Now is as good of a time as any to ramble on my day off. We're up for our 3rd JBF recognition this year, and I feel like I understand the process so much better than in the past. JBF has undergone so many changes in recent years, and I've got more industry supporters now than my first nom, that more of those friends are sharing with me what no one tells you about the process. Over the past weekend we served a minimum of 5 judges. I research all of our guests to know who I am serving, and how to best tailor their meal, so 5 guests were pretty obvious...who knows how many others might have come in. It's a stressful time for staff because there are no off-nights allowed. There never are in fine dining, but service is even more intense than normal knowing the consequences. They're also very aware that it will reman this way until the first week in April and so we are talking about how to best care for ourselves and each other.
Last fall we missed an amazing opportunity with a national outlet because we had an off night at the worst possible time. I've beaten myself up ever since...recognizing that we're human and can't be perfect at all times. That gaff was a harsh call-back to New Mexico when I blew an opportunity to be a Best New Chef for Food and Wine when they asked me how long I had been cooking, and I gave them the wrong date because I didn't understand the consequences of rounding my answer.
I think the JBF process still has some structural flaws (to my outsider knowledge). The biggest is that X number of judges are used to examine X number of restaurants. First, the judges have to be able to grab a seat in the restaurant (I take care of my staff so we're closed 2 weeks after NYE which means 2 weeks of not being able to seat judges; and I have private events on the books that block judges from grabbing seats), and then if they CAN get seats judges don't necessarily go to every restaurant on the semi-finalist list. And I assume they have to pay their own way so a higher ticket restaurant like mine may not be in the budget of all judges (I would suppose JBF would offer scholarships for some judges). The point being, I know I have a smaller group of judges visiting me than some of my peers. My guess is then that restaurants with more seat opportunities, and lower price points are more likely to get more judges. And I don't know how things are tabulated, but I would hope that the more places you visit the more power your score has, but IDK. That's not griping, just analyzing. Related to all of that, I think the more restaurants represented in one community, the worse the odds because you essentially split the vote. IDK know how the initial selection happens, but just acknowledging what seems to be basic math for those of us in large geographic regions.
On another note however, I am so thankful that the judges are more diverse. I'm glad farmers, activists, academics and all of the peripheral professions related to restaurants, are now included. That certainly will help deter the old boys clubs and nepotism in awards. And I think judging what the standards and goals for restaurants can shift from the perfect quenelle to a meaningful meal.
Anyway, just rambling to my eG friends since my beginning was in this forum, and my heart remains, even if my keyboard time has disappeared.