I would have to say that I have been very upset a number of times going to upscale starred chef rest', and seeing people who are not enjoying the food trying to convince themeselves that it is them and not the food. I.E. a few years ago I was doing a multi-course tasting and one of the dishes was espresso crusted lamb, the couple next to me where saying to each other that they did not like this dish, "but this must be what good food is" . It is sad because it might turn these people off to inovative cuisine. There seems to be a common mentality that because it is chef so and so, and the meal costs this much it must be good and it must be something wrong with "us". Taste and pallete are very varied and subjective.
In this instance, the balance of power clearly lies with the chef and the diner defers their interpretation of the dining experience into the chefs hands. On the other hand, many chefs have horror stories of "sauce on the side, sub chicken for turkey, no butter, steamed, not grilled, gluten free" diners who are determined to control all aspects of the dining experience and shift the balance of power over to the diner. Now, I don't want to debate the relative merits of each and which is better because thats been hashed over many times before in this thread. However, I would like to ask:
1. Has the balance of power shifted noticably in the recent past
2. Where do you predict it will go in the future?
I would say that, in America at least, the balance was pretty firmly within the realm of the chef during the 80s with torturously convulted towers and snooty degustation menus. However, since then, it's slowly but steadily shifted towards the diner. In part, it lies in an increased culinary sophistication on the part of the diner, flashy gimmicks with no substance is harder to pull off these days.
However, I'm not convinced this trend will continue for much longer. In some ways, I feel that we are suffering from an overreaction to the previous generation and have shifted things too far in the other direction. Ultimately, diners will acknowledge and respect the expertise that a good chef has and trust their judgement more and more, while still retaining their own sense of what tastes good. I might be rather optimistic in my opinion and would love to hear what others think.
As an additional note, how does the Food Media fit into this? Has their power grown or shrunk over the years and what do you think will happen to it's influence in the future?