The Restaurant Dieter loves schadenfreude.
The internet is buzzing about the possibility that Paula Deen will soon announce that she has Type 2 diabetes. This is hardly surprising.
Several years back, before I really knew who she was, I turned on the TV and watched this southern fried blond with an accent so thick it could cut biscuit dough make sweet corn for dinner. She fried bacon, removed it and fried the corn in the fat. Then she added an entire stick of butter.
I’ve eaten once at her restaurant, The Lady & Sons. I was there with a large group of newspaper features section editors in Savannah for a meeting. If we hadn’t been such a large group, we would have had to stand in the line that consistently circles the place.
I can’t remember what I ate, but I’m pretty sure it involved copious amounts of cornbread, yeast rolls, fried chicken and a shrimp boil.
I don’t remember if there was sweet corn in bacon fat with butter. I’m sure if there was, I would have eaten it. That was then; this is now.
Have I mentioned that, despite a family history of Type 2 diabetes, my blood sugar is normal?
The Restaurant Dieter tends to be hard on the Darden Restaurant Group, and rightly so. The chain’s casual theme dinner houses push out a lot of incredibly unhealthy food, despite a few good efforts such as Season’s 52 and the Lighthouse menu at Red Lobster.
So he was interested in a recent article from Smart Money interviewing Darden CEO Clarence Otis Jr. about the chain’s recent efforts to tinker with the Olive Garden menu. This included a gorgonzola and pear ravioli with shrimp that apparently bombed.
No tears will be shed at The Restaurant Dieter blog. The article notes that Olive Garden serves 9 million of those all-you-can eat, nutritionally vapid, white bread, fat soaked bread sticks a week?
The Restaurant Dieter was harsh on Darden Restaurant Group and Michelle Obama recently. The chain announced some pretty modest efforts to make its menus healthier, but from the purple prose, you’d have thought Darden conquered obesity.
Now comes the news that the chain — which operates Olive Garden, Red Lobster and others — is suffering financially. One of the reasons cited is commodity costs. Here’s hoping it gives the chain incentive to rein in some of the enormous and calorie-laden portions it serves.
“When people eat at home, they want to eat low cal, but when they go out to dine, they really want every calorie they’re paying for,” says David Overton, CEO of The Cheesecake Factory. “Because it’s celebratory, they’re here, they want to have a good time.
That quote from the chain’s 65-year-old founder comes from a recent interview with ABC News. It made me race for the Google’s image search, hoping to find a photo. Was the man overweight and perhaps skirting with poor health himself? I wanted to indulge a fantasy that karma would come back around to punish him for pushing some of the most outrageous and over-sized restaurant foods in America.
The photo of him from several websites appears to be the kind of corporate CEO portrait handed out by the PR department. It shows a round-faced man with full cheeks and a blossoming second chin on top of what appears to be a large frame.
Perhaps Overton’s eaten a few too many of his chain’s Farmhouse Burgers, topped with bacon, mayo and a fried egg. It seems telling that the company’s website doesn’t include a section on nutritional analysis. Most other chains do at least that.
The large portions, he says, are “what America wants to eat.”
Certainly, his chain’s status as one of the industry’s most profitable chains backs him up. But hasn’t he ever heard of corporate responsibility? And if not that, how about enlightened self interest? That may be at work with the company’s recently-introduced SkinnyLicious (TM) Menu
Let’s hope the effort is catching when it comes to the rest of the menu. When his current customer base succumbs to Type 2 Diabetes and premature death, who will line up at his restaurants then?