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Starchefs International Chefs Congress 2008


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Charlie Trotter cont.

Chef Trotter went on to talk about how creativity evolves with time. Specifically he spoke about how dishes he has prepared over the years have evolved with time such that though he might prepare a dish with the same ingredients toady as he did when he opened the restaurant it is essentially a different dish as a result of changes in preparation and presentation. He stated that creativity happens in so many ways. It can happen in a vacuum, it can happen in a group and it’s oftentimes unpredictable. He has a new cookbook that is about revisiting a number of dishes that they did 15-18 years ago. They reproduce the dishes with the exact same ingredients, and study the differences between the time periods. The results tend to be entirely different , at least aesthetically. The process generally occurs yearly, as ingredients go in and out of season and fashion, and year after year the small changes have added up. Trotter referenced "Stella by Starlight," by Miles Davis, and how it had evolved year after year from its inception to its final cut. Trotter's first cookbook goes back nearly 20 years. He wanted to document the dishes in the restaurant rather than have recipes and such. Ten speed press out of Berkeley, Calforniai came to him after he had been denied by just about every other publisher, saying that he had a wonderful idea (pictures of the dishes from the restaurant, no recipes, etc.). However, he had to pay for everything: photography etc, except the actual publishing. By the time it came out, he noticed just how dated the book seemed to him - some of the dishes had evolved so much in such a small amount of time. Trotter asked, "how does a chef adapt to missing ingredients and make sure that it still tastes alright?" They tweak tiny bits and pieces, and the dish changes with time. Sometimes changes happen spontaneously, and the chef has to be willing to allow that. As he spokes, he is cooked a plate of salmon, with dashi with hajiki seaweed, shiso, ginger and leeks. “Cooking to me is about how much you can do at the last possible second.” The dish he did was modeled on one from 18 years ago.

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to be continued...

Edited by docsconz (log)

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Charlie Trotter cont.

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Chef Trotter cooked a second salmon dish. This time he used salmon cooked in a c-vap oven. They pureed the lightly cooked salmon into a fish sauce and also pureed the hajiki seaweed with mushrooms to add an earthiness to the sauce. The purees appeared side by side in separate pots, the fish as off-white, the seaweed as near-black. For this dish the oyster was wrapped with sliced ginger and leek in salmon skin and then sauteed quickly so that the oyster was only cooked minimally. The rolls were then plated on top of the two sauces, with quickly deep-fried shiso leaves. Both salmon dishes had the same ingredients, but ultimately were entirely different dishes. The transition did not happen overnight. Rather, it evolved over 18 years.

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John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Charlie Trotter cont.

Chef Trotter compared the two plates directly:gallery_8158_6219_89353.jpg

A direct side-by-side comparison of salmon eighteen years of creative evolution:

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John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Charlie Trotter cont.

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The audience in rapt attention.

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The next preparation is a scallop dish. In the original dish the scallop is barely cooked, then layered with turnip pieces and other ingredients. In the same pan Trotter sauteed pieces of turnip and the scallop. One of his main emphases was the flavors of the product and to make sure that flavor exploded on the palate. He used little butter or oil to make sure that the product was strongly prevalent and naturally there. Trotter took off the turnip and scallop, and added the leeks to the pan with some water and rice wine vinegar. He minced watercress, tossed it in and used a touch of butter to create just a bit of richness. He layered the leeks and the watercress on the plate with the turnip, and put the scallop on top. To finish, he added a reduction of beet juice and a tiny bit of olive oil and salt and pepper around the plate, before placing the last of the leek/watercress on top.

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For the new version of the dish he used some raw components, not for any perceived health benefits but rather the flavor standpoint. Trotter sliced a raw scallop, rubbed olive oil over the slices and a touch of salt and pepper, with some citrus rind.

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The chef flipped the scallop slices onto beet puree (gold and red) and then laid the two slices with the red beet purees together, beets in, to form a sort of ravioli.

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He took leeks, which he cooked slowly in olive oil and pureed them entirely. A line of the puree was drawn across the plate with the red beet leek at one end of the plate. He then took some unpuréed leek pieces from the olive oil and placed them around the scallops. The gold beet scallops were not sandwiched, but were placed side by side on the other end of the plate. He also placed some pickled red beets on the plate, along with baby watercress and another green sauce on the dish.

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The coup de grace: the turnip had been pureed with a little bit of half and half and veggie stock to form a bit of turnip ice cream in the center of the plate. Once again he used the same ingredients: turnip, leek, scallop, watercress, and beet, but in an entirely differrent way with an entirely different result.

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At the end of his presentation, Chef Trotter answered questions from the audience, including these:

Q: I’m interested to know about your evolution, and what part you attribute to technology and isolation, and what else would be another aspect of the evolution of your creativity.

A: We rely heavily on technology for all manner of things, like the c-vap, like hydrators, many many things that are in our kitchen that we rely on to effect different textures, different flavors, ease and cleanliness of cooking. It’s not about creativity, it’s about the product. 100% of  chefs will say that its 90% about the cooking. The creativity is the easy part, anybody can play on a theme, etc. The demo was meant to display how a dish has literally changed over a period of 18 years, to adapt as the product has needed to.

Q: Have you hired any of the high school students through the excellence program.

A: Yes, there have been some from weekend stints, and summer employment.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Barton Seaver - Sustainable Seafood

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Though more of a lecture than a demonstration or presentation, Barton Seaver's talk was perhaps the most important of the entire Congress. Seafood has never been more popular worldwide than it is now, however, it has become a victim of its own success. Seaver's pitch was a powerful fastball that struck at some of the practices making the situation desperate. It wasn't all doom and gloom, though, as Seaver outlined some practices that chefs and consumers can do to protect the oceans and still be able to enjoy cooking, serving and eating fine seafood.

According to Chef Seaver, chef’s choices of what to serve their guests can have an impact and create change. He doesn’t see food as an eating experience but rather as a communal experience that can bring people and the land together.

What does “Sustainable Seafood” mean? Sustainable has no legal meaning nor is there a committee watching over use of the term, but it does have a loose definition followed by many non-governmental organizations (ngo's). Sustainability is about people, farming, agriculture and fisheries with one human taking from the earth and giving to sustain other humans. According to Seaver, sustainable fisheries are 1/3 fish, 2/3 people. The fish do not need people to survive, though people, if our ways do not change are on a path of annihilation of much of the world's oceanic produce. Many fish species are on lists, but few are actually all in the public eye. Red-list fish such as blue-fin tuna are still being served, despite the active and current wholesale elimination of the species. He likened serving bluefin tuna as the terrestrial equivalent of offering mountain gorilla or a panda steak to one's guests. Green-list seafood, such as farm-raised shellfish are important. They clean the water, and are cheap and affordable. Eating them, according to Seaver "should be a patriotic duty." The yellow-list represents fisheries that are in flux right now such as american swordfish, rockfish, and many others.

Seaver also spoke about the positives. "We have the ability to change things," he said. The ngos have done an amazing job of bringing these ideas into the forefront of our conscience. Nobody lives in a 100% sustainable fashion, but ngos have done a great job introducing people to the small ways that people can change things in their lives towards increased sustainability. The role of the ngo's is really in combining with the role of the market. An educated consumer is a powerful consumer. People can effect change with their forks, dollars and votes. Education is not sufficient, however. It is vital to be able to take that education and translate it to action.How can one react and use the information to make culturally, ecologically and economically responsible changes. Conversations on fisheries ultimately lead to discussions on energy. There is a critical juncture now, needing a critical change in our culture.

70% of seafood in the American market is bought and sold in restaurants. According to Seaver, chefs need to sell a solution, and look beyond providing substitutes. The word "sustainable," implies a word that means to “keep what we have.” As chefs have become "rock stars," people need to look beyond that sense of sustainable. The oceans are currently at about 20% (that being the highest estimate) of their potential ecological biomass. Before modern fisheries, the oceans contained probably more than 5x more fish/biomass than they do today. Seaver said that we need to look at ways to reintroduce and expand populations, and look at ways of feeding more people with the fish that we have. He mentioned that there are salmon farms in Europe that get salmon and feed them, creating jobs through a chain of action that also gets 2 filets out per fish. The concept needs to go from sustainable, to regenerative, to restorative. The role and responibility of a chef at this point in our culture is the power of communion, the communion of people and the earth. Agriculture had lost its bearing, but is now getting back on track. The term "organic" only really came into play in 2000, but up until 60-80 years ago people were slaves to organic/local food. People are beginning to realize that perhaps the best way to do many things is to do them the way we did yesterday. Today we are looking at what must be done: aquaculture - it is the only way that we can regenerate and restore that which we have practically destroyed - as much as 94% of the ocean. Get educated.

Seaver answered some questions from the audience, including this:

Q: You mentioned chilean seabass, saying that it was not good to have on a menu, but now Whole-foods has chilean seabass on it’s shelves again saying that it comes from a sustainable fishery.

A: There is a small well-managed fishery that is legally able to acquire Chilean sea bass, but probably 90% of it is still landed illegally. It is a very confusing situation and unless absolutely sure of the source, one should still simply avoid it.

After Seaver's discussion, I had a conversation with him. As he had talked about organizations and their lists of what seafood items are ok or not ok to eat based upon their level of sustainability, I showed him an application I have on my iphone that I downloaded from the internet. It is a static list of green, yellow and red zone fish. While Seaver applauded that, he did me one better, by taking my iphone and texting to 306-44 with the message "Fish." Moments later, I received a text back with the message:

Text the word FISH followed by a species to find out its health rating. Brought yo you by blueocean.org

I then typed "FISH, Sardines" and moments later received this response:

Atlantic Herring caught in the US or Canada (GREEN) few environmental concerns; herring populations have recovered from significant overfishing

I followed with another fish, one served to my brother the previous evening at the new Manhattan restaurant, Allegretti, that I had assumed was ok or at least was unaware of its status:

Fish, Atlantic halibut

Atl Halibut (RED) significant environmental concerns; problems include depleted populations, high bycatch and habitat destruction; try pacific halibut instead

I and the audience was, I hope, left with much to ponder.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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...on a lighter note:

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Michael Ruhlman signing copies of his books.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Rick Moonen - Sustainable Seafood: The Future of Our Ocean

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The theme of seafood sustainability and the chef's responsibility in this regard continued with the presentation of Chef Rick Moonen of the restaurant RM Seafood in Las Vegas. In conjunction with Barton Seaver's talk prior to this, this was arguably the most significant set of presentations of the entire Congress.

Chef Moonen opened his presentation with:

Why do people not cook seafood in their homes? I set out to solve that problem when I wrote my book about cooking fish at the home (fish without a doubt).  I set out to do these recipes in an average, tiny nyc apartment. My book teaches people how to buy fresh fish, what to look for, and how to cook it. I was one of maybe 5 chefs 12 years ago to speak out against overfishing. The world is greener today, but it is a critical time.

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He continued, saying:

Boris Worm took global data for the last 50 years, and projected what would happen in the future. Within 40 years, all targeted species will be commercially extinct, if we keep fishing and eating and farming the way we have been. Now is the time that we have to change such a future. Step outside of your comfort zone with fish, try something that you normally wouldn’t try. This is a call to action.

According to Moonen, all is not bleak, as he mentioned the success of the program called "Give Swordfish a Break" in restoring and improving the outlook for the Atlantic swordfish. To see where this fish stands currently, I texted Atlantic swordfish to 306-44 for Atlantic swordfish and received this reply:

Atlantic and Mediterranean (GREEN) few environmental concerns: management is improving but bycatch remains high; Health Advisory: High Mercury

Moonen discussed 5 key points or issues of concern:

  • 1-Overfishing - 90% of large predatory fish are largely overfished. We take out 90 million tons of fish per year from the ocean, with 4.1 million boats. Sexual maturity of a fish varies from species to species, but there is no simple formula to determine it. Mahi-mahi is a better fish than orange roughie, as it matures many times faster. There are tons of cards that can help you to buy good, sustainable fish. According to Moonen, we need to care about specific species. The North American cod fishery collapsed, one of the biggest fisheries in the world.
    2 - Illegal fishing is one of the major problems with chilean sea bass (probably 50% of the csb imported by the us is illegal) We kill the environments. For every one pound of wild shrimp there are 5-15 pounds of dead/dying by-catch, thanks to trawlers.
    3 - Habitat destruction- illegal dynamite, dredging/trawling, destroying environments either kills or relocates species to places where they will not do as well.
    4 - Aquaculture needs a permanent barrier separating it from the wild. Fish from farms escape and compete with naturally occurring fish and reduce populations of the wild fish. In addition, they can transmit health problems to their wild counterparts such as sea lice infestations.
    5 - health risks: mercury/global warming, it’s all man-made. If you release the pressure from a species of fish, it will rebound naturally. It is that simple. Think outside the box. Hang the seafood watch cards in your office.

Chef Moonen provided some suggestions for the problems:

  • 1 - Eat smaller fish: lower on the food chain, herring, mackeral, trout, there are more of them.
    2 - Eat the fast and the furious: eat the mahi-mahi, wild salmon, they grow fast and are delicious
    3 - Eat farm-raised fish, vegetarian fish: tilapia, catfish, all those, but you want to make sure that they are closed-containment.
    4 - know that we have a connection with the ocean
    5 - Eat bivalves/filter feeders Crabs and other bottom feeders are delicious. It’s like clarifying stock, removing these creatures allows eel grass to grow, smaller fish grow in eel grass, bigger fish come in and bam!
    6 - Support better fisheries, like “wild alaskan seafood.” There are 5 species of salmon being monitored by this organization. Alaskan halibut is a fantastic fishery. In West Virginia there is an aquaculture
research center., Cobi is being farm-raised right now in Belize. It is like swordfish with fat. Know your purveyors. As a generality, Alaskan seafood is a very good source.

to be continued...

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Rick Moonen continued

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Moonen continued his presentation doing a cooking demo with black cod, aka sablefish, a fish Moonen described as "very fatty and very nice." He prepared a pan with olive oil and sauteed onions and potatoes with salt and white pepper as well as a pinch of fresh thyme.

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He likes mushrooms and seafood. He said that he likes to add some earthiness, despite the fact that he is using seafood. After adding chicken stock to the pan, Moonen covered and left it.

He moved on to the sablefish. He cut the fish in half and skineed it. saying, "It’s good if you can feel the grease on your fingers."

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Next, he created a brine for a wet cure: kosher salt and sugar (half the amount as the salt) and dissolved it in water. He added fresh dill for an aroma and sliced shallots and minced garlic along with lemon zest before submerging the filets.

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The filets are brined for about 5 or 6 hours. After that time, he tests it for density. He said, "fresh fish should feel like the soft part of your hand", but after the brining he is looking for something "almost like a callus on the hand."

Chef Moonen began to construct his plate. He made a mustard vinaigrette fresh tarragon for depth. He poured some vinaigrette over the top of a frisee salad. The chef put the warm potatoes on the plate first. The dressed frisee salad was placed on top of the potatoes. He then deshelled and delicately placed a perfectly poached egg in the center of the frisee “nest.”

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Moonen said, "You can slice or flake the fish, either one works, but place it around the centermold" (where the potatoes/salad is). In addition, "You can put smoked caviar, smoked sea salt whatever you want on top and some other green sauce to dab around the fish."

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John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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After the discussions on seafood sustainability, I visited some of the sponsor booths. As some of you may be aware, I have put a C-vap oven in my home. I have documented some of my explorations with it here.. I first became acquainted with this device two years ago at the Starchefs ICC and after last year's Congress, I determined that I had to get one. Since we were doing some updating to our home, there was no time better than last spring and I bought one.

Needless to say, I spent some time at the Winston Industries booth picking up some pointers on using it in some ways that I have yet to fully explore as well as enjoying some of the tasty morsels they cooked up..

I was not the only to spend time there, though, as the booth was very popular over the few days that I was there.

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Winston Industries Chef Howard Richardson serving some lamb loin to Jeffrey Steingarten

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Chefs Sean Brock and Johnny Iuzzini enjoying a little r&r.

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Chef Richardson cooked the lamb in the Cvap and finished searing it on a flat-top griddle. The meat was perfectly cooked and very well seasoned. That is the one thing I realized - I needed to season my meats more aggressively than I had. It makes a big difference, more-so perhaps, than with some other techniques.

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Chefs Brock, Iuzzini and Mendes.

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Joan Roca and his crew arrive at the Congress.

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Chef Franklin Becker stops by.

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Chef Carlo Cracco discusses the oven with the Cvap crew.

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A preview of things to come.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Anthony Bourdain, Marco Pierre White, Michael Ruhlman – The Role of a chef

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The first day of this third Starchefs ICC finished with a discussion between three industry heavyweights. Michael Ruhlman, a notable cook in his own right, has gained considerable recognition as a writer. Bourdain, originally a chef, has gained widespread notoriety, first as a writer and most recently as a food and travel television personality. Marco Pierre White, formerly a chef of considerable renown with a reputation as an enfant terrible, remains one of the most visible and legendary chefs in British cooking history. Together, they undertook to discuss the role of a chef today and other faits diverse.

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Below is a transcript of highlights of the discussion as recorded by my son. The speaker is noted by his initials in bold.

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MR – I love cooking and that and other chefs have played a huge part in my life. We are trashing the earth in previously unheard of ways. We all know the phrase “don’t shit where you eat” but that is exactly what we are doing. Both Bourdain and White have something to tell us that is bigger than just food.

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MPW- As a young man in a kitchen you walked into a new world. You walked into a world of discipline. You were there for the right reason, to learn your job and better yourself as a person. I’m a great believer in life that you fight for what you believe in. You listen to your chef and do whatever he says, he teaches you discipline. I was around at the right time, doing the right food in the right place, people were bored of classicism and they wanted new food. For the first time ever people wanted an insight into the world of the kitchen. Today I go and sign books, and I’m shocked that people come up with White Heat, and it is very out of date. Great cooks teach themselves. The difference between the chef and the cook: the experience in the kitchen. The cook is usually a young boy. Chefs who run multiple restaurants make their own choice to do so. If you’re a cook and you don’t have a 3star rep to defend, then you can do what you want. If you have a 3star rep then you have a duty to perform at the highest level, making your food for your customers. You can only work 90 hour weeks so long before it starts to affect you. After years, I looked at my options, one of which was to keep working and be unable to see my children, my second option was to be dishonest and not be behind the kitchen, and my third option, the one that I took, was to make an appointment with Michelin and tell them to not include me in the next guide. And I am a happy, happy man.

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AB – The book was extremely effective. It’s effect was not just in the black + white photos: it was that this chef was a man who looked like us, not some “roly-poly” chef in an apron. It is useful for people here in the industry to look at it for us to imagine this, the first British and youngest chef to get three Michelin stars, all of these crazy accomplishments, and then you decide to retire from the position. What does it mean to be a chef? Presumably a cook who leads. You’re a cook who can somehow get other cooks to show up on time and do your will basically. Chef is becoming more and more a CEO than a working cook. Are they really living a lie (these multiple restaurant chefs)? Is that a bad thing? Is it so much to expect a 50 year old man to be cooking every meal for his customers, to even be in the kitchen every night? I understand that when I go to Jean-Georges restaurants I don’t expect him to be there cooking for me. I think that it is a mark of a successful chef that he can do what he needs to do. As a CEO he has the obligation to set up these businesses, what is wrong with that? It is sort of a snobbish assumption to make that the chefs die behind their stoves no matter what.

MPW – There are chefs who know exactly what goes on in their kitchens, they don’t necessarily have to stay behind the stove, as long as they are there to greet their guests. The chef’s presence in the kitchen drives the troops to do the best they possibly can. It maintains the discipline.

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AB – Do you really want to eat that any more? The 14 courses?

MPW – It’s very easy to put 12-16 courses, the same courses for these tasting menus. Its much more difficult to have to serve a table of 6 people with 6 different plates. I don’t want to eat in the chapel of rest. If you look at the great French restaurants of the mid 20th century, they are proper 3star restaurants. I love the whole romance of them. The only thing that doesn’t date with these restaurants is romance. I don’t get the modern day temples of gastronomy, they’re boring.

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AB - The last great 15 course meal I had was a sushi place in Tokyo and it was great.

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MPW – I went to a restaurant in …. And my only choices were an 18 or 24 course meal. I’ve just flown in on a plane, and like an idiot I choose the 18 courses. At the end I feel like I’ve had more than 18 courses, and I ask the waiter. He says the chef slipped in a few more courses. I asked for the check and he said that I hadnt had pudding yet.

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AB – you know who’s getting fucked by this arrangement is the pastry chefs. You have these world class pastry chefs working hard, and there are these 18 course menus and people want to get out of there by the 10th course. By the last courses the customers are wanting to leave and take the obligatory bite of a pastry chef’s master work!

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MPW - the bottom line is that it’s about feeding people. Do you want a waiter telling me how to eat my food? It’s happened to me and it doesn’t make a difference.

to be continued...

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Just yesterday I was reading Michael Ruhlman's blog about that very discussion between MPW and AB.  Apparently Grant Achatz was quite miffed at their attitudes towards tasting menus.  Any more on that coming up?

I don't blame Grant Achatz for being miffed. Here is a photo of him in the audience during this very discussion:

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White's statements were very thinly veiled. I don't think anyone in the room didn't think of Alinea as White was railing, whether or not he directly meant Alinea. Though I was unable to be at Chef Achatz' presentation on Tuesday, I will address this more later.

The problem I and others had with White's statements was that his implication was more than that style of cooking simply wasn't his preference. The tone he spoke with, really did slap not just Grant Achatz, but all chefs of a similar bent by inherently discrediting their entire approach, calling them egotistical, etc. The latter charge, Ruhlman pointed out, was something with which White himself has oft been labeled - a point White did not deny or refute. Actually much of what White had to say appeared very hypocritical as many of his criticisms, in one way or another could have been applicable to him. Whatever, one's opinion of White, Achatz or anyone involved, it did make good theater - the Anglophonic version of "Santamariagate" as the the tiff between Santi Santamaria and Ferran Adria has come to be known in Spain. Perhaps White was auditioning for a new reality television program?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Bourdain, White and Ruhlman continued

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MR - If a chef is trying to get a tv show, is that a worthy goal?

AB - I think that any young chef that gets into the restaurant business just in the hopes of getting a television show is fucked. Do you have any kind of responsibility at all as a current or former chef once you get a tv show?

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MPW – I had to do a reality tv show, but what I tried to do was to put as much reality into the show as possible. What I wanted to do was to inspire people to want to cook. I think inspiration is very important: I cannot teach people how to cook, people have to teach themselves how to cook. They need to accept that mother nature is the true artist, they are not the artist. They give inspiration to the world around them. I listened to their philosophy and I ate they’re food, and a lot of cooks get into the business for the wrong reasons. My philosophy is to go into it and keep your head down. When I see people around me learning, all I try to do is to inspire them, to teach them understanding. When I look at my past, the greatest cook that I knew was my mother. Food is very romantic, it’s very special. When I started out, I became an apprentice and it made me incredibly disciplined and patient, and incredibly fast at what I did. When you’re doing all those hours you don’t question it. You learn on the go.

MR – Anthony, you’re known for your perfection in the kitchen, aren’t you?

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AB – Haha no. People learn in real world situations. Seeing people on tv at this point in the business, but they are just turning potatoes. They are not reality any more, they have no connection to their past endeavors. I think the best connection you can make between pop culture and cooking is Julia Child. I think that the people you work with should not be completely full of shit. The further along the food tv thing we go, the better Julia looks. She changed the world, her cookbook was on every refrigerator, she never endorsed anything ever, the recipes still work, but you watch her show and she inspires people. She changed the whole game for cooks across the board. She made tv about people cooking a viable alternative. She taught people that not all you have to do is crack open a can of cheez whiz and a box of triscuits and its ok, and I don’t think that’s any good. I think that anytime somebody on tv tells you that something that is clearly crap is good, is full of crap. I think it’s bad food tv.

MPW – Through tv, you cannot teach people how to cook. You inspire them to buy the right produce and that’s where you start. You’re taking them by the hand and telling them to have a go. All it takes to cook is confidence. I was the only English boy in the kitchen when I was 19. I was told to not be afraid of the stove, and my mentor was right, I was absolutely afraid of the stove. The next day I went in and I attacked the stove. Here’s my advice for a young chef: “Cooking is a philosophy, it’s not a …, unless it’s pastry, then it’s chemistry.”

As the moderated discussion came to a close, questions from the audience were fielded:

Q: Tony we just wanted some comments on you about filming some episodes of your show.

A: AB – the best part about the show is that I get to do stuff, I get to live out my dreams. Sometimes those dreams get turned into nightmares. I had to see Beirut get smashed back 20 years, and then I get to go to Indonesia, a place that is indescribably beautiful. I have the perfect job, the best job in the world. You understand the rules of the world that most people live by, the possibilities of bad things happening.

Q: For Marco, I was wondering if you could tell me an example of a chef now that is working in the classical Michelin style that you mentioned?

A: MPW – if you look at someone like Alain Passard, he’s almost 60 years old, he’s a prime example. Like Pierre Gagnaire, he’s behind his stove. Michel Guerard is still doing it. It’s a way of life for these men. These are chefs I truly admire, they worked hard for their three stars and they remain loyal to it. Do I want to eat in Alain Ducasse’s restaurant? There are so many of them, its just another restaurant, it’s soulless.

Q: Marco, whose cooking do you admire, particularly in the UK?

A: MPW – I would go to Raymond Blanc, he’s the real deal, he rallies his troops  every night.

Q: What do you think about these tv guys that scream and throw and decide that the lesson out there for the chefs is to light an apron on fire?

A: MPW - are you talking about Gordon Ramsey? I think that if you are a chef on tv then you have been given a duty by your industry. I think that the last thing you should be doing is belittling people. You need to inspire people. Gordon Ramsey made himself cry.

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John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Don't mean to divert although I too am curious about AB's turnaround on tasting menu's seeing how much he seemed to like FL's.

Those guys ( Ruhlman/ AB) ... I don't know, is it still the dragging of feet over the "Forward" thing or a gross misreading of the discussion by a few in the audience?

I suspect the former but have an open mind.

However, real reason for writing, did Jordi Butron from Espai Sucre ever make it?

Thanks for any info.

2317/5000

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Don't mean to divert although I too am curious about AB's turnaround on tasting menu's seeing how much he seemed to like FL's.

Those guys ( Ruhlman/ AB) ... I don't know, is it still the dragging of feet over the "Forward" thing or a gross misreading of the discussion by a few in the audience?

I suspect the former but have an open mind.

However, real reason for writing, did Jordi Butron from Espai Sucre ever make it?

Thanks for any info.

Ruhlman was simply quiet, primarily letting MPW and Ab speak on the matter. He did not really agree or disagree with them. There is an interesting discussion on his blog about this. AB was, in my opinion, a little disingenuous agreeing with MPW as heartily as he did on the panel at Starchefs, considering his praise of various long degustation menus in the past such as at elBulli. In fact, on October 11th at the New York City Wine and Food Festival, Bourdain and Ferran Adria will engage in a discussion along with Eric Asimov on the topic "A Revolution in Food." Indeed Bourdain appeared to retreat a bit when he posted a response to this question on Ruhlman's blog:

What I would really like to know is why the 2 of you (especially Bourdain who is never restricted with words) said nothing in defense of the tasting menu?

Bourdain's response:

Michael, the poster mentions Chef Achatz's impassioned response to some of Marco's comments during the panel--and my general expressions of wariness and exhaustion with the longer, larger and more involved of today's "degustation" menus.  Achatz is, of course, exactly right--that if chefs like him, Wylie, Keller, Trotter et al can't express themselves in the long form--and as creatively as they are able--what's the point of it all?

Maybe the audience member who suggested " But...you guys are spoiled" put his finger on it.  On the other hand, as much as I love and admire what Keller, Adruiz, Dufresne, Adria, Andres and others do (the idea of ordering a la carte at Per Se or the Laundry being heretical to me) , MPW has--with blunt instrument, perhaps, hit on a subject worth discussing: WHERE is the point of diminishing returns? How much is too much? Ripert, Gras, Adruiz's "tasting menus" are decidedly scaled down from some of the more full-on experiences.  Are they on to something? Is that a good thing? Do--or should-- rules apply at all when you're talking Big Boys like Keller and Adria? How, ideally, should we feel physically after a grand tasting menu? And does it matter?

Ted, as for Jordi Butron, patience, my friend. :wink:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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The White, Bourdain and Ruhlman discussion was the last event of the day at the Armory. There was quite a buzz as attendees filtered out of the theater with a number heading off to Grayz hosted by Chef Martin Brock for a Starchefs Welcome Cocktail. I actually checked my camera, so I don't have any photos to show from this event. It was nice to not feel like a paparazzo! :laugh: In any case, the beverages and the food were quite good and the company excellent as I got to meet some people like Audrey Saunders and had an extended conversation with Rene Redzepi amongst others. Having that conversation with Redzepi totally solidified my desire to somehow, someway make it to Copenhagen and Noma.

The nibbles we enjoyed included Kumamoto oysters with yuzu and grapefruit, Rougie foie gras crostini with fig confit, beef skewers with red bell pepper chutney, pork sandwich with avocado and chipotle and star anise cured salmon with curry and cilantro remoulade.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Happily for me, the welcome party was not the end of my Starchefs evening. After taking a detour to where I was staying for a much needed shower and freshening from this devilishly hot and muggy day, I headed over to Michael Lomonaco's Porter House at the Time Warner Center for the Starchefs Welcome Dinner. Though the lighting was not favorable, I brought my camera and did manage a few photos. Unfortunately, the lighting was too low to get any reasonable shots of the food. :sad:

I sat at a table with two charming representatives from Cheeses from Quebec, 2008 N.Y. Rising Star Chef, Neil Ferguson of Allen & Delancey and Richard Young, an engineer and one of the world's foremost experts on the efficiency of professional kitchen equipment.

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Neil Ferguson and Richard Young.

The multicourse dinner was prepared by an array of outstanding chefs. The chefs and their dishes included:

  • Bradford Thompson of Lever House in NYC who prepared a first course consisting of beet-cured Ivory salmon with horseradish greens, pickled Chioggia beets and a pretzel tuile; marinated sea scallps with avocado-cucumber puree, cucumber flower and Aji dulce peppers; and a tomato and fennel parfait with baby tomatoes, crispy salmon skin and American spoonbill caviar. This was paired with 2007 Serra da Estrela Albariño.
    Next up was Rick Moonen of RM Seafood in Las Vegas, who prepared his Smoked Alaskan sablefish au frisee, the same dish he did at his afternoon demo. This was paire with the albariño as well.
    Larry Forgione of An American Place in St. Louis and his son Marc Forgione of Forge in NYC prepared Rougie Foie Gras en sous vide with 7 pepper crust, smoked sea salt, red chili and honey glazed figs, paired with Neige apple ice wine.
    The evening's host, Michael Lomonaco served Cervena venison rib chop and osso buco with toasted polenta cake, rapini, chantarelles and zinfandel reduction paired with 2003 Baron de Ley Finca Monasterio.
    Technology masters Nils Noren and David Arnold of the French Culinary Institute in NYC offered a cheese course with Wisconsin Bleu Mont Dairy raw milk bandaged cheddar with pickled onions and Madeira. This too was served with the Monasterio.
    Spago's Sherry Yard conjured a red raspberry soufflé with yellow raspberry stracciatella gelato and Pudwill Farms berries. This was paired with Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Solera Especial 15-year oloroso.

The meal was delightful, though between that and the earlier cocktail party, I was rather stuffed.

Overall, the event is a nice way for sponsors and presenters to socialize. Each of the 2008 Starchefs NYC rising stars was introduced. The only one I was able to photograph due to proximity and otherwise poor photographic lighting was Neil Ferguson.

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A few candids:

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Johnny Iuzzini and his old boss Daniel Boulud.

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Paul Liebrandt and Arleene Oconitrillo of the now newly opened Corton in NYC.

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Michael Lomonaco receiving a thank you from Starchef's Will Blunt.

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Larry Forgione, Rick Moonen and Marc Forgione waiting to head to the podium.

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The evening's chefs (minus Sherry Yard).

Thus with a much needed walk back to the apartment at which I was staying, concluded for me Day one of the Third Annual Starchefs International Chefs Congress.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Day Two - Monday, September 15th, 2008

Thanks to alternate side of the street parking regulations I could not get out to the Congress as early as I would have liked. The program started at 9AM, but I had to sit with my car until 9:30AM to avoid another parking ticket. :angry: Because of that I missed a number of workshops that I would have liked to get to such as Rick Billings' Pastry workshop on "Additive-Free Innovation," Brian Polcyn's "Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing," and Eben Freeman's "Recession Cocktails: Strategic Cost Controls in Beverage Programs Through the Creative Use of Value Spirits and Raw Materials."

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As my son and I walked across Central Park to get to the Armory, the day was hot, but, fortunately, not nearly as humid as the prior day. The sun shone beautifully.

We jumped into the workshops. Unfortunately, I misremembered the time of one event that I really wanted to catch - a business seminar entitled "Sustainability: Beyond the Plate" with Laurel Cudden from B.R. Guests Restaurants and my dinner companion from the night before, Richard Young from Food Service Technology Center. As a result I missed the seminar. The gyst of it, according to the Starchefs Program, was to have been:

Sustainable agriculture, sustainable seafood: these two themes are on the lips of clued-in chefs and restaurant owners across the country. But sustainability extends beyond the walk-in, and beyond the plate – and real sustainability is a comprehensive philosophy that relates to every part of life and business (and in this case, restaurants).

In 2007 B.R. Guest Restaurants became the first national multi-concept restaurant group to be certified green by the Green Restaurant Association. As part of the certification, each of the 12 B.R. Guest restaurants took steps to get green not only on the plate, but to reduce its environmental footprint and increase sustainable practices, including recycling and water and energy reduction steps.

So what does it mean to "green" a restaurant? And is it worth it? Organic greens, and sustainable beef are excellent ideas that have opened people’s minds to green food service; but the biggest opportunities to reduce the environmental footprint of the restaurant are behind the kitchen doors, in the form of energy and water conservation.

Laurel Cudden, one of the people spearheading B.R. Guest’s green program, and Richard Young, one of the foremost experts on equipment efficiency, will discuss the various ways in which restaurants can pursue a more sustainable future. The two will serve up practical resources for the sustainable kitchen along with examples of cost savings and performance benefits. The discussion will be a feasible – and inspiring – primer on going green, in the kitchen and beyond.

to be continued...

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Bourdain's response:

Michael, the poster mentions Chef Achatz's impassioned response to some of Marco's comments during the panel--and my general expressions of wariness and exhaustion with the longer, larger and more involved of today's "degustation" menus.  Achatz is, of course, exactly right--that if chefs like him, Wylie, Keller, Trotter et al can't express themselves in the long form--and as creatively as they are able--what's the point of it all?

Maybe the audience member who suggested " But...you guys are spoiled" put his finger on it.  On the other hand, as much as I love and admire what Keller, Adruiz, Dufresne, Adria, Andres and others do (the idea of ordering a la carte at Per Se or the Laundry being heretical to me) , MPW has--with blunt instrument, perhaps, hit on a subject worth discussing: WHERE is the point of diminishing returns? How much is too much? Ripert, Gras, Adruiz's "tasting menus" are decidedly scaled down from some of the more full-on experiences.   Are they on to something? Is that a good thing? Do--or should-- rules apply at all when you're talking Big Boys like Keller and Adria? How, ideally, should we feel physically after a grand tasting menu? And does it matter?

In place of "you guys are spoiled" I would have said, "You guys are jaded." The people on this panel have been obliged for professional reasons to eat many multi-course meals. Every time I see or hear something from Bourdain, he seems to be talking about how eating a tasting menu is onerous for him and he would prefer a bowl of pho or something. Sure, I absolutely believe that. But for most people, a meal at Alinea or TFL is a rare experience.

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Bourdain's response:

Michael, the poster mentions Chef Achatz's impassioned response to some of Marco's comments during the panel--and my general expressions of wariness and exhaustion with the longer, larger and more involved of today's "degustation" menus.  Achatz is, of course, exactly right--that if chefs like him, Wylie, Keller, Trotter et al can't express themselves in the long form--and as creatively as they are able--what's the point of it all?

Maybe the audience member who suggested " But...you guys are spoiled" put his finger on it.  On the other hand, as much as I love and admire what Keller, Adruiz, Dufresne, Adria, Andres and others do (the idea of ordering a la carte at Per Se or the Laundry being heretical to me) , MPW has--with blunt instrument, perhaps, hit on a subject worth discussing: WHERE is the point of diminishing returns? How much is too much? Ripert, Gras, Adruiz's "tasting menus" are decidedly scaled down from some of the more full-on experiences.   Are they on to something? Is that a good thing? Do--or should-- rules apply at all when you're talking Big Boys like Keller and Adria? How, ideally, should we feel physically after a grand tasting menu? And does it matter?

In place of "you guys are spoiled" I would have said, "You guys are jaded." The people on this panel have been obliged for professional reasons to eat many multi-course meals. Every time I see or hear something from Bourdain, he seems to be talking about how eating a tasting menu is onerous for him and he would prefer a bowl of pho or something. Sure, I absolutely believe that. But for most people, a meal at Alinea or TFL is a rare experience.

It is difficiult to eat a lot of rich food often, but that is true whether the meal is a tasting menu or a la carte with few dishes but large portions. That becomes particularly true the older one gets and these gentlemen are not as young as they used to be (nor am I :smile: )

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Bourdain's response:

Michael, the poster mentions Chef Achatz's impassioned response to some of Marco's comments during the panel--and my general expressions of wariness and exhaustion with the longer, larger and more involved of today's "degustation" menus.  Achatz is, of course, exactly right--that if chefs like him, Wylie, Keller, Trotter et al can't express themselves in the long form--and as creatively as they are able--what's the point of it all?

Maybe the audience member who suggested " But...you guys are spoiled" put his finger on it.  On the other hand, as much as I love and admire what Keller, Adruiz, Dufresne, Adria, Andres and others do (the idea of ordering a la carte at Per Se or the Laundry being heretical to me) , MPW has--with blunt instrument, perhaps, hit on a subject worth discussing: WHERE is the point of diminishing returns? How much is too much? Ripert, Gras, Adruiz's "tasting menus" are decidedly scaled down from some of the more full-on experiences.   Are they on to something? Is that a good thing? Do--or should-- rules apply at all when you're talking Big Boys like Keller and Adria? How, ideally, should we feel physically after a grand tasting menu? And does it matter?

In place of "you guys are spoiled" I would have said, "You guys are jaded." The people on this panel have been obliged for professional reasons to eat many multi-course meals. Every time I see or hear something from Bourdain, he seems to be talking about how eating a tasting menu is onerous for him and he would prefer a bowl of pho or something. Sure, I absolutely believe that. But for most people, a meal at Alinea or TFL is a rare experience.

It is difficiult to eat a lot of rich food often, but that is true whether the meal is a tasting menu or a la carte with few dishes but large portions. That becomes particularly true the older one gets and these gentlemen are not as young as they used to be (nor am I :smile: )

Oh, right, there is that too. :biggrin: I was thinking more of the sheer number of tastes, time involved etc., and maybe how much thinking you have to put into the experience.

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Don't mean to divert although I too am curious about AB's turnaround on tasting menu's seeing how much he seemed to like FL's.

Those guys ( Ruhlman/ AB) ... I don't know, is it still the dragging of feet over the "Forward" thing or a gross misreading of the discussion by a few in the audience?

I suspect the former but have an open mind.

However, real reason for writing, did Jordi Butron from Espai Sucre ever make it?

Thanks for any info.

Ruhlman was simply quiet, primarily letting MPW and Ab speak on the matter. He did not really agree or disagree with them. There is an interesting discussion on his blog about this. AB was, in my opinion, a little disingenuous agreeing with MPW as heartily as he did on the panel at Starchefs, considering his praise of various long degustation menus in the past such as at elBulli. In fact, on October 11th at the New York City Wine and Food Festival, Bourdain and Ferran Adria will engage in a discussion along with Eric Asimov on the topic "A Revolution in Food." Indeed Bourdain appeared to retreat a bit when he posted a response to this question on Ruhlman's blog:

What I would really like to know is why the 2 of you (especially Bourdain who is never restricted with words) said nothing in defense of the tasting menu?

Bourdain's response:

Michael, the poster mentions Chef Achatz's impassioned response to some of Marco's comments during the panel--and my general expressions of wariness and exhaustion with the longer, larger and more involved of today's "degustation" menus.  Achatz is, of course, exactly right--that if chefs like him, Wylie, Keller, Trotter et al can't express themselves in the long form--and as creatively as they are able--what's the point of it all?

Maybe the audience member who suggested " But...you guys are spoiled" put his finger on it.  On the other hand, as much as I love and admire what Keller, Adruiz, Dufresne, Adria, Andres and others do (the idea of ordering a la carte at Per Se or the Laundry being heretical to me) , MPW has--with blunt instrument, perhaps, hit on a subject worth discussing: WHERE is the point of diminishing returns? How much is too much? Ripert, Gras, Adruiz's "tasting menus" are decidedly scaled down from some of the more full-on experiences.   Are they on to something? Is that a good thing? Do--or should-- rules apply at all when you're talking Big Boys like Keller and Adria? How, ideally, should we feel physically after a grand tasting menu? And does it matter?

Ted, as for Jordi Butron, patience, my friend. :wink:

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Bourdain's response:

Michael, the poster mentions Chef Achatz's impassioned response to some of Marco's comments during the panel--and my general expressions of wariness and exhaustion with the longer, larger and more involved of today's "degustation" menus.  Achatz is, of course, exactly right--that if chefs like him, Wylie, Keller, Trotter et al can't express themselves in the long form--and as creatively as they are able--what's the point of it all?

Maybe the audience member who suggested " But...you guys are spoiled" put his finger on it.  On the other hand, as much as I love and admire what Keller, Adruiz, Dufresne, Adria, Andres and others do (the idea of ordering a la carte at Per Se or the Laundry being heretical to me) , MPW has--with blunt instrument, perhaps, hit on a subject worth discussing: WHERE is the point of diminishing returns? How much is too much? Ripert, Gras, Adruiz's "tasting menus" are decidedly scaled down from some of the more full-on experiences.   Are they on to something? Is that a good thing? Do--or should-- rules apply at all when you're talking Big Boys like Keller and Adria? How, ideally, should we feel physically after a grand tasting menu? And does it matter?

In place of "you guys are spoiled" I would have said, "You guys are jaded." The people on this panel have been obliged for professional reasons to eat many multi-course meals. Every time I see or hear something from Bourdain, he seems to be talking about how eating a tasting menu is onerous for him and he would prefer a bowl of pho or something. Sure, I absolutely believe that. But for most people, a meal at Alinea or TFL is a rare experience.

It is difficiult to eat a lot of rich food often, but that is true whether the meal is a tasting menu or a la carte with few dishes but large portions. That becomes particularly true the older one gets and these gentlemen are not as young as they used to be (nor am I :smile: )

Oh, right, there is that too. :biggrin: I was thinking more of the sheer number of tastes, time involved etc., and maybe how much thinking you have to put into the experience.

Undoubtedly all of these are factors. As much as I love restaurants like Alinea, elBulli and others, I could not eat at them or meals like that every night. That in no way diminishes my ardor for them on the rare occasions that I do get to experience them. I don't think that I could eat what MPW described as classic 3* cooking every night either, though I enjoy that as well. Truth is, I wouldn't want to eat the same of anything every night. There are too many wonderful foods and ways of cooking to limit oneself to any one of them other than by necessity.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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However, real reason for writing, did Jordi Butron from Espai Sucre ever make it?

Thanks for any info.

Ted, as for Jordi Butron, patience, my friend. :wink:

But of course, kind sir!

'doc, as always your photos and reports are great and a joy to read.

Thank!

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