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Ketchup ban at Florida restaurant sparks national food debate

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No ketchup for you. (iStock)

What’s a sure fire way to get people talking about your restaurant?

Ban one of America’s favorite condiments.

Mad Fresh Bistro in Fort Myers, Florida does not serve ketchup to anyone over 10 years old. According to Yahoo, which published the most recent story about the Florida eatery, “’Chef reserves the right to refuse service of ketchup,’ has been printed, in some form, on the menus at Mad Fresh Bistro since the south Fort Myers restaurant opened in October 2012.”

And people took note. The highly divisive culinary debate garnered over 1,700 story comments with responders on both side of the foodie fence. Many believed that if they are shelling out money for a good meal, they should be able to choose what goes on their food.

“At what point did the service industry become a front for egotism?? I am all for offering new items, encouraging customers to branch out, etc, but the guests are the ones who keep us in business. Are we really so egotistical that we are willing to lose business over ketchup or someone who wants the food they are paying for their way??? What happened to giving great guest service and giving the guest what they want??” wrote a user identified as “Sandie.”

But some sided with Mad Fresh.

“I totally agree, ketchup is for kids. It makes everything taste like ketchup. What's the point of that?” wrote a user named “Andrew.”

According to news-press, chef-owner Xavier Duclos, who worked on yachts and at country clubs before opening his own Florida bistro, defended his position.

"My burger has got a sauce on it already. There's no point in adding a sweet sauce on top of that. I think ketchup is edible – on certain things. I'll give it that much. But it's just not part of my culinary agenda."

He added, "I think my flavors work. You don't walk into the museum and tell them to change the color of the painting."

But the issue sparked a  larger discussion about uptight chefs and their refusal to alter their dishes to customer whims. Sure, most restaurants will oblige for allergies or specific dietary restrictions, and while paying customers are generally granted most culinary wishes—they ultimately chose to dine at a certain establishment.

Mad Fresh is hardly the first restaurant to deny picky patron requests. April Bloomfield, chef-owner of New York hot spot The Spotted Pig, reportedly bans condiments on her signature burgers and told Kobe Bryant that Roquefort cheese could not be removed from his order. 

As for Mad Fresh, Duclos has no intention of lifting the ketchup ban anytime soon. According to the chef, his restaurant still remains busy even after the story backlash.

But the ban really begs the question: What do you put on your fries?