We’ve all done it: You eat a delicious serving of macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, or some other homestyle dish at a restaurant, and ask your server (or the chef) for the recipe. We guarantee that 100 percent of the time, unless you’re a very close friend of the chef, the request has been laughed off. You’re never going to learn how that dish is made, and with good reason. A couple good reasons, actually.
No, the chef isn’t afraid that if his secret is out you’ll open your own restaurant and sell a knockoff. The fact of the matter is, the “recipes” used in restaurant kitchens are very different than the ones you find in cookbooks, and once a kitchen crew is well-trained on how to make a specific dish, the recipe itself is usually nowhere to be found. When a dish is being made on an industrial scale, ingredients are measured in pounds instead of cups. Also, if a chef is particularly fond of a specific recipe, he’s unlikely to part with it. Finally, if it’s a chain restaurant dish, you’re probably not going to want to go out and buy xanthan gum and stearic acid in order to make that special glaze!
Reproducing a restaurant dish in your own home is a lot more challenging than you may think; chefs and cookbook authors spend months scaling restaurant recipes down, simplifying, and testing them before they approximate what’s served at a restaurant. Enjoy restaurant meals at restaurants, and enjoy home-cooked meals at home.