Why Anthony Bourdain Cautioned Against Restaurant Hollandaise Sauce

Even though he didn't shy away from certain risky foods like oysters on the half shell or a runny raw milk cheese, there were a few absolute no-gos on Anthony Bourdain's list — and restaurant hollandaise sauce was near the top. As he wrote in his tell-all magnum opus "Kitchen Confidential," "[H]ollandaise sauce? Not for me. Bacteria love hollandaise. And hollandaise, that delicate emulsion of egg yolks and clarified butter, must be held at room temperature not too hot nor too cold, lest it break when spooned over your poached eggs." Indeed, it's a famously tough sauce to get right. In his "Les Halles Cookbook,"

Bourdain offered a less than encouraging word to the wise: Unless you're a pro, you can pretty much expect your first few tries at hollandaise sauce to be total failures. But, the chef-slash-writer didn't give restaurant hollandaise the thumbs-down because of its difficulty — Bourdain wouldn't be caught eating it because, actually, it might be a little gross.

Sometimes workers come in sick, which helped account for an estimated 40% of all food poisoning outbreaks, per a recent report by the CDC. But, other times, foodborne illness is the result of less-than-ideal food safety conditions, and it's all too easy for delicate hollandaise sauce to become a hotbed for bacteria. (Sounds appetizing?)

Playing it safe and dodging the eggs benedict

According to the FDA, any dish containing eggs should be served immediately after cooking or refrigerated and reheated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Dishes containing eggs should also not remain out of the fridge for any longer than two hours. But, according to Bourdain, these prescriptions simply aren't realistic (or even common industry practice) when it comes to hollandaise. "Nobody I know has ever made hollandaise to order," he wrote. "Most likely, the stuff on your eggs was made hours ago and held on station." Plus, salmonella infections usually remain symptomatic for four to seven days, which is a drag, to say the least — and it'll certainly put you out of brunch commission till at least next weekend.

Not even a vote of approval from Chef Thomas Keller (who Bourdain called his "idol" in an episode of "A Cook's Tour") could change the writer's mind. To Keller, hollandaise is a nostalgic, beloved part of his personal cooking history since the mid-1970s. "Hollandaise sauce for me was ... being able to do something that was so refined and had such history to it," he tells MasterClass. Still, the sauce itself might not be to blame as much as the industry practices that allegedly make it less than fit for a professional setting — or, as Bourdain succinctly called it, "a veritable petri dish of biohazards."