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Food Network Survey Finds 15% of Chefs Lie About What’s Vegetarian

evil chef

I always knew there was something sinister lurking under those big, white hats.

Am I the only person who was completely horrified by the Food Network’s “25 Things Chefs Never Tell You” survey? Conducted in the spring of 2010, this survey asked chefs around the United States about their culinary secrets — and 15% of chefs divulged that their “vegetarian” dishes may not be completely vegetarian.

Granted, I’m horrified by most things that come from the Food Network — 96oz. hamburgers, pigs’ heads, Anthony Bourdain — but this anonymous, revealing survey sent a shiver up my spine. It included juicy tidbits like, “A quarter of the chefs surveyed said they’d pick up food that dropped on the floor and cook it,” and “Three chefs admitted that uneaten bread from one basket goes right into another one.” I’m all for reducing waste, but that seems a little egregious. And gross.

But the real kicker comes from this line of the survey. Brace yourselves: “About 15% of chefs said their vegetarian dishes might not be completely vegetarian. Beware if you’re one of those super-picky vegan types: One chef reported seeing a cook pour lamb’s blood into a vegan’s primavera.”

Say what?! I’m not sure if this is being done out of spite, or if chefs — like far too many people in the world — just think that food isn’t food without some animal excretions thrown in. While I am pumped to hear about world-class chefs writing vegetarian cookbooks or opening vegetarian restaurants, I’m inclined to think that this survey reveals just one more reason to avoid restaurants that have animals on their menus. Here in New York, we’ve got veg*n restaurants in spades, so maybe the next time your friends suggest Le Cirque, you can nudge them instead to Le Candle — and you hopefully won’t end up with anyone’s blood in your primavera.


  1. Comment by

    Joshua Katcher

    on #

    UGH! horrifying – and, knowing how arrogant many chefs are, I would bet the house on them doing it out spite.

  2. Comment by


    on #

    Why is blood even an ingredient they’d have on hand?

  3. Comment by

    Adam Weissman

    on #

    Doesn’t surprise me at all. For years, I warned vegans that VP2’s trash was filled with animal ingredients -industrial sized egg cartons and condensed milk cans– and packaged veg meat products goods containing animal ingredients. Lots of vegans scoffed– the evidence was all there, but they didn’t want to give up their VP2 favorites. Finally this became common knowledge and the vegans who for years chose to ignore my warnings were shocked – shocked!- that VP2 had been lying to them.

  4. Comment by


    on #


  5. Comment by


    on #

    (sorry for the “test”, I only wanted to test the “pop up” feature before commenting, this sometimes does not work with my freaky computer-browser-operating system combo :/ I have no idea why this was already posted, but it seems something went wrong again :/ )

    As for the “blood in vegan primavera” – one more reason to cook at home and not trust anybody who needs long explaining before even understanding what “food without animal ingredients” is. I am mostly vegan for health reasons and I would break down with severe pains if someone would add any larger amounts than 1g (that’s about 1/5 part of a teaspoon) of animal protein in any form to my food :/ And as long as I know many other people who become vegan do this due to major health complications. I just hope somebody who breaks down after such a “joke” sues the restaurant, and it goes bankrupt, and all that causes a huge uproar in the press :/

    Anybody can get seriously sick at any time and eating large amounts of animal only speeds up the process. There are people out there who have PKU (see Wikipedia for more info), who go into seizures and epileptic attacks after ingesting animal protein of any kind. There are people who cannot eat any animal matter ever again in their life, there is nothing they could “decide” about it :/

  6. Comment by


    on #

    This is not surprising at all. If the kitchen isn’t vegan and the chef isn’t vegan, guess what? The food is not vegan!

    My non-vegan relatives view me as radical and extreme because I won’t eat in restaurants with them unless it’s 100% animal product free.

    These are the same people that witnessed me spit out a so-called “vegan” burrito when I felt a huge chunk of chicken between my teeth. GAG!

  7. Comment by


    on #

    Yeah…this is why lately I have been only going to restaurants that are at least 100% vegetarian with vegan options OR companies that openly express an understanding of the vegan philosophy and offer lots of vegan options (like Slice the perfect food pizza place for example) because obviously the people at these places won’t have this type of mentality that animal products are necessary for good food or some kind of ill will toward vegans.

    this is a shame and i think its very unethical of these cooks to be doing this.

    i live in new york city right now because im in school but who knows where ill be after this. its very unfortunate that new york seems to be the only place with dozens and dozens of vegan and vegetarian restaurants! and hell thats just in the united states. :(

    Anyway this is encouragement for me to start using these recipes and cookbooks that have been collecting dust. ive met a couple vegan and vegetarian friends that cook a lot and its very good to have that kind of support and see others in your dorm cooking because it inspires you to do so as well. we have made some yummy things. and not had to worry about lambs blood being poured in them! :)

  8. Comment by


    on #

    also what ive done sometimes is bring my own food (or food from another vegan restaurant) to a restaurant (i know its rude but it has to be done apparently if chefs cant get their acts together) or eat beforehand and get like tea or water and a salad (bring my own dressing sometimes) or french fries or a baked potato or something small.

  9. Comment by

    Marty Krutolow

    on #

    Some of us have to eat out more than we want to. I much prefer cooking up a batch of seitan, (Joshua has tasted some of my results at Veggie Conquest), and knowing what’s in my food. Plus of course the feeling you get when feeding your family healthy nurturing food.

    I travel for a living. I’m always in this situation. I have a few, (as of yet unanswered), discussion questions on my facebook page, NYC Vegans and Vegetarians (Vegans with the ‘s’), and one of the questions is how far you can pragmatically drill down into ingredients list when eating out.

    Usually it’s a matter of few choices, (and I usually pack a lunch at least for the first day), but time is limited and so are our transportation options in addition to the people I work with not wanting to eat a vegan meal. Some of them EVER. So I find myself in mainstream restaurants almost everyday. Just imagine trying to explain over and over at each meal exactly what you want. And then the the waiter says you can have the veggie burrito with cheese. It’s really tiring the first 2 or 3 hundred times. It eventually moves into aggravation and frustration with a dose of exasperation.

    I fully expect that animal food seeps into our “vegan” orders. I almost expect it when it comes from a mainstream restaurant kitchen. It’s like finding out that the NYC drinking water contains microscopic particles of sea creatures. Are you going to stop drinking because everything is made with water?!

    What I bank on is the principle that most people, after all the explaining, will absolutely ATTEMPT to meet your needs. What is reprehensible is someone INTENTIONALLY sabotaging your needs. A chef doesn’t know if it’s a desire or a medical or health requirement. Some people are just below the median on the “caring” curve. See my review of Johnny Chi’s in Westhampton, NY where the owner thought it was ok to serve me chicken broth. Some people are just disingenuous. (See:

    But I think that these chefs are the kind of people who don’t care about people and enjoy inflicting harm no matter what they did for a living. I think they’re called sociopaths.

    Marty’s Flying Vegan Review

  10. Comment by


    on #

    Okay, this is awful, but how accurate is this data? This kind of thing is lawsuit city (especially if/when someone with a serious allergy goes into anaphylactic shock and dies thanks to some douchenozzle chef going all rogue). I mean, is this really a widespread thing, or is this a couple of chefs talking big? Who took the survey? Was it open to just anyone? Was it internet based? Part of a larger study?

    I guess I don’t doubt that this happens occasionally, but I do kind of doubt that so many chefs are routinely doing stuff that could potentially endanger people’s lives and health, even if they are huge assholes.

  11. Comment by


    on #

    I often bring my own source of protein since I can’t fill up on just plain bread basket and a salad plate. Most entree salad contains some animal products, so I always end of getting a leafy salad and add in my own can of beans or tofu. But I don’t mind. It’s the company that counts for me anyway. As long as my mom and friends are happy. :)

  12. Comment by


    on #

    This is why I never tell restaurants I’m vegan, but instead mention having several severe food allergies. Most places bend over backwards to give me a meal that won’t me sick and sue-happy. Only one place (BJ’s) refused to tell me what was in their food and if I could eat anything.

  13. Comment by


    on #

    I also dislike Anthony Bourdain–but, you must know. He isn’t on the Food Network, he’s on the travel channel.

  14. Comment by


    on #

    Anthony Bourdain’s very first TV show was on the Food Network, way back in 2002. Damn them!

  15. Comment by


    on #

    Oh, yikes, really? He’s been around that long?
    Ugh XD

  16. Comment by

    Lesley Woodroffe

    on #

    This is why I’m reluctant to eat out – except at the restaurant where I’m prep chef and see everything that is sent out. Not a veg restaurant but the owners want veg and vegan alternatives, which I make, and they are popular. Not bad for mid-coast Maine! Proud of the work we do.

  17. Comment by

    Josh Rosenbperg

    on #

    yeah suprized its only 15%. i have a friend who is a chef. we talk about this. people go to a regular restaurant and ask whats vegetarian. the waitress doesnt know or care and might even lie just to get a tip rather than see you walk out due to lack of options. chicken broth in the rice is a big one. lard in the beans. beef broth in all sorts of sauces. fallafels fried in the same oil they have been cooking chicken in all week. its best just to eat at vegetarian or vegan restaurants or cook yourself if you can.