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Ruth Reichl

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  1. This is a common perception that I found when I lived in the US - that for Chinese food to be authentic - it had to be somehow down market. I can list off a number of beautiful Chinese restaurants in the Vancouver area were service, decor, and the food is of the highest order. The difference is that there is a high concentration of reasonably monied Asians living here. Sometimes though - a Chinese restaurant will underestimate the western palate and steer people away from what they feel may be 'challenging' dishes. And especially at some very high end authentic places - language becomes a real barrier. Ms. Reichl - how do you think the cultural divide can be bridged? ← I think that the first step in bridging this divide is for Americans to understand how little we know about this huge subject. Chinese food is the most diverse, and I think most sophisticated, food on the planet, and most of us have very little experience with it. The truth is that few Americans have a taste for - or an appreciation of - the high end of the cuisine. CAntonese cuisine has a lot to do with texture - shark's fin, fish maw, bird's nest - which is not something most Americans like very much. Sichuan food is about the nuances of flavor, not just heat, but about the kind of contrast in ma-la. You go north and you hit the wheat part of the country, and then there's the whole Chinese-Muslim cuisine. Before we can begin to appreciate any of this, we have to learn about it. And we've got a long way to go. But as more and more of us do go to the kinds of very high-end Chinese places you find where there is a wealthy expatriate community - Silicon Valley in this country, Vancouver in Canada - that will change. But I expect that fact that fewer and fewer trained Chinese chefs have any desire to leave Asia won't help things. We're mostly going to have to go there to experience the greatness of the cuisine. I don't think this will happen any time soon. On the other hand, there's a rumor that Alan Yau might open a Hakkasan in New York, and if he does, and if it's succeeds, that would be a great leap forward for this city. We don't have anything of that quality here.
  2. Words: Food, in my world, is NEVER divine. Nor is it sinful. I dislike yummy. I loathe eatery. Actually, I'll ask Larry (our managing editor); he keeps a list of words that drive me crazy. ← Oh yes... please ask your managing editor if you've got a chance (and if he's got a chance!). I'd love to see your list. Thanks again. ← A couple more - more on the way (Larry's at the gym at the moment). I don't like it when food is called "fare." I don't like things that are "atop" or "amidst" in relation to food. Believe me, there are plenty more.... ← Larry just handed me the list. So here are a few more: addictive - it's a silly way to say something's good to perfection crispy (things are crisp, not crispy) meltingly (why is meat ALWAYS meltingly tender?) veggies (so disrespectful to growing things) yesteryear (like fingernails on chalk to me) toothsome (ditto) sumptuous when referring to meals vibrant (in connection with food) served up (served is fine all by itself) tend to be (I prefer "are often") procuring - such a needlessly pretentious verb
  3. I was really happy when Rebecca put that cover up. That's one of my favorite restaurants; my idea of pure heaven is to go to Pearl and have a bucket of steamers, a salad, a lobster (boiled not broiled), and then one of those amazing sundaes.
  4. AT some point, I assume, we'll have a really high-quality Chinese restaurant. I could see someone doing something fabulous with Indian food as well. And wouldn't a really impressive MIddle Eastern restaurant add something wonderful to our food scene?
  5. I'd pretty much agree with you. Not sure whether Barcelona will stay up there, at least 10 years from now. And I expect that Rio will get stronger. And maybe Mexico City. And possibly Tel Aviv or Beirut, depending on the political situation there. And you've left out Tokyo, which is (and probably will continue to be) one of the great food places of the world Ditto Hong Kong and Taipei.
  6. Frankly, we don't. I think if you start trying to second guess your audience, you're doomed. WE're a diverse group too, we edit very much as a group, and we simply try to put out the best, most interesting magazine we can. We're passionate about the subject, and we figure if we please ourselves, we'll please our audience. (And believe me, we have long and passionate fights about the content of the magazine.)
  7. Ruth: I remember reading a story by you years ago in the Times on Chinese haute cuisine. Considering that Michelin Guide didn’t give any star to the Chinese restaurant in the city and there is only a handful of one star Chinese restaurant in France, what do you think will take for Chinese food to be taken seriously? French/Michlin bias aside, what is it that prevent people from wanting that high-end dining experience that the Chinese cuisine, I think, is capable of providing. Thanks William ← This is a subject I could go on forever about: Basically, Americans are racist about Chinese food. We just don't think it should be as expensive as western food. When my friend Bruce Cost had a great Chinese restaurant in SF, one of the reviews actually said, "What makes him think we should pay as much for Chinese as French food?" And he was buying from the same purveyors as Chez Panisse. But this will change, and I suspect very soon. As the Chinese become increasingly dominant in the world - which they are, and will be - our attitude about their cuisine will change. Today the great Chinese chefs all stay in Asia, where they're paid better and get respect. Why should they come here? But as we go there, and taste their food, we'll start to give it hte respect it deserves. Another thing, of course, is that the esthetics of Chinese restaurants are completely different than those of Western places. And we'll have to get used to that. The most expensive restaurant I've ever been to was in Hong Kong - and it was bright, loud, cold, no romance at all. But the food!! By the way, did you read the piece we ran last August about the chefs from Cheng Du and their attitudes about food in America? It was fascinating. They were utterly contemptuous of our best efforts. A mirror image of our own prejudices.
  8. The cupcake thing really floored me. I still don't get it. Don't even get why that cover was "soemthing a little different for Gourmet." How? I just thought Gina's idea was great - bake a cake for the grown ups and decorate it with cupcakes for the kids. It was so pretty, it just made a great cover. But I LOVED that it got that strong a reaction. And yes, I'd definitely do it again. (And unlike some of the covers that I've known were a stretch, that one sold very well.) As for the previous post - about the content of the magazine - travel, products, hotel recommendations - those have always been part of hte DNA of the magazine. We're not doing anything different there than the magazine has always done. Maybe a little less, actually, because things, as such,, don't interest me all that much. But the readers have always wanted to know where to buy things, where to stay when they travel, etc. Incidentally, we don't do product placement. Ever. Much to some of our advertisers' chagrin. But we do try to use new plates, glasses and so forth in our pictures. What makes this difficult is that usually we shoot a year ahead. AS for bringing back The Last Touch - I'm thrilled that people care so much. I feel that this magazine belongs not to me, but to its readers, who feel a really visceral connection to it. And when they make it clear that they really want something, we'd be crazy not to give it to them.
  9. Yes, my mother cooked the greatest corn I've ever eaten. We had a house in Connecticut, and she had a farmer she got corn from. She'd call him, tell him to go pick, and put a pot of water on to boil. She liked little white ears - at a time when NOBODY wanted them - so the farmer was thrilled to give her the stuff nobody else wanted. She'd come home from Renzulli's, we'd shuck really fast, and then she'd cook the corn for about a minute. Sweet butter, a little salt - nothing's ever tasted better. She also cooked great lobsters. Got them from some guy down at the shore. She could shop: She just didn't believe (really) that anything went bad, anything needed to cook for more than about 10 minutes, or that any combinations wouldn't work.
  10. meat: Florence. And Lobel's when I'm willing to take out a mortgage for my meat. Cheese: Murray's. Bread: Sullivan Street Produce: Union Square Smoked salmon and caviar: Russ and Daughters. But, realistically, I live on the upper west side, so most of the time I shop at Fairway, Citarella and Zabar's, because they're close to home.
  11. WE all need an editor. And believe me, we edit Tony. As I'm sure he would tell you.
  12. Words: Food, in my world, is NEVER divine. Nor is it sinful. I dislike yummy. I loathe eatery. Actually, I'll ask Larry (our managing editor); he keeps a list of words that drive me crazy. ← Oh yes... please ask your managing editor if you've got a chance (and if he's got a chance!). I'd love to see your list. Thanks again. ← A couple more - more on the way (Larry's at the gym at the moment). I don't like it when food is called "fare." I don't like things that are "atop" or "amidst" in relation to food. Believe me, there are plenty more....
  13. WE've got 8 test kitchens, but none of them has professional equipment; they're all basic home kitchens, with GE stoves, regular blenders, mixers, etc. Visitors are always surprised by this. We buy our food at regular markets. When I got to Gourmet and went around and asked editors what their wish lists were Zanne said, without hesitation, "I wish we could cross-test all the recipes." "Done!" I said naively, not understanding that I was adding a person to the staff, and a major expense. But it's been worth it. We hired a passionate cook, a non-professional, and he takes the finished recipes and does one last run-through. If there's a problem, he finds it. The other change I've made is to hire cooks of differing ethnicities as vacancies opened up. So that everyone wasn't French or American trained.
  14. No, I'm not saying that as a reviewer I'd say "Just feed me." As a reviewer you have an obligation to taste your way through the menu, and retaste again, so most of the time you don't have the luxury of eatin what you want to eat. What I'm saying is that, as a civilian, I consider it a great treat to just put myself in the chef's hands. After years of poring over menus, I love the laziness of trust. But I want to make a different point: People don't go out to restaurants to feel that they've been invited out. They go to be in a restaurant, to feel as if they have no obligations, to be able to behave in ways they wouldn't if they were with friends. So while you (who I assume is a chef), may want to think of paying customers as guests, many of them would prefer to keep the transaction more distant.
  15. Sounds right to me - sounds like something I would have said - but I don't remember saying it. There may be something in the intro to Tender at the Bone. Just looked. It is the intro; here's the quote: "Everything here is true, but it may not be entirely factual. " The part I like best is a couple of sentences later. "I learned early that the most important thing in life is a good story."
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