The Real Dish on Restaurants

What goes on behind those kitchen doors may surprise you.
3:00 | 11/16/12

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Transcript for The Real Dish on Restaurants
It's less than a week away until thanksgiving. So how many of you are planning to eat out for turkey day? Last year some 14 million americans went to a restaurant to give thanks, no doubt for not having to cook or do the dishes. But after you see what goes on behind some of those kitchen doors, scrubbing those pots and pans may not seem so bad after all. What lurks behind those restaurant kitchen doors? Are you sure you want to know? Can you imagine this? Live in ohio? This video is from a fast food restaurant there. A kitchen worker skinny-dipping in the same sink used to clean dishes. It's my birthday. I figured I was feeling a little frisky, but I'll get a little clean. Reporter: It was a dirty decision. He became an internet sensation but was then fired for obvious reasons. Just one taste of what we don't know about the culinary crucible that is the restaurant kitchen. Kitchens are crazy. I mean, no matter what, I see a lot of things, a lot of health violations, storage, cleanliness, organization. Meet willie degel. Reporter: Willie degel pulls no punches on his reality show "restaurant stakeout." This is ridiculous. You really need a manager, a real manager. Come on in the kitchen. Everything is ready to go. Look at the cleanliness, organization. Reporter: Degel spent years making uncle jack's steakhouse a top rated new york city eatery. Now he is using hidden cameras to detect dining disasters, most of which start right here in the kitchen. Are you ever shocked by what the cameras catch? Oh, without a doubt, I mean, but, you know, I am in this business a long time. When there's no structure and organization, anything can go on. Stop giving me such an attitude. Don't scream at me. What is this fighting? Oh, my god. The whole staff's on their phone. I am getting pissed off just watching this. Reporter: And if the staff isn't fooling around on their phones, they just might be fooling around with each other. It gets hot in the kitchen, and sometimes one thing leads to another, and then people get together. Hey. Reporter: Kind of gives "romantic dinner" a whole new meaning, according to debra ginsberg, who wrote a book about her 20 years as a waitress. I have walked in on trysts happening in various pantries and walk-ins in various kitchens that I've been in, and this happens on food, it happens near food, it happens around food. Reporter: And when it comes to food, she has plenty of stories that may take your appetite away. I once served a salad with a scorpion in it. Organic! And the customer saw it and didn't really feel like eating it. Reporter: And you know that bread and butter you can't wait for? Let it go, not just for your diet, but for where those carbs have been. I think it's an almost universally acknowledged fact that bread and butter tends to circulate, shall we say, from table to table. You know the old thing when you used to go to a diner as a kid, they had the pickles and coleslaw. How many times did you wonder if you had somebody else's pickles? They weren't throwing those pickles out, you know. They are throwing 'em in a bunch of other. Reporter: Okay, because I am the guy who eats -- yeah. Reporter: -- Everything that comes out to us. Yeah. Reporter: So like if you give me a basket of bread -- yeah. Reporter: -- I am going to eat it. Yeah. Reporter: If there are pickles, I am going to eat them. Yeah. Reporter: So I don't know whose pickles I have been eating. Yeah. Reporter: Do i? Here's another secret, that chef's special may not be so special. Fresh seafood pasta is kind of an oxymoron. I recommend avoiding them. A lot of times in places that aren't busy, they'll run the specials on products that's been sitting around and not moving. Reporter: Oh, so it's not something they just got in fresh. No. Reporter: And they want to move it. No. Reporter: It's something they have to get rid of. Yeah. You got an item three days old, it smells a little bit, it's a little off, what do you do? Here, we throw it out. Reporter: Which may also be good advice for you doggy baggers out there. When you ask to take something home, you should ask for the container and put the food in yourself because sometimes back in the kitchen it gets a little sloppy. But it also saves them time, and it cuts out steps for them. Reporter: But I don't want somebody in the back like grabbing my stuff with their hand and throwing it in there. Yeah, without a doubt. You have to be. Reporter: And maybe grabbing the fries. You have to have tongs, you have to have a setup. Reporter: And a lot of places don't, right? No, they don't. Reporter: So what can happen back there? Oh, oh, a lot of mistreatment of the food. Reporter: Cleanliness is next to godliness for former florida health inspector turned consultant roy costa. He points to the letter grades in cities around the country as a way to hold restaurants accountable. And what these letter grades do is it forces them to come clean with the public. Nobody wants to get a "c" or a "b." Everybody wants to get an "a." Reporter: Some restaurants even try to disguise a bad grade turning that dreaded "c" into a lesson in creativity. Bad apples aside, the grading system seems to be working. 75% of new york city's 24,000 restaurants have earned As UP FROM 65% LAST YEAR. But there are still plenty of greasy spoons to avoid out there, as our tampa affiliate wfts finds out on its segment "dirty dining." They check up on local restaurants slapped with repeated health code violations. Finding filthy pots and pans, dead roaches, and raw meat sitting out. Do you feel like with these violations that your restaurant is safe to eat at? Oh, yeah. Why not? 31 years I don't have nobody complain to me. Reporter: And, yes, that's actually a bird flying out of the kitchen with a meal of his own. I don't know, I think we have a pretty clean restaurant. Reporter: He no longer works there, and the restaurant is under new ownership. But their latest inspection cited 12 critical violations. Management tells us they are working to resolve those. The food safety culture in these kitchens, unless there is a manager or an owner that has taken this to heart, the employees just blow it off. Reporter: You know what else employees just blow off? ♪ Lift your hands to the sky ♪ Reporter: Washing their hands, and that can make you sick to your stomach literally. Very often servers or cooks or other people who work directly with food or go for the bathroom to back to the kitchen without washing their hands. Reporter: While not all restaurants are a hotbed of bad behavior, next time you go out, keep your eyes open, and add at least one more step to your dining experience. Check out the bathroom. If your bathrooms are clean and organized, you represent that as the kitchen. To me, I look at the restaurant as a face of a beautiful woman. Is she maintaining it? Is it landscaped, is it painted? Is the sign falling apart? That's going to show you a sign of a restaurant. Reporter: So you can actually judge the book by the cover. I feel without a doubt. I have been in places and I am

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