Restaurant imitation recipes is simply a phrase that describes recipes that imitate those of a certain restaurant or restaurants. The word, imitation, defines anything that may resemble or copy that of an original or genuine article. To copy or imitate an original source is a testament to the credibility of that source for the quality it provides. If it was not of high quality, no one would even make the effort to imitate or copy it. It has also been said that the imitation of anything is a form of flattery, but not every imitation is exactly flattering.
Food is sort of boring in that the basic forms are the same. There may be certain varieties to some degree and some times highly advertised as an edge to promote it, however, chicken is chicken, beef is beef, broccoli is broccoli and so on right? How these get prepared and put together to be served though, is what truly makes the difference.
Recipes for these foods have been handed down through the generations using the basic forms of preparation from the skillet, ovens and grills, to boiling pots and now microwaves. Keen thought and purpose to introduce new combinations of spices, sauces and marinades to these basic methods help to enhance the flavors of these basic foods. This is, has and will continue to be goal of many people and certainly with restaurants to help set their style and food apart from others.
This may be a silly reflection, but highlights the points mentioned above. When I was growing up, I could not stand the taste of cauliflower. I saw no purpose for this food. To me, it was a useless vegetable that took up space on our planet. I am not joking! Later, when I actually worked in a supper club, one of the appetizers we served was deep fried cauliflower with a side of cheese sauce. Ever since then, cauliflower has become one of my favorite foods and in all of the traditional ways, from raw to steamed and I still love the deep fried method as well. If it were not for that deep fried recipe, I may never have had the pleasure of enjoying this healthy and now tasty food.
I think it is important to recognize Restaurants themselves, whether they be a fast food, independent, mom and pop, big chain type or even 5 star, all bring in millions of people every day across our nation. Their business is simply to serve and sell us as many items from their food and drink menus in an atmosphere where we can relax and enjoy. It is true though that many of these restaurants have worked hard to develop their own signature recipes, techniques and themes to set themselves apart. They spend millions on advertising their uniqueness to keep bringing customers back for more. The restaurant business is a huge business and very competitive.
How big is the restaurant industry in the U.S.?
According to the National Restaurant Association, it is estimated the industry to reach $604 billion dollars in sales for 2011. That is $1.7 billion on a typical day. There are 960,000 locations nationwide that employee approximately 12.8 million people and get this, of the dollars spent on food in the U.S., 49% is shared with the restaurant industry. I don’t know about you, but that is some serious cabbage. It is also goes to show why restaurants are certainly a credible authority and why someone may go out of their way to imitate or copy a recipe or two.
If you were to choose any one of your favorite restaurants or even one that may just be starting up, this same basic description will apply. This restaurant will make a discovery of a new method or combination of sauces or seasonings for a new food recipe. I should say, they work at making the discovery, putting in time and effort initially, so this new recipe could be tried and tested over and over until finally reaching the menu. The restaurant may advertise the new release to let the public know it has a great new recipe to come in and try out. Ideally it becomes a success and a featured item on their menu. If the public loves it, the restaurant has another source of new revenue. In the case of a new startup, it could also be a featured recipe that helps them to get noticed to help get them off the ground and running overall.
Believe it or not, restaurants themselves can be considered one of the biggest copy cat artists out there but in a way that doesn’t try to make an exact copy, They will proceed in a way that may use the same name of the dish, but pride themselves to make theirs stand out differently by adding their own signature touch and right down to what else may be included in addition to the entree to help set it apart from others.
With the exception of serve your self style of service, restaurants basically copy each other on the overall operating format of how the customers are served and taken care of right down to including “similar” items being listed on the menus. They all keep a watchful eye on each other to see what is working well and may change a menu, method of service, cost or whatever the case may be to accommodate current customers and coax new paying customers to spend money in their establishments. It is a constant see saw battle.
Regardless of these restaurants copying and competing with each other for our dollars, they clearly are the bar to which we compare the taste of our favorite foods to. They continue push each other in developing recipes, techniques and signature menus that keep us coming back for more. We all have our favorite menu items and while one person may prefer one restaurant over another for a particular entree or appetizer, the fact is, they all are a genuine article and clearly worth the effort to imitate.
Just a note, in regard to businesses (especially non-restaurant) some have to take steps and go further and get patents or licenses on their discoveries to help protect them from being copied. With restaurants, it is a little tougher as getting patents and licensing on food is much more difficult and not quite the same as building up a new technological advance like an I-pad. Restaurants may need to have some legal assistance and agreements arranged with their employees to not give up any secrets to their signature ways in effort to keep their secrets in-house should an employee decide to leave. There have been some court cases where a cook or chef leaves and starts a new restaurant using the same signature methods but calling it something else and well… more money spent to get it straightened out.
Over time, there have been many others that have tried to imitate a restaurant recipe from grocery store food suppliers, right down to good ole Mom. Ask them all and most would agree that the task may not be so easy to recreate. There are those that come up with recipes that are similar in general yet lack that signature flavor of a specific restaurant. Have you ever tried to make something just like your favorite restaurant and while it turned out ok, it just didn’t quite taste the same as what TGIF or Olive Garden serves? I know I have and it seemed like all the effort was fine, but the result, on a scale of 1 to 10, was maybe a 6 at best. To get a 9 or 10 just seems impossible and you are better off giving up and just go to the restaurant instead.
Well, guess what? As there is with anything worth while, there are those few people who do try to imitate these restaurant recipes to the Nth degree. You could almost refer to them as recipe hackers. They can be moms, dads or professionals and no matter who, these people have a goal and will put in the time and effort to break a recipe down. They want to figure out the details of that signature flavor and replicate it in a fashion that truly does imitate the original flavor. Focus, dedication and the will to succeed is a must for many of these individuals. There are also those who are simply great cooks and through their experience and intuitive nature are able to hone in on the original restaurant recipe. I have some experience cooking and can follow a recipe, but, I certainly am not a restaurant recipe hacker.
If it is a difficult task to try to copy or imitate a successful genuine article then why do others try to imitate it?
It often times can be related to money and someone else wanting to get in on the action. There also those that will do it to see if they can save some money. Some may even look to make improvements on the original. It can be for other reasons like notoriety or personal challenge for pride and maybe even some kicks. Think about this, comedians can get more laughs if they are good at imitating some one else right? If they are really good at it, this helps bring more people to their show.
Just as is done with so many other things that are made, there is always a group of these interested individuals that like to do things themselves. These people will go out of their way to copy favorite recipes from all of these restaurants. I would venture to say that if one were to interview many of these DIY (Do It Yourself) people, it would be primarily in an effort to be able to save money as a main reason initially. Remember earlier I mentioned that 49% of the dollar spent on food is shared in the restaurant industry? That is a lot of dough that one can save!
Money or the spending of it, is actually how and why I began to take note of these restaurant imitation recipes. I have been reviewing our family spending habits and when looking at groceries vs. dining, I was actually pretty shocked. Dining out has become a habit for us and while it is one that we do enjoy, it is also one that has been adding up significantly. This is what started that flickering of the old light bulb for myself and my family.
I consider myself to be in that DIY group of people on a number of things and while I have come to enjoy doing many things myself (Not all of the time mind you.), I realize the impact of learning how to do something yourself can and has saved me a good amount of money. From car repairs to home carpentry, it also has opened my eyes to appreciate what others are doing as a business for their livelihoods. It has helped make a difference in wiser spending as well as saving money even if I do not do something myself.
Knowing that my family has developed this habit of eating out more than eating at home, getting them to eat typical home cooked meals more often is not going to be to easy. The flickering light bulb moment or idea mentioned earlier was to see about getting some recipes from the restaurants that I could cook at home with the idea of saving some money initially. I also began to see how we have lost touch with the skill of cooking. We sure have all become masters of the microwave, but the rest of the kitchen starts to get a little sketchy.
So the journey began in search of restaurant recipes. Most restaurants do not give out their recipes and why would they? They might lose a return customer if they did. I do see some restaurants that are selling some of their menu items in the grocery stores more than before, but sort of limiting it to just a few items. I have also read about a person that would ask the cooks for their recipes and how some might spill the beans once in awhile, but again, fairly limited results.
I remember one time my wife and I were at a Denny’s restaurant late one night and how much we enjoyed their marinara sauce used with the mozzarella sticks we had ordered. We asked the waitress about it and she did check with the cooks on that, but they really didn’t know much about it and we thank her for trying. When we got the check, we also got an unexpected surprise. She brought out a large vacuum sealed plastic bag of the marinara sauce from what appeared to be directly from their food supplier. We didn’t get the recipe but we sure got a large quantity of sauce to bring home. So it does pay to ask and while you may or may not get a recipe directly you never know what might happen I guess.
There are of course a good number of books, many articles online and numerous websites all claiming either access to or having themselves, restaurant secrets and copycats recipes for many favorite American restaurants. Whew, it sort of makes my head spin a bit, but in order to help me achieve this quest of mine it has been worth the effort. Many sites are recommending the same key original sources (recipe hackers) of the imitation or copycats recipes and in my experience this is usually a good hint as a reasonable place to start.
There is always someone who highlights their experience and discovery of things that have had impact on their life with how and why they did it. Many times they get even further into it and begin marketing their efforts to generate some additional income. It may be the result of a friend or family member that cheers them on, but if it is done well and the quality is there, it often times catches enough attention to make it worth the while. Plus, there are always others that have like interests. It really becomes a win-win for everyone and can spur on even more ideas and experiences from others who are interested.
As with anything, one has to dip their toes in and get a feel for it of course. I have been trying out some of these imitation restaurant recipes sources and have been truly impressed. I have been learning a lot more than first thought and it has been a lot of fun to top it off. The people who have created these copycat recipes have really done a fantastic job. My quest is to save some money of course, but making some of these recipes is also a great way to learn how to cook. Think about it for a second, one can actually learn how to cook an appetizer, entre or dessert that they know is good at their favorite restaurant and get great results for their effort right out of the gate. I don’t know about you, but I get a great sense of accomplishment when taking time to learn something and it works out.
Should you get the urge to try these imitation or secret recipes of the restaurants, I think you will be more than pleasantly surprised. I know I have been. If you want to save some money, learn how to cook or simply to get a hold of one of your favorite restaurant recipes, you won’t regret it.
I have not tried any of the “700 FREE restaurant recipes” type of sources online. They may be alright too, however, it has been my experience that if something is really worth while, there should be some cost associated for the effort of making it available. They certainly don’t have to be expensive either. Most cost about the same as a nice dinner for two and can include extra information from making wine to growing your own herbs if you are in to that. It is really pretty incredible what some have included along with the recipe books they are promoting.
As with anything, do take some time to review before making any purchase of course, but once you do get your feet wet have some fun and be prepared to be amazed with the results.