Never Order This Sauce, According To Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain was never bashful about telling people exactly what he thought. His unvarnished take on life inside a restaurant kitchen is what made his 1999 book, Kitchen Confidential, such a must-read for anyone who works in a restaurant — or eats in one. Never order fish on Monday, Bourdain proclaimed, in an excerpt from Kitchen Confidential published in The Guardian. Why? It's going to be at least four days old. Bourdain also thought "brunch" was a four-letter word. "The 'B' word is dreaded by all dedicated cooks," Bourdain wrote in The New Yorker the same year Kitchen Confidential came out.

As revealed in the The Guardian excerpt, Bourdain thought brunch was an excuse for cooks to get rid of the leftovers form the previous night's dinner. He also said you get the less talented or less experienced cooks on a brunch shift. Indeed, Bourdain hated everything about brunch, right down to the hollandaise sauce that goes on brunch mainstay eggs Benedict. Bourdain lumped hollandaise in with home fries and fruit garnishes, referring to them all in The New Yorker as "cliché accompaniments designed to induce a credulous public into paying $12.95 for two eggs."

Anthony Bourdain didn't appreciate hollandaise, one of the world's most essential sauces

Anthony Bourdain thought hollandaise sauce was a gimmick intended to dupe diners into overpaying for eggs at Sunday brunch – but that's just one of many problems he had with the sauce. The chef didn't seem to care, either, that hollandaise has exalted status as one of the five mothers of all sauces (via The Spruce Eats). Hollandaise is a simple sauce, made from whisking clarified butter into warm egg yolks. Everyone from the American Egg Board to Gordon Ramsay (via the BBC) has a recipe: you add lemon, salt, and pepper. Depending on the recipe, you also should add a flavorful spice such as paprika or tarragon. The key to every recipe is making sure the egg yolks don't get too warm, or they'll break. In other words, the egg in hollandaise sauce can be pretty close to raw if prepared incorrectly. 

The risk of getting sick from eating raw eggs has been widely publicized; the specific culprit is salmonella. The CDC says hens sometimes carry the bacteria and transfer them to their eggs. Cooking the eggs thoroughly will kill the bacteria, but that might now always happen with hollandaise. 

Anthony Bourdain bashed hollandaise sauce in Kitchen Confidential

Anthony Bourdain went on a mini-rant against hollandaise sauce in Kitchen Confidential, suggesting that he never touched the stuff. "How about hollandaise sauce?" Bourdain wrote "Not for me. Bacteria love hollandaise." 

You might guess that Bourdain is taking his cue from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which asserts that no one should eat foods containing raw eggs. The agency even mentions hollandaise sauce by name. But Bourdain wasn't thinking about the salmonella risk here. After all, the USDA also says egg suppliers can eliminate salmonella risk by pasteurizing their eggs, but Bourdain doesn't talk about that. Instead, he's worried about the fact that hollandaise sits out during the entire brunch service. If the line cooks refrigerated the sauce or kept it in bacteria-killing heat, it would break.

In fact, Bourdain suggested that he'd be OK with hollandaise sauce if chefs made it to order. That would be time-consuming, however, and unrealistic during a busy brunch rush. It doesn't happen in practice, Bourdain said. "Most likely, the stuff on your eggs was made hours ago and held on station," he wrote, meaning that it sat the whole time near the egg cook, somewhere close to room temperature.

In his Kitchen Confidential udpate, Anthony Bourdain softened on hollandaise

By the time Anthony Bourdain updated Kitchen Confidential with his Insider's Edition in 2012, he'd had a change of heart about hollandaise sauce and a few other things, including fish on Mondays. In a video that shows Bourdain hashing out the Kitchen Confidential update with his publisher, Bourdain sounded like he regretted the damage he may have done to restaurants' reputations. In one revision Bourdain gave his publisher, he said, "Eat the fish, you know, unless you're at an Irish pub on like, Monday morning." A little later, Bourdain elaborated on why he was backing away from his fish rule. "Things are better now, you know. People actually give a s***," he explained. Thinking back on his original pronouncement about fish on Mondays, Bourdain told his publisher, "I feel bad about that." 

Bourdain even softened his stance on hollandaise sauce, although he still didn't love it as much as bacteria do. "On balance, there's nothing wrong with hollandaise, as long as you eat it, like early in the shift," he said. "Place opens at 12? Between 12 and 1, you're OK. Around 3:30 ... maybe not."

In the end, Bourdain didn't say to never order the hollandaise sauce. You have a one-hour window, and you better get to your favorite brunch spot early.