What do a hot dog from Yankee Stadium, potato latkes from the Four Seasons in Manhattan, and a sirloin steak at Applebee's have in common? They all came from Sysco, a Houston-based food wholesaler.
This food supplier serves nearly 400,000 American eating establishments, from fast-food joints to five-star restaurants.
While some of Sysco’s products are relatively wholesome (regionally grown greens, potatoes, beef), others are filled with additives. The breaded cheese chicken breast, for instance, contains monocalcium phosphates, sorbic acid preservatives, and oleoresin in turmeric. The Serve Smart Chicken consists of parts of other chicken breasts mashed together into a single, chicken-breastlike block.
Restaurants make a good deal of money serving these pre-prepped foods, since the meals can be purchased in bulk and stored in a freezer for months. It comes as little surprise that hospitals, universities, and military bases use Sysco's pre-cooked foods. But well-regarded restaurants have also begun to offer such items to save time and money.
Edgar's restaurant at Belhurst Castle, which has won numerous awards of excellence from Wine Spectator magazine, serves Sysco's Imperial Towering Chocolate Cake. For just taking it out of the box, letting it defrost, and then sprinkling it with fresh raspberries, they charge $8.95 a slice.
Some quality restaurants do not use Sysco’s pre-made items, but only their grocery store-like ingredient selections. But at many restaurants, diners are essentially paying a chef to defrost and heat food -- or, more accurately, defrost and heat various ready-to-eat processed foods.