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10 Controversial Secrets About Olive Garden's Food, According To an Employee

An Olive Garden employee of 10 years turned to social media to share what she thinks diners should know.

Demonstrating the power of social media, one rapidly growing phenomenon is restaurant employees' use of digital platforms to reveal the inner secrets at their employers (as a Dunkin' Donuts employee recently did). As if that's not compelling enough, it gets even more interesting when it's a former employee posting. That's what went down when an Olive Garden employee who says she spent a decade at the Italian chain spilled the fagioli beans on everything she thinks Olive Garden lovers should know.

Last week, TikTok user @zekecieslak challenged others to name the restaurant they would never eat at. In response, @spookyshanny posted her poker-faced answer: "Olive Garden," she said. "I worked there for 10 years. There's a reason why you feel like s**t after you eat there. Just trust me, don't eat there."

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On Thursday, Newsweek reported @spookyshanny had a lot to dish on TikTok about behind-the-scenes events she witnessed during her 10 years at Olive Garden. From Newsweek: "Since it was posted, the original video has been viewed more than 2.5 million times and liked by over 175,000 TikTok users, who flooded the comments desperate to know why Olive Garden was so bad a veteran employee would never eat there again."

The particular video that detailed the server's reasons now appears to have been removed, but Newsweek listed the major revelations @spookyshanny revealed. Keep reading to find out the 10 controversial secrets about Olive Garden's food, as this former employee is reported to have shared (note some of these images only represent foods at Olive Garden).

If you're into chain restaurant secrets from employees, don't miss 5 Controversial Rules Hooters Servers Have To Follow.

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It's said Olive Garden's chicken isn't real.

olive garden chicken alfredo
Olive Garden

"All across the board, they changed their chicken about six years ago from good chicken to chicken that's not so great," Newsweek reported the former employee said. "It's not 100 percent chicken, and the chicken that comes on the never-ending pasta bowl is actually canned chicken. Or, canned mystery chicken."

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Olive Garden reportedly uses "mystery cheeses."

parmesan cheese

"Also, mystery cheeses, all across the board," the former employee's been quoted as having said. Find out which cheeses can be beneficial to your health by reading The One Grocery List You Need To Eat Healthy All Week, Nutrition Experts Say.

There are allegedly bugs in Olive Garden's salads..?

This former Olive Garden employee apparently said so: "There's always caterpillars and spiders that we have to pull out of the salad mix," @spookyshanny said, according to Newsweek.

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And on Olive Garden servers…

"Servers, all day long, are picking toppings with their fingers out of there and eating it. It's just the way it is."

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On Olive Garden server hygiene…


The longtime Olive Garden employee is quoted saying: "They took sanitizing wipes away from the Olive Garden servers, so the majority of them aren't sanitizing or even bothering to wash their hands." (Unfortunately, even after the pandemic, this may be a national trend.)

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The soda machines may be… sluggish.


It's said the former Olive Garden employee revealed "a very bad slug problem with the sodas"—as in: "We actually had to knock slugs off before we filled up sodas, and our managers just said there was nothing we could really do about it."

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The former Olive Garden server on nutrition facts…

olive garden eggplant parmigiana
Courtesy of Olive Garden

It's said she called out "the amount of gluten, sodium and calories that are in each meal" as reasons some customers don't feel great after eating. "That's why you're usually super tired, sluggish, feel like you're gonna throw up, have a lot of diarrhea," she said. Though it's not clear whether she cited specific Olive Garden nutrition facts, she's quoted saying, "That's just like basic, in-your-face knowledge." Read up on the worst menu item at Olive Garden.

One Olive Garden menu item seems to be her least favorite of all.

olive garden chicken scampi
Courtesy of Olive Garden

"If you really wanna s**t, get the chicken scampi, thank me later," the longtime Olive Garden employee's been quoted saying. (Your at-home version might be a winner—check out 53+ Healthy Italian Recipes for Weight Loss.)

Microplastics came into the picture.

Plastic wrap

The former OG employee also pointed to "lots of fillers that contain microscopic pieces of plastic." Unfortunately, this might be inevitable just about anywhere you go these days—read One Major Side Effect of Drinking From a Plastic Bottle, Says Science.

So Olive Garden's food isn't made from scratch?


"Yes, they do use a microwave," the former server is said to have alleged about Olive Garden. "Your potatoes, your veggies, certain sauces and some of your meats are just microwaved and put on your plate."

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The good news? Stick to the sticks, she says.

breadsticks at Olive Garden
Courtesy of Olive Garden

The breadsticks aren't frozen. "For the people saying their breadsticks are frozen, their breadsticks are actually not frozen. They're kept in the dry storage, they're probably your safest best at Olive Garden," the former server said.

On Thursday, @spookyshanny seemed to react to the attention her post received: "I don't know why y'all are coming for me so hard, I didn't say sh*t about the breadsticks, and if you want to know about the chicken, the knife fights, the slugs, and everything else, just stay tuned."

Olive Garden's parent company, Darden Restaurants, did not respond to our request for comment.

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more about Krissy