America Should Ban Chefs Who Ban Ketchup

With all due respect to the egos of chefs, America must not negotiate with foodies

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It's true that we don't exactly understand the origins of ketchup. It's true that we don't exactly understand why ketchup has several different spellings or why the name varies from place to place as if the Tower of Babel had been constructed out of an enormous bottle of Heinz's Finest. It's true that there was an era in which saying that ketchup was not a suitable accompaniment for scrambled eggs put a person in harm's way. (American nostalgists rightly pine for those days.)

What is also true is that a stunning 97 percent of Americans have ketchup in their kitchens. Whether this overlaps with the three percent of Americans who still use dial-up is a question for scientists.

The point is that ketchup, no matter what it's used on, how it's spelled, or where it actually comes from, is as American as apple pie and subprime derivatives.

So leave to a chef in a French establishment in Florida — yes, Florida(!) of all good places — to get high falutin' about ketchup.

Chef-owner Xavier Duclos has banned ketchup at his eatery, Mad Fresh Bistro, even though he has an entire section of his menu devoted to hamburgers.

Here's what he told The Independent:

My burger has got a sauce on it already,” chef owner Xavier Duclos said. “There’s no point in adding a sweet sauce on top of that.

I think ketchup is edible – on certain things. I’ll give it that much. But it’s just not part of my culinary agenda.” 

Culinary agenda, eh? Well, we certainly wouldn't want to sully the discerning palates of diners at the Mad Fresh Bistro with free will now would we? Duclos even claims to have booted a patron for smuggling in his own ketchup.

According to one Yelp reviewer, Duclos didn't manage to squash the whole resistance:

Had to bring my own ketchup and put it on EVERYTHING."

Here were some other notable reviews:

No Ketchup... means I wont visit again.  Don't tell the customer how to eat the food they order."

"They believe that people cannot make their own decisions about what they want to eat. I asked for ketchup and was told "no" that the cook has a right to refuse any condiments that they don't think you should eat on their food. I ask this, who do they think they are? Our parents? Food nazis? I will not be re-visiting this establishment in the near future."

For once, I side with the internet commenters!

But for some perspective, I reached out to Gregorio Pedroza, a New York City chef, who happens to make a fantastic burger. (Full disclosure: A few years back, I used to tend bar at a place where Pedroza once made fantastic burgers, burgers which were always served with a side of ketchup.)

Like Duclos, Pedroza is also a culinary school grad. Here's what he said about this Ketchupgate:

When I first started doing this, I was all about this chef's thinking: TRUST MY COOKS TO DO THEIR THING. But now I'm ambivalent about it.

When I cook, I hope I convey to my guests to trust what I've done first...THEN they can do what they want. Neither of us is perfect. I just want them to enjoy my food. 

In the end, that chef should be allowed to do what he wants. Capitalism will dictate what happens in the end.

The subtext here: YOUR FUNERAL, BRO.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.