The Seafood Dish Anthony Bourdain Advised Against Ordering Out

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Seafood might be one of the trickiest items to order at a restaurant, with alluring jargon like "catch of the day" or "specials" often equating to days-old fish. As such, it's good to know some rules for ordering delicacies from the sea when eating out. One of these tips comes from the world-renowned chef, Anthony Bourdain. In his 2000 memoir, "Kitchen Confidential," the "No Reservations" host shared that he rarely ordered mussels at a restaurant, due to the likelihood that some could be compromised.

Bourdain wrote that he only ordered mollusks if he either trusted the chef, or had a glimpse into how a restaurant handled them. While mollusks are certainly not among the many foods Bourdain hated with a passion, he did note that it only takes "a single bad mussel, one treacherous little guy hidden among an otherwise impeccable group" to ruin the flavors of a dish. Furthermore, Bourdain shared that, "more often than not, mussels are allowed to wallow in their own foul-smelling piss in the bottom of a reach-in," alluding to the fact that some professional chefs are not careful in how they store the shellfish in their kitchens.

The potential food safety issues with improperly handled mussels

While Anthony Bourdain's reasoning for why he usually steered clear of eating mussels at a restaurant might be enough to churn some stomachs, there are also real health concerns if they are improperly handled. While mollusks might seem harmless in an otherwise delectable order, these critters can cause many foodborne illnesses if they die prior to cooking. Therefore, dining establishments must follow methods to properly clean and store mussels to keep guests from becoming sick.

At a restaurant, it never hurts to ask the waitstaff where your shellfish comes from — and how fresh it may be. Typically, any restaurant that sells locally sourced, "market price" mussels has stock that is likely recently purchased and possibly seasonal. If neither the menu nor the waiter can answer questions about where your mollusks are coming from, you're probably better off not ordering that seafood item.

To help further spot if your food has spoiled, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes that any mussels with cracked shells, a foul smell, or that did not open after cooking are likely compromised and should be discarded.

More seafood advice from Anthony Bourdain

Mussels aren't the only marine creature that Anthony Bourdain felt wary about ordering at a restaurant. In his memoir "Kitchen Confidential," the star also confessed to the reason why he stopped eating swordfish. While Bourdain wrote that he liked the flavor of it, seeing too many parasite-ridden fillets stopped him from enjoying the fish. Some of these worms can grow past a foot in length and have the possibility of causing illness, so you're better off exercising caution when ordering this marine delicacy.

While Bourdain might have steered clear of certain restaurant items, he was a staunch advocate for eating adventurously and keeping an open mind. He recommended that people never be afraid of trying out unknown or even seemingly unappetizing seafood items. If the "Parts Unknown" star taught us anything, it was that some of the best delicacies around the world come from unexpected places. So, don't hesitate to try out what strikes you as odd on a menu or at a grocery store. Who knows? Maybe you'll discover your new favorite dish.