Olive Garden’s Culinary Institute Exposed

For a while I had to work at an Olive Garden to help pay the bills.  I can tell you that it was one of the worst jobs I have ever had.  The kitchen cleanliness was so bad I wouldn’t even eat a bag of chips I brought in for fear of germs leaping onto any food I wished to consume.  Though it was illegal the management cast a blind Olive Garden's Culinary Institute of Tuscanyeye to employees smoking in the prep kitchen where it was not uncommon to find dozens of cigarette butts lying on counters, the floors and even on hand sinks.  Their bonus checks were good so they didn’t care and the health inspector was rumored to be in their pocket.

The management staff’s general approach to customers was to treat them like cattle.  Servers were often seated with three or four tables all at the same time which guaranteed none of the tables were going to receive good service and as a result the server was not going to receive a good tip.  Again, their bonus checks were good so they didn’t care.

They did not care about their employees, their customers, health concerns, the law or anything other than their bonus checks.  It was not a circumstance of one bad management crew as this staff has routinely been rewarded for exemplifying the Olive Garden standard.  It is the OG culture.  Two of the managers were recognized with a trip to the Culinary Institute of Tuscany.  Both said there wasn’t much educating as the company kept them drunk most of the time.  Both also said that the food they experienced in Italy was nothing like the Olive Garden menu.  No surprise there.

Now a former Olive Garden manager has outed the Culinary Institute of Tuscany as a fraud – he says it is actually a hotel that parent company Darden Restaurant Group rents out during the off-season.  According to the article, “There wasn’t much learning involved. Still though, it was a free trip to Italy.”  The article appears on the foodie web site Eater and you can read it HERE.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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