Congressman blasts Amtrak’s gourmet chef program

June 20, 2013

An Acela train at Union Station. (Gerald Martineau/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Amtrak is hoping accomplished chefs can help spruce up its menus, but one congressman thinks the program needs to be pureed.

Wait, how about this one? Amtrak gathers gourmet chefs to brainstorm new recipe ideas, and that has left one congressman steaming.

Wait! Here’s another one: While Amtrak thinks gourmet chefs can help it upgrade the food it serves, one congressman says the program should be deep-fried.

(Okay, that was the last one, we promise.)

Last week, The Post’s Lori Aratani took readers inside Amtrak’s attempts to find new recipes and change its menus. Here’s what she reported:

In exchange for frequent traveler miles, the rail agency has hired some of the most accomplished chefs in the country, who come together each spring to brainstorm new dishes for Amtrak’s menus.

The annual chefs’ gathering is part of an effort to change the way riders think about train cuisine. The goal is hipper, more healthful food to tempt the palates of the millions of annual passengers. After all, in a world that embraces designer doughnuts and upscale ramen noodles, why not gourmet train food?

This week, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) offered an answer to that question. In a news release issued Tuesday, Mica derided the program as being wasteful at a time when Amtrak posts losses on its food services.

“Taxpayers would choke if they knew the costs of these gourmet meals,” Mica said in the release.

He also said he hopes to have congressional subcommittees investigate this program. Mica, speaking with Politico this week, said he wanted to find out the cost of what he called “gourmet chef conclaves.”

This isn’t a new issue for Mica. Last year, he called Amtrak’s millions of dollars in  losses on food and beverages “outrageous.”

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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Lori Aratani · June 20, 2013