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Chef Grant Achatz takes a stand

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"Restaurants Are Dealing With an Avalanche of Special Requests. One Chef Has Had Enough."

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“I feel a huge obligation to please, and I find the challenge of coming up with these [adjusted] menus compelling,” Achatz says, “but enough is enough.”

He's drawn the proverbial line in the sand. He's certainly within his rights to do so.

Will it impact his business? Certainly other chefs will follow his lead. 

Is this a good thing or not?

Let's talk...

 

 

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“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

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Tim Oliver

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For "many" decades i have carefully chosen my foods and done so while dining out.      I learned to read menus, question servers when necessary, and navigate my way to a delicious meal.    I don't EVER remember asking a chef to alter his vision to suit me.     Doing research, I would chose a restaurant that fit my needs and also served the wants of the rest of the table.    To me it is an enormous conceit to demand special dishes, costing the restaurant AND YOU and ME in the long haul.   

 

 

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eGullet member #80.

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I will occasionally ask for very minor modifications; i.e., I don't care for raw onions (cooked are fine), so if they're scattered over something as a garnish, I'll ask for them to be left off. But to be fair, I'm not doing that at a fine dining establishment, either.

 

I don't like green bell pepper, either, but I don't usually ask for it to be left out, except at my favorite Thai place, which notes on the menu it will leave out or add in peppers on request. Otherwise I just eat around it.

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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 He deserves the benefit of the doubt for any number of reasons. Most of all because an Alinea meal is an orchestrated work of art.

 

But April Bloomfield's bleu cheeseburger is not. Its just a burger yet she refuses to do something simple like leave off the bleu cheese. That's arrogance to me.

 

Grant is on one side of the line and April the other.

 

 

 

 

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I guess my approach is that Spotted Pig menu is so vast that I could easily find something lovely without addressing the bleu cheese hamburger.    In fact, about all of her alternatives sound more interesting than a burger.    Let her "stand by her burger".

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eGullet member #80.

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6 hours ago, gfweb said:

 He deserves the benefit of the doubt for any number of reasons. Most of all because an Alinea meal is an orchestrated work of art.

 

But April Bloomfield's bleu cheeseburger is not. Its just a burger yet she refuses to do something simple like leave off the bleu cheese. That's arrogance to me.

 

Grant is on one side of the line and April the other.

 

 

 

 

If you take out the bleu cheese from a bleu cheeseburger wouldn't that make it a "burger?" For pity's sake, order something else.

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Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
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5 hours ago, nickrey said:

If you take out the bleu cheese from a bleu cheeseburger wouldn't that make it a "burger?" For pity's sake, order something else.

Of course I'd order something else, but we aren't talking about what I'd order.

 

We are talking about whether a chef should allow changed orders. Her refusing to take the cheese off isn't preserving a work of art, its just being obnoxious/arrogant.

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43 minutes ago, gfweb said:

its just being obnoxious/arrogant.

Hmmm. And I thought she was just being logical. When you remove the blue cheese from a bleu cheeseburger you’ve got a different beast altogether. 
 

Can I have a bleu cheeseburger but without the blue cheese? Can I please have a bleu cheeseburger but with cheddar? See how the logic somehow fails?😂

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

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35 minutes ago, Anna N said:

Hmmm. And I thought she was just being logical. When you remove the blue cheese from a bleu cheeseburger you’ve got a different beast altogether. 
 

Can I have a bleu cheeseburger but without the blue cheese? Can I please have a bleu cheeseburger but with cheddar? See how the logic somehow fails?😂

well sure it won't be a bleu burger, but so what, its not a sacred dish...it costs no more to leave off the stuff...doesn't take longer to cook

 

just let the person who came into your restaurant and is paying you money have it with no cheese.

 

BTW I'm not the one making a thing of this, the chef has made a big deal about it on several occasions in print. 

 

But whatever

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Good for him. Special requests are a pain. Sure, they can be an interesting challenge, but those challenges all day everyday take the fun out of cooking what you want to cook. And as much as it must suck to have severe allergies, I don’t think any kitchen where an ingredient has existed for years can really promise to keep all traces of it out of a dish. Flour goes airborne, maybe there are cheesy molecules wafting out of the pizza oven. 

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Im unable to read the article.

 

foursome reason MSN  doesnt do well on my Safari.

 

I agree that if a dish is made for a specific effect ,  

 

order it to enjoy that effect or order something else.

 

My new Thai Noodle place is happy to sub an item, 

 

but its a made to order sort of place , if you will.

 

if a curry comes from a pot of curry sauce , and Id rather not have eggplant that's in that pot

 

Ill have to order something else.  if the eggplant is added " made to individual order '

 

I don't see the problem , nor do they.

 

if their isn't a non-blue-cheese burger at a place ,  and you want a burger w/o BC

 

even though the blue cheese is an add-on, possibly the chef is looking for a specific effect.

 

but getting bent out of shape , which ever side of the " options ' you are on

 

is just silly.

 

maybe some of you remember the movie 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Easy_Pieces

 

if I recall correctly , Jack wants Wheat Toast.   they don't serve wheat toast there.

 

he orders a Tuna Sandwich on toasted wheat , then asks the waitress to

 

' hold the tuna '

 

PS :  found the article here :

 

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/dining/a29417746/restaurants-say-no-special-requests/

 

this comment is interesting :

 

"  

“When I go to a place like Alinea,” Shook says, “I consider it the equivalent of watching a play. I don’t go to the theater and say, ‘I don’t want to see that actor’ or ‘Cut the last 20 minutes.’”

 "

 

I also think that going out to a restaurant , even w well in advance reservations , w a severe dairy allergy 

 

is asking for it.  

 

"" The reaction was manageable, but he and his wife were livid ""

 

their lividity is really on them , not Alinea .

 

" We will do our best , but their are no guarantees "

 

Alinea was correct in declining their second visit.


Edited by rotuts (log)
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I'm with the chef on this one. After all, a restaurant is just another shop. You wouldn't walk into any other shop and demand something they didn't offer for sale!

 

If you don't want what the restaurant offers, why did you go there? There are others!


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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To put it another way, I go to museums and galleries and theatre and concerts for "art."

 

I go to restaurants to eat and have a good time and not have to shop, cook and clean up; they're my employees for the duration of the meal.


Edited by weinoo (log)

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@weinoo

 

""  they're my employees for the duration of the meal ""

 

that's a little harsh.

 

"" I go to restaurants to eat,   ""  but you save yourself ,  only a bit , with "  and have a good time "

 

you can eat anywhere .  but a Good Time is a Good Time

 

after all.

 

 

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3 minutes ago, weinoo said:

I go to restaurants to eat and have a good time and not have to shop, cook and clean up; they're my employees for the duration of the meal.

 

I agree with the first part of your sentence. The second part, no. You are not their employer; you are their customer and entitled to buy and, hopefully, enjoy the product they are offering. I'm sorry, but you have no right to demand anything they don't offer for sale or alter anything unless they give you that choice. It isn't pick 'n mix or build your own pizza unless they say so.

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When I was a teenager, a little girl I babysat had a milk allergy, and died after two bites of restaurant oatmeal which her mother had been assured had been made without milk.  

 

Specifically, she died of anaphylactic shock in the car where her parents were racing to a hospital.  I found out the very next day, when the mom came into the bank where I worked (back then, teenagers had jobs, including jobs in places like the small neighborhood bank).

 

I had enough home-training not to say anything abusive like, what the hell were you doing in a restaurant with such a severe food allergy??? 

 

But ever since then, I've always thought that a known lethal allergy is just not something you can safely bring into a restaurant (especially if you'd like to eat something that is typically made with the forbidden ingredient).  Call it trauma.  I never got over the image in my mind of that mom in that car.  

 

I appreciate where Achatz is coming from.  That was the most distressing shiva call I have ever paid, and it was a good 33 years ago.     


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16 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

I agree with the first part of your sentence. The second part, no. You are not their employer; you are their customer and entitled to buy and, hopefully, enjoy the product they are offering. I'm sorry, but you have no right to demand anything they don't offer for sale or alter anything unless they give you that choice. It isn't pick 'n mix or build your own pizza unless they say so.

 

We are quite spoiled in the US where we've been taught that the customer is always right.    'This may have been true mid-last Century and is still true in some traditional places.   But today we celebrate chefs who have worked/fought their ways up through brutal apprenticeships and have earned the right to make a statement, to offer a singular vision or style.     Patronize them if you are curious and want to see what they're all about, but don't expect to customize your meal.   

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I am reminded of the fatuous woman sitting next to us in a little restaurant in Paris that offered a fixed menu.    She coyly looked up at the waiter and gushed, "I'm vegetarian.    I just know that your wonderful chef will whip up something fabulousl for me."    When her first course arrived, she looked at it and gingerly forked through it and said to her dining companion, "Why, it's just like yours but without the meat!"

 

Fist pump!   YES!

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eGullet member #80.

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Maybe I used the wrong words when I say they're my employees. I take it back.

 

Anyone who dines out with me knows that I make it very pleasant for the people who are working there; I try to make them have a good time, and we the diners have a good time. It's a team effort; but if it's not a set menu place, I find no issue with asking for an ingredient to be left off a sandwich, the same way I ask for meat to be cooked to a certain doneness.

 

As for Margaret's point above:

Quote

But today we celebrate chefs who have worked/fought their ways up through brutal apprenticeships and have earned the right to make a statement, to offer a singular vision or style

I disagree - I think most young cooks/chefs (i.e. at the places you and I frequent) did nowhere near the brutal apprenticeships that once were de rigueur in the industry.

 

And the less said about April and Spotted Pig, the better.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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@weinoo

 

I take it back "

 

We all knew you would.

 

good for you.  

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@weinoo  No argument.     These are just shoes that I've not walked in.   You have first hand experience.

 

No kitchen can be all things to all people and do it right.    If I had a restaurant, I would try to turn out the best xxxx that I could, but I wouldn't venture past my expertise.    Diners looking for yyyy would be better served elsewhere.    

 

Hey, even the best restaurants are going broke.   I may as well go broke on my own terms!   

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eGullet member #80.

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3 hours ago, Anna N said:

Hmmm. And I thought she was just being logical. When you remove the blue cheese from a bleu cheeseburger you’ve got a different beast altogether. 
 

Can I have a bleu cheeseburger but without the blue cheese? Can I please have a bleu cheeseburger but with cheddar? See how the logic somehow fails?😂

 

Truthfully, I don't see that it's an issue. Plopping bleu cheese on top of the burger requires no skill or artistry, in essence there's no difference between doing that or peeling the plastic from a slice of equally-plastic processed cheese.

 

Is it a good burger? If so, then it doesn't need the cheese in order to shine. If it can't stand on its own without the bleu, then perhaps it needs tweaking. In fairness, I know zero of this restaurant or chef and if the bleu cheese somehow impacts on the other courses, then so be it.

 

It's not in the same sphere as the customer I had one night in Edmonton, who wanted to order the seafood medley (a lobster tail's shell stuffed with rice cooked in shrimp-shell stock, topped with shrimp and scallops, with medallions of the tail placed around the plate)...without shellfish.

(Disclosure: I don't care for bleu with beef, which to me just makes the beef taste like it's several days past its "serve-by" date, so obviously it's not a hill I would choose to die on)

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“What is called sound economics is very often what mirrors the needs of the respectably affluent.” - John Kenneth Galbraith

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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@chromedome

 

"   don't care for bleu with beef, which to me just makes the beef taste like it's several days past its "serve-by" date, "

 

I see your point , or at least can taste it.   i also don't know too much about the Spotted Pig

 

maybe the bleu  [ far more flavorful than blue ] on the burger was to evoke exceptionally well aged beef ?

 

if an item was cooked into a dish , you are foolish to ask for it to be removed.  GBP's cooked into a dish

 

even if removed after cooking leave you w a dish flavored with GBP's

 

Unknown-1.jpeg.ec7b96f64c316c972985fd0eea8677c1.jpeg

 

reminds me of a story from La Belle France

 

that I just made up :  the Patron entered the 5 star restaurant in Dijon , France

 

looking forward to a magnificent meal.  after careful study of the voluminous menu ,

 

he asked the waiter for the Boeuf Bourguignon, but w/o the Boeuf,

 

 maybe the Chef would substitute chicken instead ?

 

the Waiter , nonplused , said " Qui "

 

Pointing to the menu , "  we have that dish right here :   Coq au Vin ! "

 

smiles all around !

 

and I may not be able to hit the MR until the Urchins are given candy.

 

but it might rain !  maybe hard !


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