Fat Chance: NYC Chefs and the Trans Fat Ban

On December 5, 2006, the New York City Health Department voted to ban artificial trans fats from restaurants. This decision, both supported and criticized, has put New York City chefs on the frontline of this heated topic. How will chefs accomodate these restrictions without compromising their recipes?

Restaurants Granted Transition Time and Assistance

The Health Department's ban is backed by the medical and nutritional community, as well as a large number of consumers. Artifical trans fats, which replace saturated fats and appear in oils, margarines, and shortenings, contribute to heart disease and higher numbers of unhealthy cholesterol. To aid the restaurants with the transition, the Health Department will allow 18 months for chefs to switch over their recipes and cooking techniques, and will provide technical support to assist with substitutions.

Chefs Need Healthy Alternatives Quickly

The National Restaurant Association, which represents 925,000 restaurants and foodservice establishments, has led the opposition to the ban, arguing to remove all but 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. While supporting the nutritional objectives of the ban, the Association states that 18 months is not enough time to create a new fat substitute and that currently not enough oils and products without artificial trans fats exist. Until a new healthy fat source is found, though, chefs will be forced to return to using saturated fats, which negatively affect heart health, or to formulate both classic and new recipes with all fat-free ingredients.

It will be challenging for New York city chefs and restaurants to provide the excellent food that customers have grown to expect, while addressing the government-imposed nutritional goals all in the next 18 months. But other cities are already considering a similar ban, as trans fats are expected to go the way of tobacco. If you're interested in a long-term career in the culinary industry, now is a good time to attend culinary school and get a head start on those new, healthy recipes.