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Mix (with Doug Psaltis as chef de cuisine)


Fat Guy
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Admin: The discussion thread archive for Mix under chef Damon Gordon may be found here. The discussion thread for Mix under chef Francesco Berardinelli and renamed as "Francesco at Mix" may be found here

Any thoughts on the Grimes review of Mix?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Well, clearly Grimes is constipated. He needs a life-size Wine Clip clamped to his neck to re-align his sense of humor.

"Mix is fun, but a little less fun might work just as well."

I read that statement as "I am a miserable SOB, so therefore you can't have fun either."

Jason Perlow, Co-Founder eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

Foodies who Review South Florida (Facebook) | offthebroiler.com - Food Blog (archived) | View my food photos on Instagram

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What I find most interesting is that this "two stars for Psaltis and a big 'fuck you' to Ducasse" review steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that the chef at Mix is Alain Ducasse.

Grimes has been flirting with the notion of rejecting the role of the executive chef for quite awhile, but this review is a full-on assault on the concept of what a chef does. Doug Psaltis is the chef-de-cuisine. His job is to execute Ducasse's cuisine and concept. I'm sure Psaltis doesn't agree with the characterization that, "Somewhere deep in the kitchen of Mix in New York, a chef is struggling to get some attention. His name is Douglas Psaltis." The implication that Psaltis is somehow at odds with Ducasse is absurd: it is inconceivable that Psaltis would have been chosen for any reason other than a shared vision and the ability to carry it out.

In a sense, it's great that talented chefs-de-cuisine like Doug Psaltis, Didier Elena, Jonathan Benno, Marco Canora, Alex Lee, Andrew Carmellini, et al., have been getting some well-deserved recognition in the press today. But there's a big difference between acknowledging their contributions and ignoring the fact that the chef at Mix and ADNY is Alain Ducasse, the chef at Per Se will be Thomas Keller, the chef at Craft is Tom Colicchio, and the chef at Daniel and Cafe Boulud is Daniel Boulud. Those are the people whose cuisines people are paying to eat. They're the ones who create the vision, the style of the food, and have the final say over the menu. That the development of a restaurant's cuisine is a collaborative process doesn't change the fact that one person, in the end, gets all the credit and all the blame.

Except, of course, for Ducasse, who in this review received all of the blame and none of the credit. Nice.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I would have given Mix three stars, based on the one meal I have eaten there. I don't think there were any flaws at all in the execution of the dishes I had, although not everything may be tailored to Grime's palate. My wife declared the fresh rasberries and rose ice cream dish the most exciting dessert she had eaten in recent memory, yet Grimes hated it. I hope that Ducasse isn't forced by the critics, rather than the diners, to alter his concepts, like he was at ADNY.

I did point out to our server that certain of the glass "Petri dishes" were difficult to eat out of, so it wouldn't surprise me if they end up making some changes there.

What I find most interesting is that this "two stars for Psaltis and a big 'fuck you' to Ducasse" review steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that the chef at Mix is Alain Ducasse.

Interesting point.

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The NY Times star rating means hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions in revenue. What Grimes has mastered is the underrating and the subsequent revisit. In effect, the review becomes a list of demands and when, and only when, those demands are met is the restaurateur allowed to follow his amended vision. This stifles creativity and restricts readers to the single palate, but The Times knows most people want a "safe" meal.

Here’s Grimes in Slate on the eve of ADNY’s 4th Star:

“Actually, this day presents real difficulties. The review I have to write is a big one, a reconsideration of Alain Ducasse, a restaurant that opened with enormous fanfare about a year and a half ago. It failed to impress me and other critics. Now it gets a second chance.”

His “preview” cost the restaurant millions, and his 3-Star rating killed a near 2-year waiting list. He’ll reconsider his rating, and no doubt Mix will still be good—Pslatis is an excellent cook. In the end though, it will be different. The Grey Lady’s power is unquestionable.

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His “preview” cost the restaurant millions, and his 3-Star rating killed a near 2-year waiting list.

That, plus being the most expensive restaurant in NY. It is not like three stars is a bad review, but at that price point you expect perfection. I wouldn't have tried it if I hadn't read favorable reports from Shaw and others.

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I would have given Mix three stars, based on the one meal I have eaten there.

I could go three or two, depending on how heavily the service -- which is indeed pretty weak -- is weighted. No question it's three star food, though. Robert have you written anything here about your visit? I'd love to read a report. I'll try to write something up about my meal later on as well.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I hardly consider myself a curmudgeon and I think that ADNY is a remarkable restaurant, perhaps the best in NYC but I was really put off by the self-conscious cuteness and tongue-in-cheekiness of Mix. "Must de Mix", "Mix of Mix", the presentations...I also thought that Spoon was too cute for it's own good so maybe I am a curmudgeon.

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Very few people are going to like both ADNY and Mix. It's not like the Daniel-Cafe Boulud-DB Bistro continuum where the same customers are supposed to feel comfortable going to one or another depending on how they feel on a given day. ADNY and Mix are pitching to radically different audiences, especially in terms of maturity.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'll try to write something up about my meal later on as well.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've been hearing that for weeks...

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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So, I’m one of the few that like both ADNY and Mix. Food only, this was one of the best meals I have had in NY in a while, other than at ADNY. And there were many aspects of the food that reminded me of ADNY, including the petri dishes. The only item that did not impress me was the chocolate pizza. It tasted to me very similar to a chocolate crepe. It was okay while warm, not-so-good when it cooled off. The warm fruit compote with cheesecake ice cream, on the other hand, was excellent.

I agree with Grimes in that there is definitely a degree of over-stimulation which detracts from the food or is at least maybe inconsistent with this level of food. The downtown/trendy/loud feel is also perhaps out of place, especially given the location. Grimes seems to have a large bias against this type of ambiance.

I was there late on a crowded Friday night, but I found the service to be reasonably good for a restaurant that had been open about a month. The one thing I did not like was that the server strongly encouraged us to order one of the must de mix dishes (i.e. "American trash food") as a supplement to the regular prix fixe. While I enjoyed the mac & cheese, we had too much to eat, especially after the pb&j. I thought it was also overkill to bring a basket of what must have been at least 8 or 10 little baguettes with our main courses. At that point, 2 (or none) would have sufficed.

I am assuming the service continues to improve as the clientele inevitably moves from people looking for the hot/new scene to people there primarily for the food. I do wish that Mix would offer an a la carte menu option in addition to the prix fixe. As I live close by, I could see going pretty often if it did given, especially given the restaurant's casual nature. Right now, the $300+ price tag (for 2 people) and the degree to which I overate (something I always do at ADNY too) prevents more than an occasional visit.

Andrew

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$300 for two at dinner gets you nicely cared for at Veritas, JoJo, Fleur de Sel, L'Impero, Cafe Boulod, Anissa, Babbo, Fiamma and countless other worthy places. For that tariff "cute" and "clever" in a cartoonish atmosphere simply doesn't make it in my book. Chop that tab in half and I might be with you.

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So, I’m one of the few that like both ADNY and Mix.

Me too!

As I live close by, I could see going pretty often if it did given, especially given the restaurant's casual nature.  Right now, the $300+ price tag (for 2 people)

If you are willing to order before 6:30, the pre-theater menu is only $45. Definitely one of NY's great dining bargains.

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In his review, Grimes states that "Ducasse and Chodorow, have a bottomless bag of tricks that they are dying to show you at their fun house." and quotes the toasted bread served with peanut butter, Concord grape jelly and salted butter as an example. As already noted, Grimes point is that Mix in some way does not do chef Douglas Psaltis justice.

It's interesting to note then that in the NYTimes article "From Short Order to Tall Order for Ducasse's New Protege" by Florence Fabricant Psaltis is quoted as saying "It was my idea. People are uptight when they walk into a Ducasse restaurant, and maybe this will loosen them up."

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Good catch, Andy.

Well, you can count me in on enjoying both ADNY and Mix, but I think it's atypical for people to focus so exclusively on food that they don't really care much about the other two thirds of the Zagat rating.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I just read the review, and I have to wonder what exactly Ducasse has done to piss off Grimes. Grimes panned ADNY, which I personally felt was ridiculous given the level of cuisine on offer. Grimes leads his Mix review with what strikes me as another personal assault on Ducasse. Has anyone on this board met Grimes? Does this guy have a banana in his tailpipe or what?

I have yet to try Mix. May do so today for lunch (if I can get in) and report back.

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I don't think it's personal per se (two points for every time you can use "per se" on the NY boards). I think what you see with Ducasse are a variety of important culinary-cultural issues coalescing around one easily identifiable villain.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I don't think it's personal per se (two points for every time you can use "per se" on the NY boards). I think what you see with Ducasse are a variety of important culinary-cultural issues coalescing around one easily identifiable villain.

Please elaborate on these important culinary-cultural issues. Is it French vis-a-vis (3 points for sure) American expectations of fine dining, or something more particular to Ducasse's individual style?

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We're only giving points for "per se."

I think the main issue is that Ducasse represents the corporatization of the restaurant business at the haute cuisine level -- he embodies that trend. It's the future. There's no avoiding it. And it's really just the natural extension of what chefs have always done combined with a higher-echelon understanding of management. But Ducasse is going to take the blame for every chef who doesn't stand around in a kitchen and pretend to cook, because he has been the most successful proponent of that model with his totally unapologetic attitude about it and his twelve Michelin stars or however many he has at this point.

Ducasse also represents pure commitment to excellence, which is mistaken for arrogance by most all the commentators. And the fact that he's French doesn't help, nor do his poor PR and English-language skills (which are poor throughout his organization, not just with respect to him). The guy could use a little help with spin.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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In a sense, it's great that talented chefs-de-cuisine like Doug Psaltis, Didier Elena, Jonathan Benno, Marco Canora, Alex Lee, Andrew Carmellini, et al., have been getting some well-deserved recognition in the press today. But there's a big difference between acknowledging their contributions and ignoring the fact that the chef at Mix and ADNY is Alain Ducasse, the chef at Per Se will be Thomas Keller, the chef at Craft is Tom Colicchio, and the chef at Daniel and Cafe Boulud is Daniel Boulud. Those are the people whose cuisines people are paying to eat. They're the ones who create the vision, the style of the food, and have the final say over the menu.

It's akin to naming the cutters and drapers for a collection (Armani, Versace, Lauren, Karen etc.)

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Yet wasn't it Grimes who so thoroughly ridiculed Douglas Rodriguez for naming every member of his staff on the menu? Clearly he's drawing a certain line here that falls in a different place -- we're probably talking about someone akin to the senior assistant designer rather than the cutter -- but still it's hard for me to fathom the sense in it.

Reading the review over, it rubs me the wrong way more and more. This attempt to split Psaltis and Ducasse -- it's not good for anyone and it makes no sense. I have to assume one of two things:

1) Grimes has some sort of special intimate knowledge of the Psaltis/Ducasse relationship that has not been made available to anyone else. He knows exactly how the dishes were developed and knows that Ducasse was somehow uninvolved and that there really is a Ducasse v. Psaltis dynamic.

or

2) Grimes fundamentally misunderstands what it is to be a chef and is imposing that misunderstanding on an audience that doesn't know better.

Well, I happen to know number 1 is bullshit. Psaltis and I aren't close friends, but I spent about an hour talking to him a couple of weeks ago and I spent a week with him in Ducasse's kitchen when he was a line cook at ADNY. I know how Ducasse operates, and Psaltis told the same story: Ducasse is the chef, he directs the operation, he generates the concept, he develops menu ideas with his team, he builds, tastes, refines, and approves every dish, every word on the menu, every decision about which fork and which glass to serve something in, etc. Psaltis is fiercely loyal to Ducasse and, like everybody else who works for Ducasse, knows who's in charge and why. And that's not to take anything away from Psaltis, or from any of the other great chefs-de-cuisine around the country who could easily be executive chefs at top restaurants. I mean, look at Katsuya Fukushima, the chef-de-cuisine at Cafe Atlantico under Jose Andres. There's no question in my mind that Kats could go to most any other restaurant in DC (excluding a couple of the real top performers), take over as executive chef, and make that restaurant better than it is under it current chef. But he instead chooses a true apprenticeship with someone who he believes to be the best or one of the best chefs practicing in America today. And she, like Psaltis and Benno and everybody else in this position, does so with eyes wide open: it's not their restaurant. They have creative input, they deserve a ton of credit, but I assure you there's not a single dish you'll ever eat at Cafe Atlantico that doesn't represent Jose Andres. His hand is in everything. And the same is true at Mix. Psaltis is an extremely talented guy, but Mix reflects Ducasse. I can guarantee you, when the day comes -- as it will for all these people -- to be an executive chef, the Psaltis restaurant will not offer a Mix-menu knockoff.

So I'm going with number 2 for now.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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You're a tough guy Christopher. I'm even less familiar with fashion design than I am with restaurant kitchens so I won't comment on how hard it is to replace a good cutter or draper, but a good chef de cuisine or even a sous is not that easy to replace and a replacement can make a difference in the food, but you're both right of course. Ducasse doesn't easily turn over the kitchen to any of his chefs until he's satisfied with the job they're doing and it's Ducasse's job they're doing. If the executive chef is creating, he's doing so to Ducasse's style and directions in closely overseen conditions. Ducasse gets the ultimate blame or credit.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I think the main issue is that Ducasse represents the corporatization of the restaurant business at the haute cuisine level -- he embodies that trend. It's the future. There's no avoiding it. And it's really just the natural extension of what chefs have always done combined with a higher-echelon understanding of management. But Ducasse is going to take the blame for every chef who doesn't stand around in a kitchen and pretend to cook, because he has been the most successful proponent of that model with his totally unapologetic attitude about it and his twelve Michelin stars or however many he has at this point.

But doesn't someone like Jean-Georges Vongerichten represent the same thing? And he seems to have a very good relationship with the NYT reviewers.

I always thought Ducasse's main problem coming into NYC, and which perhaps led to Grimes not liking him, was the general perception that he was "looking down" on New Yorkers and the NYC restaurant scene when he arrived. NYC can justifiably be counted among the very best restaurant cities in the world, and somehow the idea went around long before ADNY opened that Ducasse was of the opinion he would be gracing NYC diners with a level of cooking they had never seen before, and that to a certain extent he could get away with "cooking down to them" and yet still impress them with high prices and meaningless flourishes because he would be casting pearls before swine. I'm sure much of this was undeserved, but something must have happened to create that impression. Is Ducasse known to be arrogant and/or condescending?

--

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The New York Magazine review is out today, but the link on NYMetro.com isn't yet functioning. When it's up, somebody please post the link. Thanks.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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2) Grimes fundamentally misunderstands what it is to be a chef and is imposing that misunderstanding on an audience that doesn't know better.

I have no trouble accepting this as the case at hand. It's a pity that the Times shirks its duty to educate diners. This is not the only manifestation of that failure. Anyway, Grimes has often expressed disdain for chefs and the profession. I didn't understand why he was chosen to be a restaurant reviewer and I believe he's still learning how to dine, with the handicap of not really enjoying it. I don't sense he has the respect for the profession to develop the interest needed to understand what it is to be a chef. I suspect his audience not only doesn't know better, but doesn't really care all that much. My guess is that only a minority of eGullet members really care. This is not to say there are not a lot of people who care that much about what they eat, they just don't care that deeply.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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