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  1. It's sad, but it seems like the culture of staging is a dying part of the industry. There are restaurants who abuse it and take advantage of the young aspiring cooks who are desperate to break into the industry-- often leading to lawsuits, and labor laws basically outlaw it, unless its for part of a culinary school externship type of program. Staging was once a sort of alternative for those who weren't able to afford a culinary school education, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore.
  2. Exactly. Its important to understand that this isn't a list of restaurants that have the best tasting and most perfectly executed food and service. The michelin guide attempts a more quantitative and subjective ranking system in that sense. The San Pellegrino list has always been more about the movers and shakers-- the restaurants influencing, redefining, or in some way progressing the current state of fine dining. From what I can tell, EMP won the award for reviving table-side service and other classical cooking and service techniques in a new and modern way. But no, you shouldn't assume that their food is the best food in the world, or that their servers are more talented and gracious than any others simply because they won this award. I ate their this past October and was quite disappointed actually. Many of their dishes tasted very one-dimensional. With each bite I was searching for a hit of acid, a pop of fresh herbs or flowers, a touch of heat-- just anything really. Their cookbook is full of dishes that appear to have these dynamic elements, but the dishes during my meal there seemed much more pared-down and simple-- like extremely expensive french bistro food. I have only eaten one other 3-michelin type of meal in my life, at Grace in Chicago, and it truly was a life-changing experience. My fiance and I had never experienced such talented and, well, graceful service while eating such exciting and delicious food. In fact, I never knew such food or service even existed before that meal, yet Grace is nowhere to be found on that list. I guess my point is that those epiphany-inducing dream meals do exist, but you shouldn't necessarily look to these lists to try and find yours-- eat with an open mind and you will experience yours eventually.
  3. The Willows Inn is definitely the type of restaurant I had in mind when thinking about this subject. I like how a lot of these restaurants are partially supplied by their own gardens and by foraged ingredients from the land around them... makes for a more interesting set of product to work with. And outdoor cooking techniques like open pit smoking and sun drying- usually impossible for restaurants in major cities- is completely accessible in these settings. I worked last year in a small island town called Stonington, Maine-- a tiny, hard-to-get-to island on the coast of Maine. I got to work with some of the best seafood and produce that I've ever cooked with. Because of the remote location and the brutally cold winters though, 90% of the restaurants' business seems to happen in two months of the year (July and August). It can be tough to achieve the level of cooking and service that you're hoping for when the staff isn't used to that volume and then is suddenly slammed for two months straight.
  4. I'm trying to compile a list of restaurants that exist in rural and remote areas but execute a high level of cooking. A few examples I'm familiar with would be Hartwood in the jungles of Tulum, Mexico, or The Lost Kitchen in inland Maine. On a larger scale, I know of Blackberry Farm TN and Twin Farms VT. Anyone else know of any restaurants like these? Ever been to/worked in any of them? And how do you think the challenges of attracting customers to these remote areas compare to the challenges of restaurants in major cities having to keep up with a competitive restaurant scene?
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