Fool me once...

Risotto alla milanese

In these days of celebrity chefs, it should come as no surprise that people are influenced by a chef's take on a dish. Just how much influence a chef can have is illustrated by a recent experiment in which diners overwhelmingly chose an inferior food product just because a chef described it.

The study, conducted by a Hong Kong-based advertising firm, invited 48 unsuspecting diners to restaurant Serge et le Phoque "under the pretext that they were taking part in a taste test to help a chef refine a dish." The dish, saffron risotto with licorice and lime, was prepared two ways. One dish was prepared with the best ingredients, including homemade chicken stock. It was presented with a plain card that stated the ingredients. The second version was made with commercial bouillon and tap water. 

However, the second dish was not presented with a mere card. Instead, a person dressed in chef's whites chef "personally introduced this version, informing diners at each table in turn that the dish was inspired by a treasured childhood memory while explaining the provenance of each ingredient." 

After sampling both versions, diners filled out a survey in which they chose which version they preferred. By an overwhelming majority (77%), diners chose the inferior product with the better sales pitch. Diners even stated that the portion size of the second dish was better, when in reality both servings were the same size. Read more about the results of this intriguing experiment.

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