerge from their opium dens until 3 p.m. sounds more like guidelines than actual rules. Besides, if I do need an excuse to leave The Clubhouse before the sun sets, brunch seems as good a reason as any.

When it comes to brunch, the markup on food is especially insane
“If you pay for brunch, you’re paying, like, 20 times the cost for eggs, flour, and butter, and that’s basically all breakfast food is,” Carla tells me. “And if you’re ordering a tiny box of granola or something, I don’t even know what to tell you besides STAY HOME.”

If you’re dropping ludicrous prices for something as plain jane as eggs and pancakes, maybe you’re a moron, but it’s not because of the money; you’re a moron because when you go to brunch you’re supposed to get like avocado BLT benedict or braised short ribs hash. Something you can’t whip up in your kitch’ because, seriously, have you ever tried to make your own hollandaise?

Unless you’re dining at the Jean-Georges of brunch spots, every brunch menu basically looks the same. Why? Because the ingredients are straightforward, the costs are low, and they’re a cinch to cook. It’s a numbers game, man. Don’t let yourself get played.

Every menu basically the same? Simply not true. And if this is true for your city, you need to move. Have to get at least a solid four or five spot brunch rotation, all with a vastly different go-to dish. And again, I don’t care if it’s a cinch for YOU to cook. It certainly won’t be for me, so shit up and let me overpay for eggs benny.

Your service might not be on point
If your server’s coming off as a little on the cranky side, it’s not just her hangover — it’s her aching wallet.
“For servers, brunch food takes a lot of running, especially when you’re slammed,” Carla says. “And because even though the food is overpriced, it’s still cheaper than dinner, and that means all that work for 60% of the money.”

Meh, I’m too drunk to really notice, remember?

And the general malaise doesn’t end with the front of house. The guys on the line are feeling the heat, too, and they aren’t exactly inspired by frying up your precious French toast. Nobody’s happy to be there except you and your pals, pal.

Not trying to throw stones, but it’s not really my business to care, right? Like, I decided to sling content for Grandex and have to pay the iron price in the comment section. You decided to go into the service business. We all made our beds.

“Brunch food isn’t particularly fun to make — I mean, it’s just eggs a billion different ways,” Carla continues. “And as a pastry cook, I don’t get to develop skills or be creative because I have 50 billion biscuits to make.”

Welcome to the workforce, Carla. Most jobs aren’t particularly fun or inspiring. What would make manning the griddle any different?

You’re much better off hitting up a breakfast joint
“When I worked at a diner, I didn’t mind working weekend brunch because it’s when we made the most money,” explains Carla. “But now I work at a fancy-ish restaurant, like $30 to $40 an entree, so the owner, who is literally never there for brunch, just sees it as a bonus cash grab. So much shit we would never serve at night comes out at brunch time, and to me, it besmirches the quality of our dinner service.”

Do they have mimos? No? Fuck outta here with that diner mumbo jumbo. Wait, the diner has mimos? How about food AND decorum that looks one hundred when it’s Instagrammed with the Clarendon filter. No? Okay then, that’s what I thought.

At an upscale restaurant, for instance, the dinner menu will give you options — an 8oz filet mignon with pepper-flecked mashed potatoes and an olive oil bearnaise or a 12oz rib-eye with roasted Brussels topped with hazelnuts and dressed in balsamic vinegar. But for brunch? It’s hanger steak. Always with the hanger steak, underseasoned, pre-sliced into bite-sized chunks, and served with a single room-temperature egg and an obligatory ramekin of chimichurri sauce.

Just need something that can tackle the hangover. Doesn’t have to be anything snooty.

Any way you slice it, brunch will never, ever be as great as breakfast. You might as well save yourself a few bucks and an hour’s wait by heading over to the local greasy spoon. If you’re trying to brunch at a restaurant known for its dinners, it’s probably best to take its lead and make a nighttime reservation.

Simply incorrect. Every way you slice it, brunch will always be better than breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner, or supper, or linner, or lupper. Or snack. Or midnight snacks. Or drunk food, or… you get the idea. Brunch is the greatest meal of all-time, and whether you’re a friend trying to ruin brunch or a couple of line cooks trying to reduce the workload during the brunch time rush, I probably hate you for trying to besmirch its good name.

[via Thrillist]

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Boston Max

Spending my retirement fund at Trader Joe's and trying to remember to check my mailbox semi-regularly

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