Menu Terminology And Accuracy

After you have selected the items you want to include on your menu, you are then faced with the problem of what to call them. Decades ago, when the classical cuisine of Es-coffier was the normal offering in fine restaurants, a standard terminology existed. Everyone knew what was meant by Tournedos Chasseur,Supreme de Volaille Orly,and Sole Nantua, and these terms meant the same dish on any menu.Today, however, there is little standardization. Chefs feel obliged to give as much information on their menus as possible in order to describe their dishes adequately to their customers. As a result, one often sees menu descriptions that list almost every ingredient in a dish, including what farms the ingredients came from.

It is probably better to give too much information than too little.The important thing is to provide enough information so the customer will understand the basic character of the dish and not have any unpleasant surprises.An alternative to writing everything out on the menu is to educate the serving staff so they know the dishes well enough to fill in any missing details for the customer.

The menu is a sales tool, so it is understandable to try to make every dish sound as appealing as possible.Accurate and truthful descriptions, however, are required. Giving misleading names to menu items is not only dishonest and unfair to the customer, it is actually illegal in some localities that have adopted truth-in-menu laws, and you can be prosecuted for fraud. Furthermore, customers who feel confused or cheated may not come back.

Calling something chicken salad if it is made with turkey, veal cutlet if it is made with pork, or whipped cream if it is actually artificial whipped topping is such obvious mislabeling that it can hardly be accidental. However, some kinds of menu inaccuracies result not from intentional deception but from simple misunderstanding. In particular, look out for these types of labeling problems:

1. Point of origin.

If your menu lists "Maine lobsters," they must be from Maine. Roquefort dressing must be made with Roquefort cheese from Roquefort, France. Idaho potatoes must be from Idaho. On the other hand, generally accepted names or names that indicate type rather than origin can be used. For example: Swiss cheese, French bread, Swedish meatballs.

2. Grade or quality.

U.S. Choice and Canada A are names of grades, and you'd better be using those grades if you say you are. Incidentally, the word prime in "prime rib" indicates a cut, not a grade.But if you say "U.S. Prime Rib,"you are talking about a grade.

3. Cooking method.

A menu item described as " grilled" or " roasted" should be cooked by the method indicated. Billing a pan-fried item as "roasted" because it sounds better on the menu misrepresents the item and risks disappointing the customer.

If you call something fresh, it must be fresh, not frozen, canned, or dried.There is no such thing as "fresh frozen."

5. "Imported."

An item labeled imported must come from outside the country.

6. "Homemade."

The word homemade means the item was made on the premises. Adding a few fresh carrots to canned vegetable soup does not make it homemade.

For a food to be labeled organic, it must be raised without the use of hormones, antibiotics, synthetic pesticides, irradiated components, genetically modified organisms, or reprocessed sewage. In some countries, including the United States, the use of the word organic on labels is defined by law (p. 512).

8. Size or portion.

If you indicate a portion size on the menu, be sure you serve that size (within allowable tolerances).A"10-ounce steak'must weigh at least 10 ounces before cooking (9x/2 ounces would be within allowable tolerance)."Jumbo shrimp" are not just big shrimp.They are a specific size.

Here are other examples of common violations: Listing "maple syrup'and serving maple-flavored syrup.

Listing a product, such as a carbonated beverage, by brand name and serving another brand.

Listing "butter" and serving margarine.

Listing coffee or breakfast cereal "with cream" and serving milk. Listing "ground round" and serving other ground beef.

Finally, please use a dictionary. Unfortunately, it is common to see menus full of mis-spellings.These errors reflect poorly on the restaurant. Customers may think that if you don't care enough even to spell words on the menu correctly,you may not care enough to cook the food correctly either.

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