Cheflebrity Smörgåsbord: Amtrak is a Culinary Wasteland


Would it kill Amtrak to sell reasonably good food?

I spent five hours total on the North East Corridor yesterday, traveling from from Trenton, New Jersey to Washington, D.C. for work.  Normally, I have a pretty high tolerance for shitty food — as long as someone else is paying for it.  Unfortunately, my employers have decided that the 150-mile trip doesn’t qualify for meal reimbursement, so I’d have to shell out my own cash if I wanted a dirty water hot dog or whatever else they were hawking.  I settled for reading food blogs and toughing it out until I made it home for dinner.

Look, I understand why the folks who fly steerage on airlines get crap (if they’re lucky).  There’s only so much space on the plane and the equipment used to cook/heat the meals isn’t exactly ideal.  But why can’t Amtrak, which makes tons of stops where good food can be loaded and has the luxury of a roomy cafe car, offer some higher-quality fare for its riders?  Isn’t this the kind of thing that Emeril, Wolfgang or someone like that should be jumping on?

It’s nothing but first class when you ride the smörg…

– Really, Wall Street Journal?!? You don’t say…” Another boost came from Mr. Ramsay’s blossoming media career, with the success of reality television shows such as “Kitchen Nightmares,” “Hell’s Kitchen” and “The F-Word” — so-named for Mr. Ramsay’s frequent use of expletives.”

– The fact that a cheftestant on the upcoming season of Top Chef has left her job has NOTHING to do with her performance on the show.  It has EVERYTHING to do with her snagging a better deal at one of Philly’s higher-profile spots.

After the jump: the culinary scourge of the nation, the world’s least surprising medical update and Spike tells you how to sign off in style.

– Swine Flu?  Psssh!  West Nile Virus?  Whatever!  Tomato Blight? OMFG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

– Plus ça change: Robert, the morbidly obese contestant who had to leave Hell’s Kitchen last year for health reasons, is back this year…still morbidly obese and still — apparently — not doing too well, medically speaking.

I need to put this to a vote…trying too hard or downright awesome?  Spike Mendelsohn‘s e-mail sign off is “Love and Bacon.”

(Photo: Jim Frazier)

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  • ML August 13, 2009  

    This weekend I took a five hour Amtrak trip, during dinner time, that did not even have a cafe car. It might have been better that way.

  • Britannia August 13, 2009  

    I rarely travel by train here in the U.S., a plane can take me everywhere I want to be. In the U.K. however I trained it everywhere, Virgin Trains have a great selection of foods on offer in standard class, I presume fresh at every major stop. I don’t think we need a celebrity endorsement per se but of a standard that is tolerable to when one is trapped on a train for up to five hours and are forced to eat, or starve- which clearly is preferable.

  • Jim Loomis August 18, 2009  

    It’s SO easy to be a sneering smart-alec critic, isn’t it. What do you expect on a short-haul train, anyway? Amtrak food served in dining cars on their long distance trains is quite good, all thing considered. One of those “things”, by the way, has been a Republican president who tried to starve Amtrak out of business for eight years … and a Republican Congress who mandated draconian cost cuttings in the railroad’s food service operations. All things considered, Amtrak does a very good job … except for food snobs with unrealistic expectations.

  • MotherKnows November 22, 2009  

    I love AMTRAK! The food is fairly good. It depends on the Chef. I hate critics that are not true food experts.
    AMTRAK is a staple in this country. We had a president that wanted to cut AMTRAK out and it did not work. We appreciate the Chefs and the work they put in to keep the passengers happy and full. It’s a thankless job and they do not need folks putting them down for the work and energy they put into preparing decent food. Way much better than the Airlines…even first class. I know this for a fact!

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