Why can you count on every Big Mac to be identical, whether you eat them in Taipei or Topeka? In part, you have Fred Harvey to thank. His obsessive Fred Harvey system, followed throughout his famous Harvey House restaurant chain (what else?) profoundly influenced the restaurants that came after. As Stephen Fried wrote in Appetite for America, a book covering the history of the chain (1875 to 1948), “He wanted there to be a ‘Fred Harvey way’ of doing everything.”
Harvey insisted that each slice of bread at every Harvey House be precisely 3/8-inch thick, that orange juice be hand-squeezed only after it was ordered, that water for coffee have a meticulously spelled-out alkali level, and that recipes be followed with exactitude across the 60-plus, cross-country restaurant chain. Come to think of it, our own insistence on precision at America’s Test Kitchen has more than a little in common with Fred Harvey’s high standards.
MAKE IT NOW: Our recipe for Harvey House Chocolate Puffs is free through September 24, 2013.