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The concept of Value for money


Adam Chef
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What is Value for money and how does it relate to food?

I have traveled the world and Worked in many countries but I must say the country which is the most fixated on the concept “Value for money” is Spain. Please understand that I am not saying that this is a bad thing but merely discussing the different concepts people have when it comes to dining.

Whenever you move to a new country you must adapt what you do to suit the people you are cooking for, this generally takes some time (usually up to 6 months). I have changed pretty much everything that I do since I arrived in Spain, but the concept I am still struggling with is the theory of Value for money. Let me explain before you come to your conclusion and judge me as the bad guy who wants to make you part with your hard earned money and give you nothing in return.

So let me pose this question again……….. “What is value for Money?” Let’s see how the business dictionary define it?

Utility derived from every purchase or every sum of moneyspent. VFM is based not only on the minimum purchaseprice (economy) but also on the maximum efficiency andeffectiveness of the purchase.

Pay special attention to the second part of the definition, as the first part is very obvious. Why is it that some people will keep a running tally in there head of how much the products would of cost and they compare this to the eventual bill at the end? There is a large amount of people who have this misconception of “Fine Dining” and think you should be eating only; Lobster, Caviar, Truffles, Foie Gras, Etc. This in turn makes the Chefs cook to these expectations and start “Value adding” to dishes just so they are perceived as luxurious. I love these products just as much as the next guy but you do not need to eat them in every dish nor do you need to eat them in a dish where they are clearly added as an after thought to give value. I call these products the west’s version of MSG, as they are added to give the perception of a good dish. I still don’t think I am being very clear!

My idea of cuisine is giving people an experience which they cannot compare to any other, I achieve this through the menu structure, my cuisine which is very personal and of course the whole ambiance and technique of service. If you cannot compare what you have eaten or experienced to anything you have ever had before how can you put a monetary figure on this? The answer is you cannot. But the responsibility is still on the Chef to be reasonable and not over charge for the sake of it, you would be surprised if you saw the figures of a restaurant as the average profit is only around 10-15%. Compare that to the effort which is put into every one of your mouthfuls and I am sure you will agree there are easier ways to earn a living (thats because it is not what we do, but who we are).

Let me put this into a literal example just in case you are still thinking us Chefs are like modern day bank robbers.

How many times in your life have you eaten Heinz ketchup and what were you eating it with? Chances are you have been eating it all your life with things like french fries, hotdogs, hamburgers, etc. Now think about 3 very basic ingredients but yet almost the backbone of Italian cuisine……. Tomato, Mozzarella and fresh Basil. Lets see what happens when we combine the 2

IMG_3825.JPG

The ketchup you have been eating all of your life is now in the form of a cone which is totally transparent and shatters like glass when you bite into it, this technique took years to perfect and only uses what’s already within the sauce you know so well. To finish this little pre-dessert I made a sweetened mozzarella mousse with the addition of vanilla then added a fresh basil leaf. So what you get are all the basic ingredients for a Caprese salad but in the sweetened form. I can give you a thousand other examples of things which fall into the concept of “Supermarket cooking”, but I think you get the idea. The other thing to keep in mind is that you are not eating a whole meal of these things, but imagine when you are eating a 27 course menu, I always love to put several courses within the meal to make people outwardly laugh. Society seems to of forgotten the concept that food is meant to be enjoyed, more and more these days restaurants are subjecting people to a tense and uncomfortable environment all in the name of “Fine Dining”. In actual fact when people are tense and uncomfortable they will not enjoy what you have worked so hard to give them as they are not relaxed and open to enjoy.

What would you think when eating this? Would you be in the group of people who say “You can’t serve ketchup in a Fine Dining restaurant” or one of the people who can look past the cost of the item and allow yourself to enjoy cuisine for what it is?

Adam Melonas - Chef

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I, personally, love the idea of an innovative chef using a 'plain old' ingredient like ketchup as part of a fancy 'Fine Dining' meal! Hell, just call it spiced tomato puree, if they can't take a joke! :shock:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I wish there were more people dining in my restaurants who think like you Judiu :-)

But for me the best point of the whole thing is that it tastes exactly like Heinz Ketchup and brings back so many vivid memories, yet it is so different due to the texture (not to mention the 3 days it takes to prepare it)

Adam

Adam Melonas - Chef

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Thanks, Adam! Where are you, so I can stop by if I'm in the neighborhood. The taste VS name is a neat surprise factor, wouldn't you think? I feel like if I can't have a sense of humour, however warped, what's the use? :laugh:

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Since I know nothing about you maybe I should call you 'Mystery Chef'? In any case my idea of value for maoney when it come to dining out seems to be somewhat different to yours.

I'll give you two examples of what I consider 'value for money'

1) See my blog post (address below) titles "How do They do it?" This is about a lunch we had yesterday at a modest restaurant near us. They delivered a very nice meal at an incredibly low price served in a nice ambiance by professional staff. That's value for money from my customer perspective.

2) Our favorite Michelin One star is 'Le Vieux Pont' in the French village of Belcastel. Here you get a true fine dining experience. Everything is superbly done, the food, the presentation,the decor, the service and the price.The Chef is innovative, but we could care less whether the ingredients are 'expensive' or not. What counts is the way the are combined and cooked.

So, IMHO value for money can take on more than one guise. You can and we do dine well at any level.

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Hey Judiu,

I am actually based in Madrid at the moment, please feel free to stop by and spend some time here in Lab with me if you are in the area.

Thanks for your in depth reply Dave,

The title of "Mystery Chef" is a good one, maybe I might add this to my business card. I agree with you very much on the expectations of where you are eating and how they cannot be compared. Unfortunately there are still many people who will always sit in your restaurant with there virtual Calculator and add up how much it should of cost, they don't however factor in the time it takes to conceive such dishes. Everything I do and have ever done in my restaurants are pure creations by every sense of the word and have not been inspired or re-interpreted by anything I have seen or tasted, therefore there are some of my dishes which have taken up to 4 years or longer to create and a lot of money.

I am trying to start a TV show when I open my new restaurant in New York which will be based in my lab to document and educate people on what actually goes into Creating new cuisine. I am sure when people start to understand they will be more accepting of the price which will seem cheap in comparison to the effort! I hope!

Adam Melonas - Chef

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I can't imagine there is a definitive guide to value for money. There have been studies of people who rate wines higher when they think they cost a lot. I would imagine the same goes with food or the chefs that prepare the food. If Ferran Adria made the same "caprese salad" dish as you, no one would bat an eye. Value is in the eye of the beholder.

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Hi Aidan,

I think this whole problem you are speaking of is an issue we have in society, if someone tells us it's good than there is a good chance that we will also think it's good, this is generally true with most things and particularly things like fashion and food. This is just another reason why the new Chef in any city has to work that much harder than the rest. But then again being the "Under-dog" has it's advantages as well, you can do new things without any regard for what has been done before in the city. This allows you to be more honest to your cuisine and much more adventurous without the backlash.

As far as the "Ferran Factor" is concerned, all Chefs cooking Progressive cuisine will always be in his shadow as he is just so dominating and with a team like he has there are so many discoveries being made everyday. Even things which do not belong to Ferran will be perceived as his to the untrained dinner, as this is the Chef they hear about the most. I should know, I work with him.

Adam Melonas - Chef

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