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Eater’s Top Reports of 2015

A look at the most-read reported food journalism, from secret menus to spicy cuisine

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Nick Solares

Led by editor Erin DeJesus, reported stories at Eater delved into a wide range of topics this year. There's plenty of chain news, but also looks into restaurant trends, pop culture, and technology. Here are 13 of the most-read food reports from 2015. Want to contribute in 2016? Head this way for more information.

Secret Burger Menus, Explained
From "Animal Style" to quesaritos, the psychology of the fast-food secret menu
Tove Danovich

"Though In-N-Out invented the drive-thru restaurant and two-way speaker system that allowed customers to order without ever leaving their cars, it's best known for its secret menu — customer-created riffs on the posted offerings, passed down through word of mouth since the 1960s. The appeal of the secret menu sits in a delicate place for restaurants. If a chain promotes them, at best, customers no longer feel like they're in on a secret. Worst-case scenario? Customers feel as if they're the target of yet-another PR campaign by a major corporation."

11 Things Millennials Want, According to Giant Food Companies
A guide to your next major rebranding
Hillary Dixler

"What do millennials want? That's the question that every major food brand is wrestling with right now. A recent Forbes article makes it clear why: 'There are 80 million millennials in America alone and they represent about a fourth of the entire population, with $200 billion in annual buying power.' That power lies with those tech-savvy young(ish) people, who marketers have lumped together based on their age range. Know someone born between 1982 and 2004? Congratulations, you've found a millennial."

Why McDonald’s All-Day Breakfast Was Years in the Making
What it takes to deliver all-day breakfast in all 50 states
Tove Danovich

"Few breakfasts are more beloved than the one underneath the golden arches. Not only is McDonald's a pioneer of the fast-food breakfast — in many ways, it's perfected it. (McDonald's nugget-shaped hash browns are a junk-food work of art.) The chain was responsible for one-third of all fast-food breakfast sales in 2012, making it a big player with only one Achilles' heel: It [used to stop] serving the breakfast menu at 10:30 a.m. Franchise owners had been hearing customer requests (and some complaints) about extending breakfast hours for a long time. It's almost become a rite of passage to arrive at a McDonald's hoping for an Egg McMuffin or McGriddle, only to be told you're five minutes too late."
Also: McDonald's breakfast menu, ranked

Kinoko Evans

Maryland Crabs: A Guide to the East Coast's Essential Summer Feast
Breaking down the how's and where's of crab season
Jamie Liu

"Summers in Maryland aren’t summer without crabs. And not just any crabs: We’re talking about the delicate, sweet blue crab bounty of the Chesapeake Bay, whose Latin name Callinectes sapidus means 'beautiful swimmer.' There are few things that get Marylanders more excited than tearing into a bushel of red-shelled beauties encrusted with crab seasoning, or enjoying the delicacy of a fried soft shell, accompanied by an ice cold Natty Boh."
Also: How to eat crabs, a step-by-step comic

These are the World's 50 Best Restaurants for 2015
... plus how much dinner at the top 10 will set you back
Ryan Sutton

"Spain's El Celler de Can Roca has again unseated Noma, Rene Redzepi's New Nordic establishment, for the coveted (if controversial) title of World's Best Restaurant 2015. The award, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, was announced in June at a ceremony in London. The modernist El Celler, in Girona, Catalonia, first dethroned Noma from the number one spot in 2013. This time, Noma fell two places to no. 3 on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list, with Massimo Bottura's impossible-to-get-into Osteria Francescana in Modena advancing to no. 2. This is the lowest ranking that Noma has held since 2008."

Why Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky Doesn't Deserve Its Bad Rap
The ins and outs of Johnnie Walker
Heather Greene

"Let's pretend that a whisky drinker sitting next to me at the bar gives me the stink-eye for ordering Johnnie Walker Blue. He snickers and lectures me about his esoteric, independent bottling from some little-known distillery. A potential client or business partner rolls in to join me. There are dozens of ultra-premium Scotch brands that I love or even think might taste better. But few express the same immediate and luxurious sentiment that Blue does. I think to myself, Who likes a whisky know-it-all explaining the virtues of smell or esoteric whiskies everywhere she goes? No one. I buy another round of JW Blue for myself and my guest, so that togther we can enjoy and share in the sense of occasion that this whisky brings — and if anyone at the bar thinks that makes us douches, so what?"

Daniel Krieger

The 23 Most Anticipated Food Halls in the Country
A new kind of dining destination is sweeping the nation
Whitney Filloon

"Food halls are spreading from coast to coast like wildfire. Long a tradition in Europe and other parts of the world, the multi-faceted, typically indoor markets showcasing a variety of local food vendors and artisans are finally hitting it big in America. More than twenty food halls are poised to open across the country, but why now?"

I Went to Monsanto’s Controversial Journalism Bootcamp
The GMO giant offered journalists a rare, if curated, glimpse behind the curtain
Jesse Hirsch

"Monsanto is an incredibly powerful force in modern agriculture, supplying a wide swath of farmers with seeds, pesticides, and data. They are also notoriously secretive and combative with journalists, a PR strategy that has helped perpetuate the 'Evil Empire' meme. To gain the access offered by this fellowship was unheard-of — even though it would surely be larded with bushels of spin."

Three Charts That Show Why Culinary School Is Not Worth It
A look at tuition and salary data begs the question: Is a culinary arts degree worth the money?
Vince Dixon

"Culinary schools are expensive.The average tuition cost at 10 of the country's popular culinary arts programs is three times the amount of tuition at standard four-year public universities. The national average tuition for private schools is $28,000 for the 2014-2015 school year. Tuition at New York City's Institute of Culinary Education, which offers two-year diploma programs, is $34,000, while tuition at the International Culinary Center New York is nearly $48,000."

Daniel Krieger

The World's 12 Spiciest Cuisines
Eater NY critic Robert Sietsema runs down 12 of the world's hottest cuisines
Robert Sietsema

"In a companion piece, we categorized types of culinary hotness by the botanical specimens that produce the burn. Putting that knowledge to work, here are the 12 hottest cuisines on earth, with some suggestions as to what you should order to enjoy maximum heat in the restaurants that serve those cuisines."

Bradley Cooper's ‘Burnt’ Is Little More Than Gordon Ramsay Propaganda
Eater at the Movies continues with this review
Joshua David Stein

"It's impossible to evaluate the movie without noting that Gordon Ramsay was involved and also without noting that the script languished for almost a decade before finally getting made. These two facts are germane. The first one is relevant because the film is, functionally, nothing more than Gordon Ramsay propaganda. Rating: 0/5 stars."
Also: The improbable comedy of the 'Burnt' press junket

Scenes From Four Wage Protests Across the Country
Eater writers and illustrators were on the scene during #Fightfor15 events in four cities. Here's what they saw.
Erin DeJesus, Hillary Dixler, Amy McKeever, Lucas Peterson, and Suhita Shirodkar

"Protesters lingered in the memorial plaza for 10 or 15 minutes after the last refrain of 'We Shall Overcome,' but by 7:30p.m., the memorial belonged once again to the gaggles of schoolchildren, families, and couples completing their circuit of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. Except for Ayanna Gregory and her nieces, who stood together looking up at Dr. King. When interrupted for her thoughts on the lives of fast-food workers, Gregory was unwavering. Fast-food companies already fill us all with poison, she said, so it's no surprise that they don't respect their own workers. Really, it's up to consumers to make a stand for the people who are serving them, she added. 'It's about having respect for human life all the way around.'"