Hold the ketchup! Or, more to the point, you can’t have ketchup. At least if you are older than ten when eating at the Mad Fresh Bistro in Ft. Myers, FL. When I first saw the headline about a “ketchup ban,” I thought to myself, “That’s stupid.”
However, the more I have thought about it and, after reading about chef-owner Xavier Duclos’ reasons for refusing to serve ketchup to adult patrons, I must come down on the side of this business owner/culinary artist to cook and serve food sans ketchup. It’s hard to argue with his reasons for not wanting to add ketchup to the burgers he serves:
My burger has got a sauce on it already. There’s no point in adding a sweet sauce on top of that. I think ketchup is edible – on certain things. I’ll give it that much. But it’s just not part of my culinary agenda. . . . I think my flavors work. You don’t walk into the museum and tell them to change the color of the painting.”
As someone who loves to cook and loves ketchup (on burgers and fries, but most definitely not on hot dogs), I can sympathize with the chef’s position. When you make a meal, you take a certain amount of personal pride in how the food is cooked. If there were supposed to be other ingredients, then, by all means, you would have added them in the cooking process. Why would someone want to mess with what you believe is perfection?
Now, some might argue that condiments, including ketchup, can be added after-the-fact without changing the culinary delight of the food. While that may be the case for some foods, that principle does not always apply. As I am writing this, an instance came to mind when a good friend of mine in high school, Ken Keck, came over for dinner. My dad had cooked steaks (more on that in a moment) that night. Before taking a bite, Ken started to put salt on his steak. My dad abruptly stopped him and told him that he should try his steak before adding anything to it. From that time on, I think Ken may have remembered my dad’s admonition to taste before reaching for the salt shaker.
If Chef Duclos wants to serve a hamburger without ketchup, then who am I to argue? After all, there is even a disclaimer on the Mad Fresh Bistro’s menu which warns customers that ketchup might not be available, “Chef reserves the right to refuse service of ketchup to anyone over the age of 10!” The exclamation point should have been a tip-off that the chef meant business.
Now, about my dad and his steaks. I sure do miss him and I miss his grilling prowess, particularly when it came to cooking steaks. Not just any steaks. But big, huge Porterhouse or T-bone steaks, cooked well-done. That’s what he liked. He could cook a well-done steak to perfection. Although I now eat my steaks medium-well, I know from first-hand experience that a well-done steak can be cooked well.
However, many chefs in restaurants either do not know how or do not want to spend the time to cook well-done steaks that taste good. In fact, some restaurants have a disclaimer on their menu which says something along the lines, “Chef not responsible for steaks ordered well-done.”
For my dad, who liked to order his steaks “well-done, cremated” (who says Funeral Directors don’t have a sense of humor), he would bristle at a restaurant’s unwillingness to cook a steak the way he thought it should be cooked. However, my dad would never have demanded that the restaurant change the way they did business. He might not have agreed with how the restaurant chose to serve food to their customers, but he would have just chosen to take his business elsewhere.
If customers don’t like the “no ketchup” rule, then they are free to spend their hard-earned money at a different bistro. And, that’s exactly what people should do instead of complaining about how a particular restaurant serves food. After all, this is a privately-owned business. Last I checked, refusing to serve ketchup does not rise to the level of a civil rights violation. If you want ketchup on your burger, then go to Fuddruckers. You can put as much ketchup — or other condiments — as you want on your burger and no one is going to give you grief. Well, maybe your wife if she doesn’t like the smell of condiments, but that’s a different story.