Food For Thought: Reporters and Chain Restaurants

E-mail Maggie Lineback

Pity the poor traveling producer. Although my company provides an adequate, if not generous, per diem, my chances of getting a fabulous meal on the road are as slim as a snowstorm in the low desert. This is because the two co-workers with whom I travel, while being extraordinarily talented and kind, have one serious and permanent flaw:

They are addicted to chain restaurants.

I kid you not. Our photographer never met a Fuddruckers he didn’t like. Correspondent Kris Gutierrez’s favorite lunch place is Chili’s. This is not to say that I am opposed to either Fuddruckers or Chili’s or the millions of chains that are out there; I am not. But, for example, when we are in New Orleans, city of a thousand good meals, may I not at least sample some of the local jambalaya? Not likely, unless it shows up on a Friday’s menu.

The problem is that neither Kris, nor our photographer are very adventurous eaters. Our photographer says he will eat, quote, “nothing with an exoskeleton.” He goes on, ”If that thing crawled into your house, you’d scream and try to kill it.” Meat and potatoes Gutierrez concurs. He eats only beef and chicken. And shrimp ... but only if it’s breaded and fried and served the third Tuesday of the summer solstice in a leap year.

They do try to humor me. They know I would prefer to chance a bad meal at a local joint than be guaranteed an average, albeit consistent, meal at a chain place. So during a recent visit to New Orleans, they said I could pick the restaurant. I paused thoughtfully and then dead panned. “How about sushi?” The look of horror that came across their faces made me laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe for a minute and a half. This is because the only way we’re getting within a five mile radius of a sushi restaurant is if there’s a natural disaster nearby and we’re sent to cover it.

So, I am resigned to my fate. New Orleans, keep your culinary masterpieces. I will not be sampling your oysters, raw, char-broiled or otherwise. Because in the end, I would rather eat poorly in the company of two people I truly enjoy — than eat well without them.

Maggie Lineback is a Dallas bureau producer.