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I Probably Shouldn’t Have Told the Chef That He’s Using ‘Crap’ Oils in His Fryers — Nasty Oils Restaurants Use

Oils Restaurants Use

Did you know about the nasty oils restaurants use in their fryers?

I’ve done it again. I’ve gone and ran my mouth when I probably should’ve kept quiet. I thought you’d like to hear about a phone conversation I just had with a local chef…curetoothdecay

It all began because next week Rami Nagel is coming to our local chapter to talk about his book, Cure Tooth Decay. Before the meeting, some of us on the local WAPF chapter board are going to take he and his family out for dinner. His only request was a place with “good oils”. While we have some great restaurants here in Grand Rapids who source their produce, cheese, and meats from local farms that I love, and many also cook their stocks and other dishes from scratch, finding anyone who fries in a healthy cooking oil, like duck fat, lard, beef tallow, or even the refined (no-flavor) coconut oil, is proving to be nearly impossible. (Click those links for where I buy our healthy fats.)

I googled “Grand Rapids duck fat french fries” (because I figured that was going to be my best bet vs. the other fats), and the first place I called went like this…

Me: “Do you still serve duck fat french fries?”

Chef: “No, we don’t.”

Me: “That’s too bad, why not?”

Chef: “Well, we never actually did, but we do serve frites!” (And he went on to tell me how they’re made…)

Me: “That sounds great, but what do you fry them IN?”

Chef: “Soybean oil.”

Me: “Oh, shoot, I have a friend coming into town who is sensitive to soybean oil or other vegetable oils like that; no offense, but in my circles we call it ‘crap oil’.”

Chef: (After pausing, as if in shock…) “Well, I can’t say as I’d call it that.”whole_soy_story

Me: “Well, you probably just didn’t know. But it’s high in omega 6’s and can cause thyroid problems – soy isn’t good for us at all. Have you ever googled, ‘Soy dangers’? (I should’ve suggested he read this book: The Whole Soy Story.) Canola is just as bad. What real foodies want are healthy animal fats like duck fat or lard from pastured animals, beef tallow from grass-fed cows, pastured butter, and coconut oil. Even McDonald’s used to only cook in beef tallow. Besides, animal fats are where the nutrients are.”

Chef: “People eating fried food aren’t looking for nutrients.”

Me: “Actually, we are. I order grass-fed beef tallow right to my door in 5 gallon buckets so it’s not as expensive as the smaller amounts. (Click here for where I get beef tallow. You may have to do a search for the big buckets.) When I serve fried foods I feel great knowing it’s from grass-fed cows and actually good for us and full of fat-soluble vitamins and other nutrients!

Chef: “Well, we can’t cater to such a small group of people. And especially when it’s so much more expensive.” (He didn’t say this in a snippy way at all, he was just explaining his dilemma.)

Me: “I understand, and keep in mind that this movement is actually growing, but just for your own cooking at home, you should try this stuff. It tastes great and it’s so good for you! I know I’m telling you something that’s the opposite of what you hear in the mainstream, and most people are cooking with soybean oil in their restaurants, but hopefully I’m just planting a seed and you’ll do some more research. Thanks anyway for your help!”

What do you think? Did I come off like the pathetic couple in this Portlandia video?! If I was that bad, I’ll have to re-think this whole real foodie thing. Ha! He really did seem to be listening, even though I could tell by his voice that he was hearing this stuff for the first time.

I found one!

I’m not sure why I didn’t just call Bistro Bella Vita in the first place. They’ve been great to us in the past. (Read about THIS yummy dinner we had there.) They said that they do have duck fat, butter and olive oil to use in any of their dishes and we’d just have to stay away from any fried foods (which they don’t have a lot of on their menu anyway, but they don’t have enough duck fat for a fryer). And they said they’d make sure that we didn’t have to worry about any vegetable oils coming out to our table. Sweet!

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  1. I think you did great!
    Really makes me want to know where the Bistro chef went to school – could this be the difference in responses? Are there culinary schools that concentrate on traditional and tasty – which sure aint soybean oil – instead of current dietary guidelines? If you feel like asking, I’d love to know what the chef says!! Maybe some culinary schools have soybean oil sponsor infiltration the way med schools have big pharma?

    • That could be part of the difference, interesting! I’m guessing, though, that it just has a lot to do with the way the mainstream believes…

  2. I think you did great, too! Question about the beef tallow-how do you store it? The website recommended refrigeration & while I do fry a lot, it’d still take me a few months to burn through 5 gallons & I don’t yet have an extra refrigerator. I use real lard often & don’t refrigerate, but do keep in the coolest spot in my kitchen…any thoughts?
    Thanks for all you do to promote real food awareness!

    • I just answered that on Facebook too, so I’ll copy it here:

      Good question, I was going to put this in the post but forgot. I split it into 5 one-gallon containers (from my coc. oil) and store it in the freezer. Actually Kent does it for me, it’s a messy job, but only needs to be done rarely. You could buy it in smaller containers but it’s more expensive. I keep it a couple years this way.


      • Thank you! Lard doesn’t have to be refrigerated for a good while. We used to keep a tin of home-rendered lard in the corner of our non-air-conditioned kitchen when I was a kid. Recently, a friend gave us some that she had stored in her smokehouse since Fall & is still in my pantry, but every time I use it, I make sure it’s not going “off”. It’s still perfect. I’ve never used tallow, but am dying to try it!

  3. I would have said the same thing to him. There are very few restaurants that still use the good oils. Even Indian restaurants have abandoned the use of coconut oil. Most of the time we just make it at home.

  4. It’s so sad that people look at us like we are crazy to an extent. I can say this though: I have had the worst teeth my whole life even though I have done every single thing the dentist told me to do including regular cleanings and checkups. My teeth kept getting decay, my gums stayed swollen, painful, etc. I was in chronic pain with them for 2 years and finally started researching out of sheer desparation because the expensive solutions the dentist was doing and having me buy weren’t solving anything.

    I changed my diet using all coconut oil, grass fed meat/fats, etc, and I threw out my toothpaste. That’s right, no toothpaste. I started with a glycerin free soap, and ended up using an essential oil blend to brush with. My gums are now pink, not bleeding, no pain, I can drink anything with ice in it, I don’t have to drink my coffee out of a straw. My teeth are better! I even have a small cavity that has remineralized a good half way (I keep taking pictures of the progress) while I wait for a doctor’s appointment to have it looked at! I can’t say I have lost weight as of yet, and I hope I do, but boy, just eating without crying is enough for me

  5. Of course Bistro Bella Vita can accommodate you! They’re great :) It makes me sad that the others couldn’t -I’m guessing you probably called some of my favorite places too. I say keep talking; keep doing what you’re doing and asking questions, teaching, etc. things are changing for the better pretty rapidly in GR- look at the turn out we had for the march against Monsanto! And no doubt we have one of the biggest and healthiest WAPF chapters in the state. :) Wish I could be in town next week for the meeting! I’m working the 1st and 2nd, but looking forward to being home later in the day on the 2nd. High five Kelly! I’m proud to have you on my side and am thankful for your willingness to speak the truth boldly!

  6. You know what Kelly– you told the truth as you know it. It is hard to be the bearer of bad news but you were being honest and that is the harder walk to walk. Maybe you will have planted a seed for this chef in the future. I am amazed at how many “fancy” James Beard award winning places etc use “crap” oils. In my culinary training I have seen that for much of traditional “culinary education” there is no focus on the importance of oils. “Olive oil blend” with canola IS NOT the same as olive oil, Canola is terrible for the fryer (and anywhere) yet Canola oil is ALL over commercial food fryers– Chick Fil A even promotes… Now we have Canola Oil for our french fries! Ugh. It is hard to be the grim reaper on this but that is how change happens. So I say keep telling the truth Kelly! Tell it with compassion and kindness for we both know that we, too, once did not know these things. We strive not to pester or pummel folks with the information but simply to inform and then stand back and let people make their own choices and let them know why we might choose to eat somewhere else if they make choices we don’t like.

  7. You did great Kelly!! We have same problem. SO hard to find good oil in restaurants, but I AM starting to ask and explain that I prefer butter and olive oil! It is hard to know how much to “share with others” in the effort to be helpful.

  8. I also think you did great! I think you really did plant a seed – who knows if he’ll run with it. It always comes down to money. But you know I find I use “less” $ on fats because I incorporate bacon grease and that’s free. The rest of the time, I’m using lard from good farm animals so that’s really cheap too – I did render it myself – a pain but very easy.

    • Well, the bacon grease isn’t really free. You paid for the bacon, so the cost of it is built into the cost of the bacon. The restaurant chef can’t just go buy a bunch of bacon to get the grease.

  9. I think you were gentle actually and gave him good information without being offensive! Good job. Much to my chagrin, as I’m allergic to pork products, many places in the deep south (SC and GA esp.) still use lard, just an FYI if you travel there. I’m interested if you’ve covered the olive oil dilema, since that was mentioned as an acceptable oil at the restaurant you found–as it’s only a healthy oil if it’s basically uncooked (goes rancid at somewhere very low like 200 mere degrees, and that’s only if it’s pure to begin with)….

  10. Congratulations for opening the door to a discussion of healthy alternatives to Omega 6 oils.
    The fact is, most people want to make healthy choices- but they have been misled by the FDA, false advertising and even the Heart Association (heart healthy diets??!!) that still insist on eating a low fat diet with vegetable oils.
    Helping one person at a time is the way to change. The next big hurdle is getting people to understand that traditional dieting: Eat Less and Exercise More, is not just impossible, but actually LEADS to weight gain.
    Good job Kelly!

  11. What about peanut oil? Whenever I find a really good grassfed burger place, I ask what they fry their fries in, and several times I’ve been proudly told peanut oil. Satisfied that it’s neither canola or soy I sometimes get them, but I wonder: is peanut oil a good oil for frying? What do you think?

    • It does have a high heat tolerance, so it won’t break down as badly as some oils for frying (e.g. olive oil). Degrading oils with high heat creates carcinogens. It always scares me when people fry with, or season their cast iron with, olive oil.

    • I’d say it’s fine for once in a while (and would eat fries at a restaurant fried in it), and it’s more traditional (which I trust more than the new oils) but it is high in omega 6, so that’s why it shouldn’t be used too often.


  12. I think you came off just fine. Hopefully, you did plant a seed. Btw I’m curious what you think of rice bran oil. Is it also a “crappy” oil?

  13. The fryers at my culinary school used the “crap” oil. It was really disgusting looking actually. It was “semi-liquid shortening.” Somewhere between Crisco and liquid “vegetable” oil. It wasn’t even on anyone’s radar to use something different, especially when we were frying large quantities of food to serve in the college dining food court. It’s all about cost effectiveness, easiness, and what they’re used to. One of my instructors, who had been there for over twenty years, and who was a veteran chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America, didn’t know what was in his soup “base” (like a bouillon paste). I had to look at the label myself since I have celiac disease.

  14. Hahah Kelly, you are awesome! Good for you for educating this chef. It’s my sincere hope that you’ll call them back in six months or a year and they will have started using real fats for their frites…

  15. I think you did a good job with this. You didn’t get confrontational or condescending in your sharing of information. If only more people were willing to ask such questions and then plant seeds.

    On the peanut oil, I discovered one of my favorite local places only uses it. While the food is amazing there, seeing that made me glad I don’t eat there often at all. I’d just feel bad for anyone with a peanut allergy wanting to eat there.

  16. Love you website Kelly!
    I live in Canada, any idea where to buy it here?? The place you mentioned does not ship internationally..
    I would love to try it!

  17. Kelly, I think you did a great job of educating that poor chef. I hope he’s googling this out and educating himself more…….

  18. Actually, be careful with animal fat, it’s high in cholesterol. Cooking in avocado oil, olive oil, and coconut oil are the best oils. They’re still oil so moderation is best. They’re high in omega-3 which rocks. Olive oil tastes great on almost anything. Also, olive oil has some heat tolerance, so it’s ok to use in low-heat dishes. It’s better for you than butter on bread and flavoring foods already cooked. For baking, canola oil is best. Yes, it has omega-6 but we do need it. We just get too much in the American diet. If you don’t consume regular beef or things sweetened with corn syrup, you’re fine.

    • Hi Violet,

      Have you read any of the posts at my Healthy Fats link? (

      Please do take a look, especially at the articles on cholesterol. Fats (and meat!) from pastured animals are loaded with nutrients and so good for us!

      And Canola, oh my. It’s all genetically modified and is a modern super processed oil that I’ll *never* go near.

      Take care,

  19. I love non hydrogenated, virgin or extra virgin coconut oil. I also use duck fat, but find it tastes much better if you render it yourself. Enjoyed the post!

  20. Are you kidding me? You are trying to pass fried foods as ‘healthy’ (facepalm). I am all into healthy fats, and the majority of my calories come from fats ie (coconut oil, olives, olive oil, avocado, nuts/seeds) but if you are think using a healthy oil to with high heat maintains its health properties I believe you are misinformed. I hope people dont start eating fried foods thinking it is ‘healthy’ because of the oil it is fried in.

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