As it turns out, what you order at a restaurant might not be what you actually get. We don’t mean the waiter gets his tables mixed up and sends you the wrong dish, either. We’re talking about actual fraudulent activity that goes on behind the scenes. The food fraud industry makes about $50 billion annually, and you could be buying into the scam without even realizing it. Literally. The food you’re getting charged to eat may not be what it was advertised, a restaurant trick that’s been fooling hungry patrons for decades without anyone realizing it.
Until now, that is.
In his novel, “Real Food/Fake Food,” food expert Larry Olmsted explores the fraudulent side of the restaurant industry, the side that charges you hand over foot for fake Parmesan cheese and faux olive oil. While not all restaurants are looking to con you, too many have that exact intention — and I don’t know about you, but I don’t take kindly to people messing with my food. Here are just a few of the most likely fake dishes that Olmsted warns us to be wary when ordering.
1. Kobe Beef
The only way to tell if your Kobe beef is real? If it’s outrageously expensive. Only true Kobe would be worth top dollar, so cheaper-than-average beef should send off a red flag for you. Be wary either way; the insane price might be all a part of the restaurants’ scam.
3. Wasabimost likely a fraud) with plenty of wasabi. But I can’t really call it that, since what you usually get with your tuna roll is not real wasabi.
So what is that chunk of green stuff on your plate? Most likely it’s a combination of horseradish, mustard, and food coloring. In very unlikely cases, a small amount of real wasabi will be mixed in. The difference between the two can be found in their distinguishable tastes. Real wasabi tastes more herbal than the horseradish stuff. It’s hot but doesn’t have a lingering, burning aftertaste. It’s supposed to taste smoother, cleaner and more “plant-like” than its commonly used substitute.
4. Red Snapper
A rule of thumb: If the fish is expensive and you haven’t seen it displayed whole, there’s a good chance it’s an imitation. But sadly, we’re not sure if we would even take the chance.
It hurts to think about this one for too long. Olmsted writes in his novel that ground coffee is often cut with cheaper substances and really coffee at all. My life feels like a lie.
“Contemporary researchers have found twigs, roasted corn, ground roasted barley, and even roasted ground parchment,” he writes. “Adulteration is more extreme in powdered instant coffee, where substances found have included chicory, cereals, caramel, parchment, starch, malt, and figs.”
We’re not mad…we’re just disappointed. Your best bet for actual, pure coffee in your morning brew? Buy a coffee grinder and whole beans to make your own coffee grounds.
NO, THANK YOU.
It’s an uncertain world, even when it comes to one of the loves of your life: food. Although it’s difficult to tell when you’re being scammed or not, you can go forth with this valuable knowledge and try to defend your palate from these con-artists. When in doubt, buy local products and cook them at home — at least you know what you put in your dinner.