Chefs say calories not a priority on special occasions - Albuquerque Journal

Chefs say calories not a priority on special occasions

Sous chef David Tsabetsaye, shown here trimming beef tenderloins at Seasons Rotisserie and Grill, says most customers do not ask about the calorie content. There’s “butter here, heavy cream there,” he says, noting they come because they are wanting something that’s not part of their regular diet. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)
Sous chef David Tsabetsaye, shown here trimming beef tenderloins at Seasons Rotisserie and Grill, says most customers do not ask about the calorie content. There’s “butter here, heavy cream there,” he says, noting they come because they are wanting something that’s not part of their regular diet. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Two men are sitting at a diner counter in a January New Yorker cartoon, one with a five o’clock shadow eating a burger, the other in a lab coat consulting a clipboard.

“If it’s all the same to you,” says the guy with the burger, “I’d rather eat this not knowing what the latest science suggests.”

That seems to be the case at some Albuquerque eateries – according to local chefs and restaurant managers, their customers are fine not knowing how many calories are on their plates. That’s not because the customers don’t want the science, but because they’re dining out for a good time and don’t care, the restaurant staffers say.

The cartoon contradicts, however, what an Associated Press-GfK poll that was conducted in December revealed: More than half of the 1,010 people surveyed online said they would prefer calorie information on menus.

Specifically, 56 percent said they favored it as a requirement on fast food restaurant menus, and 54 percent said they favored it as a requirement on sit-down restaurant menus, according to an AP article published in the Jan. 2 Journal.

“People may pass on that bacon double cheeseburger if they know it has hundreds of calories,” the article states, “and, in turn, restaurants may make their foods healthier to keep calorie counts down.”

The poll came out shortly after the Food and Drug Administration announced that restaurants that sell prepared foods and have at least 20 locations must post calorie counts on their menus and menu boards by November 2015.

Restaurateurs from around Albuquerque – both from chains that fall under the new FDA rule, and smaller, locally owned fine dining restaurants that won’t – weighed in.

Bradley Chapman of Artichoke Café said that most people who dine at the Edo restaurant come to celebrate. “They know they are splurging a bit,” he says. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)
Bradley Chapman of Artichoke Café said that most people who dine at the Edo restaurant come to celebrate. “They know they are splurging a bit,” he says. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

A place for celebration

At the independently owned Artichoke Café, in the 400 block of Central SE, assistant manager Bradley Chapman said the menu doesn’t offer calorie breakdowns because people usually don’t ask. Even if it were required to, he said, the numbers would be approximate because no two plates are the same.

“We do everything to order, so we don’t measure everything,” Chapman said. “We do a spoon of this, a spoon of that.”

After checking with the chef, he said that making public the caloric information would be feasible, but it’s not in much demand at the restaurant, which prepares New American cuisine using French bistro techniques.

“When people are at the Artichoke Café, they’re celebrating,” he said. “They know they are splurging a bit. If you’re out to have an indulgent dinner, people aren’t concerned with calorie count.”

In the six years he has worked there, he added, “I’ve never had one person ask about the calorie count.”

Ryan Hallum, general manager and executive chef at Marcello’s Chophouse, says he thinks larger restaurant companies should be able to offer calorie information without too much fuss. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)
Ryan Hallum, general manager and executive chef at Marcello’s Chophouse, says he thinks larger restaurant companies should be able to offer calorie information without too much fuss. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

A special occasion

That’s the case, too, at Seasons Rotisserie and Grill in Old Town.

The grill features an exhibition kitchen, so people can see their meals prepared before them. But how much fat and cholesterol are they getting in those meals?

“Customers don’t tend to ask,” according to sous chef David Tsabetsaye. The restaurant has catered to a slightly older clientele for almost two decades, who aren’t calorie counting because they come for something different than what they’d eat at home.

“Some people come here for special occasions,” he said. “It’s not part of their regular diet. It’s not feasible for people to come here every day. (There’s) butter here, heavy cream there, so people who come are not thinking it’s the healthiest place to eat.”

Online, or on the menu?

Diners are a bit more curious at Rudy’s Country Store & Barbecue, which would have to comply with the FDA rules. The chain has approximately three dozen locations in southwestern states of Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Arizona, and two in New Mexico – one on Carlisle near Interstate 40, the other on Coors and Alameda.

At the westside location, that planning wasn’t yet in the works. General manager Santiago Romero said some customers want to know the calorie values from the menu, which includes Texas-style barbecue ribs, brisket, sausage, turkey, chicken and pork loin, along with sides like coleslaw and beans. “Some customers do come in and request that,” he said, “but it’s online on our website.”

Clicking the half-pound brisket option on the website’s menu yields the brisket’s nutrition content: 640 calories, 100 from fat, as well as 41 grams of protein, and no dietary fibers or sugars.

Romero said he didn’t know yet about plans to post calorie breakdowns on, for example, a chalkboard near the restaurant entrance come November.

David Tsabetsaye, sous chef of Seasons Rotisserie and Grill, shown fileting a salmon in the kitchen of the Old Town restaurant, says most people who come to the restaurant are there for a special occasion, which means not worrying about the calories. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)
David Tsabetsaye, sous chef of Seasons Rotisserie and Grill, shown fileting a salmon in the kitchen of the Old Town restaurant, says most people who come to the restaurant are there for a special occasion, which means not worrying about the calories. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Getting there

Meanwhile, Bravo! Cucina Italiana, an upscale chain restaurant in ABQ Uptown, is already partway there. With hundreds of locations nationwide, the eatery will fall under the new rule.

Now, Bravo! offers meals with 600 calories or less on its “Lighter Side of Rome” menu, listing the calorie count, according to manager Korey Shrader. He added that he wasn’t sure why calories for richer platters are not also printed on the menus.

Ryan Hallum, general manager and executive chef of Marcello’s Chophouse, an independent restaurant near Bravo! also in ABQ Uptown, said he thinks restaurants that are part of larger companies can and should offer calorie information without too much fuss. They can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, where calorie values of various foods are available. But “it’s hard to find the time to sit down to do it,” he said.

It would also be a challenge for mom-and-pop restaurants that offer daily specials. “If every time they put a special together, then they have to go to the USDA website and approximate the caloric information or purchase an expensive computer program that will do it for them, it’s less likely they are going to do it,” he said.

By contrast, larger dining establishments may find it easier. “An executive chef (at a larger eatery) has all the time, and an office, and the resources to get it done,” he said.

When asked if he’d do it if it were required of non-chain restaurants like his, he said: “We’re here to please the people, so if that were something we were told we had to do, we’d get it done.”

Home » News » Albuquerque News » Chefs say calories not a priority on special occasions


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Coffee shop holds fundraiser for first responders
ABQnews Seeker
All Ziggi's locations will donate $1 ... All Ziggi's locations will donate $1 for every drink sold, both in-store and via their mobile app
2
Police: Man drove over, killed brother
ABQnews Seeker
Witness told police body was dragged ... Witness told police body was dragged on street
3
Rael picked as chief administrative officer
ABQnews Seeker
Nomination heads to City Council Nomination heads to City Council
4
'Not all doom and gloom'
ABQnews Seeker
State making progress on 50-year water ... State making progress on 50-year water plan
5
Young children now eligible for COVID vaccines in NM
ABQnews Seeker
Youngsters in New Mexico are now ... Youngsters in New Mexico are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines and doses for that age group have started to arrive, the state Department of ...
6
Former salon owner pleads guilty to five felonies
ABQnews Seeker
'Vampire facials' performed on clients who ... 'Vampire facials' performed on clients who contracted HIV
7
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi to be ...
ABQnews Seeker
Parishes will chip in to cover ... Parishes will chip in to cover the payments on the debt
8
Congress sends landmark gun violence compromise to Biden
ABQnews Seeker
Heinrich, one of the senators who ... Heinrich, one of the senators who helped negotiate the legislation, called it "concrete action" that will make the situation better
9
NM Democrats weigh law protecting abortion rights
2022 election
'Our hearts, our clinics and our ... 'Our hearts, our clinics and our communities will remain open to those coming here for the care they want and need,' says one state ...