Dining at Fig & Olive isn’t cheap. Prices at any one of the upscale Mediterranean chain’s eight locations, placed in high-end locales, push into the $20 range for a pasta dish and go up over $40 for a main. Front and center on the menu are words like “seasonality” and “local farms.” So diners might be surprised to hear the findings of an investigative report by the Washington City Paper claiming that, up until at least this past September, a huge chunk of the restaurant’s menu was precooked in a central commissary in Queens, New York, before being shipped frozen across the country.
Apparently, the City Paper initially became suspicious of the chain after customers from opposite coasts were stricken with salmonella. Following the trail of the outbreak uncovered the existence of the central commissary, and a Freedom of Information Act request to the DC Department of Health led to the details: “nearly 200 dish components, including soups, sauces, purees, dressings, desserts, breads, ratatouille, ravioli, crab cakes, pre-cooked chicken tagine, pre-cooked paella, and more” all prepared at the commissary, according to the paper. “The $26 truffle risotto (no longer on the menu) was pre-cooked and frozen,” they write, then “reheated with cheese and garnished.” Truffle olive oil aioli was made with Hellmann’s mayonnaise.
Of course, even not-so-savvy diners understand than not all food is made fresh on the premises, but the City Paper insinuates that they believe Fig & Olive was practically deceptive in the extent to which the restaurants food prep techniques didn’t meet the dining establishment’s persona or their pricing.
Interestingly, reached for comment by Eater, a Fig & Olive spokesman stated that they closed the commissary in September before ensuring, “Currently all of our dishes are prepared in house at each location.” Maybe they realized a reporter was hot on their trail.