[The following is a guest blog by BuddyBoy of Medway River Fire Departments. (He of the “Whatever happened to soup spoons?” question. I think he likes to keep me on my toes.) Now he wants to know why it’s so rare to get a warm plate in restaurants.]
Your article about portion sizes evokes discontent about another aspect of eating out, the issue of “warming the plates”. I hate eating lukewarm food that should be served hot, so getting it on a cold plate ensures it’s almost cold by the time you are halfway through it. I have lobbied (for want of a better word) all over the place here in Canada yet no one seems to want to answer to the issue. Here is the crux of a letter I have sent to various organizations, associations, food critics and the like:
I have an issue with many restaurants in that so many of them serve good, hot food on cold plates. Steaming hot food served on a cold plate is fine on arrival but quickly becomes cold part way through the meal. This is particularly notable for light foods such as fluffy rice, etc. Most restaurants serve food that is just hot enough, so it soon gets cold if the plate is not warmed. Buffets are a particular problem. They obviously can’t keep their food as hot as it would be if served à la carte, yet most provide stacks of cold plates! It is my belief that, in the main, restaurants do this because they have given no thought to the matter, yet it affects almost all they serve.
Now, I have searched the web up and down, I have looked in books and have raised the issue with reporters and the like, all to no avail. Here are my questions/comments that I hope you can assist with.
- Is it an acceptable practice for a restaurant to serve hot food on an unheated plate?
- Would it be proper for me to ask that the food be served on heated plates at the time of ordering, or would that be considered impertinent? After all, by doing that I am indicating I expect the worst and I have never felt good about doing that. Alternatively I wait until the food is served, at which time it may be the most wonderful meal but on a thick, cold plate. If I complain then it is really too late. I am in a dilemma, I feel ill at ease and yet my expectations are surely reasonable, are they not?
- Are there any guidelines given to chefs and restaurateurs which provides them with advice about this matter? Are there any references to which I might turn?
Professional chefs and the like have agreed with me privately, but they have no answers. Am I an eccentric in this regard? You would think they would teach something about this at cooking schools but apparently not. I have scoured the web and you find lots of must dos and how tos, such as the layout of tables, what cutlery, etc., yet never a mention of this issue. Perhaps this could be a cause célèbre for Not Delia.
[Thanks for raising this issue. I hope I can find some answers for you soon. My initial reaction is that plate warming equipment (cupboards and drawers) are readily available from catering equipment suppliers – so why is it so hard to get hot food served on warm plates? Watch this space!]