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Chris Amirault

Ten Worst Dining Trends of the Decade

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The Chicago Tribune's got a list up of the 10 worst dining trends of the decade. David Chang makes a good point: "Bad trends were usually good trends. They just got watered down into a really bad, overdone trend." As you read the list, most fit that bill -- though "Media Whore" doesn't really seem to have an upside unless you are a suit at Food TV.

What's your take on the list? What's missing? What shouldn't be on there?


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Maybe it's because i'm young, but I guess I feel like some of those items on there are on there because the person making that list, and the people chiming in have an older mindset. Kind of like a grandparent complaining to a grandson about the new fangled internet because they can't wrap their head around it. Like deconstruction. To me, I think it's fun and playful. I have an absolute blast making deconstructed dishes. I just see it as a playful way to reinvent something while keeping the same profile. It's called having fun. Again, just feels to me like an older mindset complaining about something they can't understand, so they need to say it's bad.

Molecular gastronomy...well, to me, that's always been a bit misunderstood, I think, so i'm not surprised to see it on there, even if it hurts a little. That's always been one of those things were few do it well, and the rest just give it a bad rap. To me it's always been really just about using science to make cooking better - that doesn't always mean additives, or machines, or fancy gadgets. While people do use that stuff, it's because it's technically a better way to do something, not being used just for show, and I think the chefs who have 'tainted' all of that have really made in unappealing to a lot of people. I think Chang's comment about trends that seem bad now, that started off good with the best intentions, really fits the bill here.

One that I 100% agree with with number 6, the online 'yelper' one. I can't tell you have much it pisses me off when people who have no idea what they are doing or talking about, slams a place, especially on opening night, because they don't understand, but feel because they can post on the internet, they somehow are an authority on things. Sorry to anyone who does actually do this, but it's a little personal - i've been there to open two places in the past year, and both times, even for just silly, small kinks, we get blasted for it by someone who felt they should make a 'review'. In theory, sure, it would be nice to have everything running smoothly, and it's easy for people to say 'How hard can it be to make sure it all works fine?', but there is always something you don't expect, especially for smaller restaurants.


Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.

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I haven't had onion blossoms since the 90s. I'm not saying they aren't out there, and maybe they're bigger sellers now than ten years ago, but it feels like calling the Feelies reissues the best albums of 2009 -- technically correct, but sort of missing the point of a "best of ____" list.

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Like deconstruction. To me, I think it's fun and playful. I have an absolute blast making deconstructed dishes. I just see it as a playful way to reinvent something while keeping the same profile. It's called having fun. Again, just feels to me like an older mindset complaining about something they can't understand, so they need to say it's bad.

On the whole, the article didn't seem to have an old-person's sensibility. I took the complaints against deconstruction and molecular gastronomy as non-categorical. The trouble arises when people who don't really have the technical skill start imitating these trends, often with absurd results. There was a terrific Top Chef episode recently when the chefs were forced to make deconstructed dishes. A couple of them didn't get it at all.

One that I 100% agree with with number 6, the online 'yelper' one. I can't tell you have much it pisses me off when people who have no idea what they are doing or talking about, slams a place, especially on opening night, because they don't understand, but feel because they can post on the internet, they somehow are an authority on things.

There are also online yelpers who post positive reviews, and even when it's obvious they have no idea what they're talking about, for some reason chefs never complain about that!!

Restaurants aren't in business just to serve experts. Anyone who walks in the door has the right to an opinion, and if people don't like it, they're probably going to tell others. Customers aren't obligated to preface their views with "I am not an expert, but...." We already know they're not experts. If the restaurant is doing a good job, the negative opinion of one ill-informed yelper won't matter very much. There hasn't been a restaurant yet that was put out of business by an opening-night yelper.

I also think that as soon as you're charging money for your services, you are entitled to be reviewed. I do realize that there are sometimes opening-night glitches, but those alone won't sink the restaurant, unless they become a pattern.


Edited by oakapple (log)

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On the whole, the article didn't seem to have an old-person's sensibility. I took the complaints against deconstruction and molecular gastronomy as non-categorical. The trouble arises when people who don't really have the technical skill start imitating these trends, often with absurd results. There was a terrific Top Chef episode recently when the chefs were forced to make deconstructed dishes. A couple of them didn't get it at all.

Oh no, I agree, as a whole the article wasn't like that at all. I just felt a few items, mainly the deconstruction, had that feeling IMO, and I remember that episode fondly, probably a favorite of mine :) I just felt as though it was being written off, and on the list, because it isn't really 'understood', and I think why I felt like that was mainly because of the chef they had talk about it in the deconstruction caption. I've worked in some very OPR's (Old person restaurants), and unfortunately, my thinking and style does lean more towards modern, and more often than not, I had things written off as 'silly' or 'not so good' because they didn't understand it. Whereas I would serve the same thing to someone younger and they would enjoy it, and that's the general feeling I got from having something like that on there.

There are also online yelpers who post positive reviews, and even when it's obvious they have no idea what they're talking about, for some reason chefs never complain about that!!

You are very correct, there are many people who post very positive things as well, and while I know I sound like "Well if it's negative they must be wrong, but if it's positive then that changes everything!", but that's not really true either. While anyone can and will voice their opinion, what really bothers me is being judged on things that don't matter, or are very small, and unfortunately, a bad remark, even while very small, means more than 20 good remarks. I don't exactly agree with the good stuff either. It's like working a large event, you have a booth set up, and everyone you talk to says that 'You're the best' and that you are the favorite, yet you somehow still don't win anyway. You learn to be indifferent about the good stuff, but because the negative remarks carry so much more impact, you get more fired up about those.

Restaurants aren't in business just to serve experts. Anyone who walks in the door has the right to an opinion, and if people don't like it, they're probably going to tell others. Customers aren't obligated to preface their views with "I am not an expert, but...." We already know they're not experts. If the restaurant is doing a good job, the negative opinion of one ill-informed yelper won't matter very much. There hasn't been a restaurant yet that was put out of business by an opening-night yelper.

I also think that as soon as you're charging money for your services, you are entitled to be reviewed. I do realize that there are sometimes opening-night glitches, but those alone won't sink the restaurant, unless they become a pattern.

Also true. We aren't in it to serve the experts. And while people of course voice their opinions, I do disagree that that opinions of the ill-informed won't have much impact. Say you are looking up a new place to try. If it's new, there won't be a whole lot on it. Say the one thing you do find is someones condemning of the place. How do you know if they are ill-informed? True, sometimes you can judge if they can be taken seriously or not by what they comment on, but even then, would you still try it if all you could find on it was negative? Some would, most wouldn't. Even if 99% of the people who actually HAD gone loved it, that one thing can keep more people from going, at least for a while. And in the beginning you need everything you can. Will it sink a place? More likely than not no, but it can hurt.


Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.

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For me, these kinds of lists are easy to make and only mildly interesting -- like Cojo discussing dresses at The Oscars. To say Molecular Gastronomy is finished is pretty stupid. I do agree obnoxious fast food should go away for ever.


Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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I think it's funny that "foam" received its own entry on the list. Personally, I'd rather not see whipped cream or chocolate mousse disappear any time soon.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I think it's great that foam got an entry. Whipped cream and mousse are more emulsions than foam anyway. As for foam, few things look less attractive on a plate than a giant glob of spit.

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Maybe it's because i'm young, but I guess I feel like some of those items on there are on there because the person making that list, and the people chiming in have an older mindset.

I'm don't think it's a chronological age thing...it feels to me like it's an experience thing...I think the longer you have been cooking, and the more skill you develop in the kitchen, the less inclined you are to view things like deconstruction as interesting. Kind of a 'been there, done that, not doing it again' sort of vibe. My personal take on deconstruction, molecular gastronomy and the like is that it is the purview of the super enthusiastic newer to the game chef. Not to say unskilled or lacking in any way, just fresher and less jaded.

Unless you are Heston Blumental. Then you are just a knob :biggrin:


Don't try to win over the haters. You're not the jackass whisperer."

Scott Stratten

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Like most such lists, this one seems to be designed to create, if not controversy, at least discussion. Success on that point, given this topic. However, this one seems to have more than the usual share of self-contradiction and misconception:

Item 10:

We like to believe the fried onion blossom could be done right -- i.e., not sweaty, or greasy, without slivers of onion behind monstrous tan shells, served like county fair food on porcelain -- but we haven't seen it yet.

Gee, wouldn't that be, um, deconstruction (Item 1)?

And speaking of deconstruction:

Said Joyce Goldstein . . . "I do not want a poached egg on top of carbonara sauce and the pasta on the side. I don't want the ingredients laid out before me anymore. I want a chef to show me how it is brought together . . .

What a silly encapsulation of the style. So Alice Waters is Deconstructionist in Chief?

Item 9:

". . . something feels disconnected when a chef has to buy a machine costing tens of thousands of dollars to cook . . ."

Let's see . . . rotovaps, dewars, immersion circulators . . . nothing there costs ten grand, let alone tens of grands. Even in MG kitchens, the most expensive piece of equipment is still the conventional range or convection oven.

Item 8:

Not just at establishments sporting Beard awards and gravitas. At your neighborhood bistro. Enough.

Where do these people eat?

Item 2:

". . . there are times when you wonder what a chef is supposed to be doing. TV brings people into their restaurant. But when do they find time to cook?"

Put aside Zagat's astonishing lack of understanding about what a chef's job is. Who besides Rocco Despirito is in this category? Does one example constitute a trend?

Back to Item 1: it's churlish (and misleading) to pick a bad example of something and use it as a categorical characterization. I suppose you could say every car sucks if all you'd driven was a Yugo.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Whipped cream and mousse are more emulsions than foam anyway.

In what way? An emulsion is a mixture of two insoluble substances, one in a dispersed phase and one in a continuous phase. A foam is a dispersion of gas bubbles in a liquid or solid. So both whipped cream and mousse qualify as foams, not emulsions.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I also think that as soon as you're charging money for your services, you are entitled to be reviewed. I do realize that there are sometimes opening-night glitches, but those alone won't sink the restaurant, unless they become a pattern.

This is fair, but what about those yelpers, and other internet reviewers, who go to free, pre-opening-night parties, eat their fill of complementary food, drink free drinks, and then, instead of paying for their meal via necessary feedback on the provided comment cards, run to the internet and post, "It sucked."?

That always irritates the heck out of me when I see it on the internet, because I know that this person was asked to a private party in order to help the restaurant work out the glitches before opening, but the majority of internet readers do not know this, and they take it as a legitimate review. It's tacky in the extreme.

But yeah, what's a blooming onion doing on the same list as molecular gastronomy? Talk about getting one's decades mixed up.

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In addition to everything I see as, well, wrong, on there that actually made it on there, was anyone else bothered by the other 'smaller' gripes he mentioned in the opening section? Like bacon tattoos, unisex bathrooms, and organ meat as an entree? How are these in any way, shape, or form bad ? I guess i'm just curious as to why people would view such things like that as gripes. I don't see anything wrong with my cooking related tattoos :sad:


Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.

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Whipped cream and mousse are more emulsions than foam anyway.

In what way? An emulsion is a mixture of two insoluble substances, one in a dispersed phase and one in a continuous phase. A foam is a dispersion of gas bubbles in a liquid or solid. So both whipped cream and mousse qualify as foams, not emulsions.

Okay, fair enough. Both are emulsions of fat and water, but wouldn't be the same without the air. But the air isn't nearly as obvious as in the trendy foams, which I still contend look like spit on a plate, distasteful as that sounds/is.


Edited by Human Bean (log)

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Molecular gastronomy...well, to me, that's always been a bit misunderstood, I think, so i'm not surprised to see it on there, even if it hurts a little. That's always been one of those things were few do it well, and the rest just give it a bad rap. To me it's always been really just about using science to make cooking better - that doesn't always mean additives, or machines, or fancy gadgets. While people do use that stuff, it's because it's technically a better way to do something, not being used just for show, and I think the chefs who have 'tainted' all of that have really made in unappealing to a lot of people. I think Chang's comment about trends that seem bad now, that started off good with the best intentions, really fits the bill here.

Yeah, this one bugged me enough that I actually wrote a comment at the site.

Overdone, obnoxious, pointless food that gets called molecular gastronomy ... yes, I've had enough of that too. But the concept, as misunderstood as it is? I try to learn everything I can about food science, and rarely with the goals of impressing guests with magic tricks and lab equipment. I want to know how to make my food better.


Notes from the underbelly

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I must say, even as a young chef myself (pastry chef now), I'd have to agree with most of the list.

My thoughts:

10 - Fried onion blossom: never seen it, but looks bad

9 - Molecular Gastronomy: Molecular gastronomy, as coined by Hervé This, is a great thing. It's always good to understand exactly why we cook the way we do, and techniques to improve the product. That being said, the silly fad cuisine that most of the world calls molecular gastronomy is rediculous. Yes, some of that food tastes amazing, but most cooks can't pull it off, and eventually the novelty factor wears out. You shouldn't have to think too hard about food, I'd rather be able to simply enjoy it and not have to think.

8 - 40 dollar entrée: This is a result of cooks who think they're more talented than they are, or that because top chefs charge alot, they can too. Obviously with the economy, such ego is intolerable.

7 - Communal table - I agree, bad idea. Family style seating and dining is a wonderful thing, with people you know. Sure you might meet some great people at a communal table, or you might be stuck with assholes all dinner long...

6 - Obnoxious fast food - I'll disagree here, sometimes you really just want something really greasy and horribly unhealthy, for instance, after the consumption of too much alcohol and/or drugs...

5 - Online reviews - I'm personally of the opinion that anyone should have a voice, not only experts. As a chef myself, I've come to realize that what the dining elite thinks really doesn't mean anything. Sure, you want to impress critics and the rich, but if you really want to make money, you neet to impress the average person (and all their friends). Online reviews are great because they give exposure to lesser establishments, although if your establishment sucks you'll get bad reviews. Still though, bad press is better than no press...

4 - Foam - Agreed, the foam that looks like soap suds is silly. Like most other modern techniques, it requires some knowhow to make a good tasting foam. Texture-wise, cooks would do well to go for more of a chantilly-type consistency, and less sudsy..

3 - Menu as book - Never seen it, looks silly.

2 - Media whore chefs - I dunno, at least they can be sometimes entertaining... Although if they suck, eventually the media will drop them anyway. The way I look at it, they're still better than most TV.

1 - Deconstruction - This is something that most cooks suck at. If you're going to deconstruct something, then at least reconstruct it in a way that tastes good. Don't simply deconstruct it into it's elements, and then expect the diner to construct it themselves...


Edited by Mikeb19 (log)

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Ah, the Chicago Tribune, arbiter of all that is good and right.

I had to laugh at the fact that they got a comment from "even the owners of a food bookstore in Maine." Incredibly, people in Maine, especailly at Rabelais, know a thing or two about food. What a concept!

Anyway, some good ideas, some bad ones, and I mostly have to agree with David Chang.

I'm not entirely sure that "media whore" is a dining trend. Yikes.


"Life itself is the proper binge" Julia Child

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Ah, the Chicago Tribune, arbiter of all that is good and right.

I had to laugh at the fact that they got a comment from "even the owners of a food bookstore in Maine." Incredibly, people in Maine, especailly at Rabelais, know a thing or two about food. What a concept!

Anyway, some good ideas, some bad ones, and I mostly have to agree with David Chang.

I'm not entirely sure that "media whore" is a dining trend. Yikes.

Yeah that Maine bit annoyed me slightly. Weren't we foodiest city of 09? In addition to everything else we got last year? I always get annoyed when people imply somehow up here we don't know what we are talking about. I mean sure, Maine is a little unhappy to acknowledge modern ideas sometimes which does annoy the piss out of me, but we do know food. Especially rabelais.

Everything else I said i still think. His lesser gripes are just plain retarded, and i wish i had known chang had been at rabelais last month, i wanted to talk to him about a few of these....


Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.

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It was a lot of fun. He is VERY opinionated, and I would chalk some of it up to being young. He was also very pleasant and generous with his time. He says what he thinks, and that's OK.

I agree that many things that started out as good ideas turned into bad trends. More to the point, if something works and is delicious, whether it's a trend or not, it's a good idea.

The Cheesecake Factory is as bad a trend as I can readily imagine. Way overpriced, really awful food. I had a truly horrifying dirty martini when dragged to one is Boston. Half a jar of olive juice.

Still, this is hardly a trend from last year. Theme restaurants are just a bad idea.

I do think that sliders are stupid. I think that 5 major steakhouses in one city is a dumb idea - how many bad steakhouses are there in Boston? It would be nice to have one excellent place.


"Life itself is the proper binge" Julia Child

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The Rocco bashing is SO OLD..... and in general it's quite easy to find things to bash... but I did enjoy it a bit


*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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Please, get your savory spices out of my desserts. That one should be on the list. the 90's was the decadeof over reduced sauces...the oughts were the decade of Rosemary ice cream.

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Please, get your savory spices out of my desserts. That one should be on the list. the 90's was the decadeof over reduced sauces...the oughts were the decade of Rosemary ice cream.

I couldn't agree more regarding desserts. I generally do not care for the addition--often quite heavy-handed--of herbs, chiles, flowers, etc. to my desserts. I was once served a brownie made with Mexican chocolate (YUM!) loaded with chiles that made my lips tingle (and not in a good way).

If anyone here wants to start an eG list of the top ten worst dining trends of the decade, I'd like to nominate this one: please stop adding cilantro to EVERYTHING!

ETA: re: the Tribune's list, I actually like blooming onions/blossoms/mums. Yes, I am one of the great unwashed masses. :laugh:


Edited by divalasvegas (log)

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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I think the article is missing the point with online reviews from the masses of an opening night. Anyone who has been to one (as a customer, I'm not in the industry) can (should?) probably expect that there will be a couple of rough spots. Maybe the person writing the review just happened to find one of those. I'd hope that most reasonable people will realize that the restaurant in question deserves the benefit of the doubt. However, I'm generally not an opening night kind of guy.

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7 - Communal table - I agree, bad idea. Family style seating and dining is a wonderful thing, with people you know. Sure you might meet some great people at a communal table, or you might be stuck with assholes all dinner long...

Think of it more like a large holiday gathering with all of the relatives you don't really like that much.

I'm also imagining a real family-style restaurant, where you don't get to order, the chef just brings out a plate of food, and you have to eat it whether you like it or not. The chef says, "look, I've had a long day, so just shut up and eat."


"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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