Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

TDG: Diet-ribe


Recommended Posts

Andrew Levinsky is fed up with formula food -- even if it's made from the very best of ingredients:

It's difficult to make an heirloom tomato, a sparklingly fresh oyster, or a perfectly ripe wedge of Brie taste bad. The question is whether the ability to source great foodstuffs qualifies one as America's greatest chef or merely its most skillful shopper . . . whenever you hear the old saw that 90% of being a good cook is the ability to procure the best ingredients, (and the other 10% is the sense not to mess them up), chances are you're speaking with someone else who gets paid to eat . . .

Check out Andy's rant . . .

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Be sure to check The Daily Gullet home page daily for new articles (most every weekday), hot topics, site announcements, and more.

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

Eat more chicken skin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting article. Some of those supposedly 'over the top heaps of food' from the beginning actually sound pretty good to me, but then again, I have little experience with very high-end fancy cuisine, so it could just be the factor of exoticism.

At the same time Strawberries, brown sugar, and cream certainly qualifies as a dessert in my book. Anything can be a dessert, entre, appetizer, whatever, as long as that is what the chef calls it. It doesn't necessarily make it a good dessert, or one worth the price placed upon it by the menu, but it is still a dessert. I would personally never pay $37 for four scallops and lemon juice, if I want fresh scallops I go to a seaside stand or something of the sort where they get them right out of the ocean and I will pay a 10th of the price. However, if someone who is going to that restaurant wants scallops badly enough and is willing to pay that price for them, what is wrong with that?

A Restaurant will succeed if what they offer is what the customers want, so, if the customers of a given area want to pay out of the rear end for strawberries and scallops, let them.

Imagination and creativity in food are all well and good, but for my money, I just want something that tastes good for a good price.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have nothing against the dog's-dinner approach (everything on a plate). It's just that, in the hands of unskilled practitioners – and they are many – the penchant for excess often produces less-than-appetizing results. My favorite example of this (and my apologies to those of you who may already have heard my rant): a local overly-championed restaurant offered, as an appetizer, a potato pancake topped with a crabcake topped with a slice of seared foie gras topped with mango salsa. Now that's just wrong.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just yesterday I saw a bowl of strawberries in the dessert menu at the restaurant where I ate lunch. I ordered the profiteroles with chocolate sauce, basically for the reasons you noted in your piece, I tend to order things that normally don't come out of my own kitchen at home. We have strawberries for dessert all the time! But as I overheard the discussion at the next table I wondered if I should have ordered the strawberries. They were really enjoying them.

Nice piece, I hope to see more. :smile:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That article really makes me think. My wife tells me that I am "black and white" when it comes to a lot of issues, food being the biggest one. As a young chef, it has been really frustrating to witness good restaurants get by with ordering food (mostly produce) from all parts of the world, put every ingredient that arrived that day on a plate, and sell it for a big price. Therefore I would lean more toward the idea of procuring (sp) the finest, local ingredients and unbasterdising (is that a word?) them. Chef's hold a certain responsibility to the dining public to search for the best raw ingredients and relay its natural flavor to the plate, then to the palate. Call it laziness, or lack of passion, or lack of training; either way, the mix-jumble-mess of food that some chef's offer makes me long for a fresh strawberry, dipped in sour cream and then brown sugar. :biggrin:

Edited by chefdg (log)

"He could blanch anything in the fryolator and finish it in the microwave or under the salamander. Talented guy."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"The question is whether the ability to source great foodstuffs qualifies one as

America's greatest chef or merely its most skillful shopper."

Can anyone answer this?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"The question is whether the ability to source great foodstuffs qualifies one as

America's greatest chef or merely its most skillful shopper."

Can anyone answer this?

Well, the chef still has to manage to prepare these ingredients in an appetizing way. Even using the simplest preparations it is possible to make Kobe beef dry and tough, or to take a free range chicken and roast it in such a manner that it comes out flavorless.

Having great ingredients certainly makes it easier, but the chef still has to have some skill. Skillfull shopping should be a prerequisite for being a wonderful chef, if a chef can procur the finest ingredients, and recognize them as such, I will always prefer his or her food over another chef who may be technically more proficient but who has to try to hide the defects in his/her ingredients.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think being a chef also involves both procurement and doing things the right way once the food is in the restaurant.

Given the same pristine ingredients one chef can make a meal at their restaurant feel like eating off of the produce bins at a farmers market (which can be agood thing, but not what you want in a restaurant). Another chef can do just enough to the same ingredients to make them more than the sum of their parts.

There is a place for both the simple and the complex in the food world.

Bill Russell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Did anyone catch the food networks show about Morimoto's new restaurant in Philly? The show was called "Morimoto Raw" and the emphasis was on the finest raw ingredients simply prepared. The biggest seller of opening night to everyone's surprise was the fluke carpaccio. This supports the idea of ingredients over manipulation.

"He could blanch anything in the fryolator and finish it in the microwave or under the salamander. Talented guy."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Did anyone catch the food networks show about Morimoto's new restaurant in Philly? The show was called "Morimoto Raw" and the emphasis was on the finest raw ingredients simply prepared. The biggest seller of opening night to everyone's surprise was the fluke carpaccio. This supports the idea of ingredients over manipulation.

There has been some discussion of Morimoto's rest. in this thread.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with Andrew's point that the "less is more" approach has become something of a formula repeated endlessly in upscale dining rooms around the country. One unfortunate upshot is that you can easily find yourself dropping $100 on dinner for two, for food you can pretty much cook at home. Heirloom tomato salads, braised short ribs and strawberries? I don't need talented cooks doing things that I do in my own kitchen, I need them to do things I can't.

Sometimes I wonder if the trend is so wide-spread because, as with a lot of pasta/Italian places, you can get by with a pretty thin bench in the kitchen. You don't have to have staged with Ducasse to slice tomatoes or boil pasta, so the chef doesn't have to spend time hunting down highly skilled, expensive help and risk losing them to a competitor or their own venture after only a short time.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My two cents: maybe part of the problem is that some of those "chefs" haven't eaten enough good food to know when to gussy something up and when to leave it alone. They just have not developed their own palates before they start "creating." And maybe they don't know the classics, or don't want to know them, but feel they have to be "self-taught creative." Which requires a hell of a lot of tasting and analyzing before one is ready to even consider trying that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with Suzanne. When I go into a restaurant I want someone else to balance the plate for me. Someone with more experience than I have. That I'm willing to pay for, even if it is something simple.

This is artistry. The chef does need to add something creative to the balance and the presentation that I couldn't add myself or I am going to get very bored with the menu. I might go once or twice, but I won't be tempted to go to a restaurant without that creativity very often.

I think Vivenne Westwood said that design is like walking a tightrope, one step beyond genuis is absurdity and it's mighty easy to fall off. This goes for food too in my mind. A chef has to risk absuridity to do something amazing, but the truly great ones are experienced enough at the balance not to fall off the tight rope.

What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?

-Dad

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Counterintuitive as it may sound, I have found that the food is not necessarily how I choose a restaurant. Some great food in SF is only available in places where the service or environment cause me stress. SF has a TON of great food; the trick is finding the restaurants that provide as much pleasure as the skill of their kitchen staffs.

As to what I order -- I tend to pick things I don't cook at home much, if at all. Duck. Gnocchi. Anything in a mushroom reduction. Hand-made pasta. Oysters -- yes, oysters, because I can't open them. What seems simple to one person may not be simple to another.

It's funny because I went out recently to Boulevard, had a fantastic meal (foie gras, Kobe beef, asparagus, I could go on) that was a very special occasion. A friend unexpectedly took me out the next night to a place where I had a tomato salad and roast chicken. It was very simple but well-cooked. Honestly, if they'd had a bowl of strawberries on the dessert menu, I might have gone for it. I was still kind of full from the night before, the thought of another complex meal was unappealing. I know that more and more people eat out several times a week. Maybe this is partially to blame for "radical simplicity."

Ingrid

My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...
Interesting article. Some of those supposedly 'over the top heaps of food' from the beginning actually sound pretty good to me, but then again, I have little experience with very high-end fancy cuisine, so it could just be the factor of exoticism.

At the same time Strawberries, brown sugar, and cream certainly qualifies as a dessert in my book. Anything can be a dessert, entre, appetizer, whatever, as long as that is what the chef calls it. It doesn't necessarily make it a good dessert, or one worth the price placed upon it by the menu, but it is still a dessert. I would personally never pay $37 for four scallops and lemon juice, if I want fresh scallops I go to a seaside stand or something of the sort where they get them right out of the ocean and I will pay a 10th of the price. However, if someone who is going to that restaurant wants scallops badly enough and is willing to pay that price for them, what is wrong with that?

A Restaurant will succeed if what they offer is what the customers want, so, if the customers of a given area want to pay out of the rear end for strawberries and scallops, let them.

Imagination and creativity in food are all well and good, but for my money, I just want something that tastes good for a good price.

Gee, you sound a little unpretentious to me. We'll have to work on that!

I think you're 100% right that simple, fresh food can be delicious, and if you're really paying a tenth of the price, more power to you. My problem is with the places that charge $37 for an entree of four "naked" scallops. Sure, they are entitled to charge anything diners will pay for it, but personally, that's where I consider it a rip-off. If you're going to charge big money, don't just buy great ingredients; make a great dish I couldn't make at home. Don't you think?...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have nothing against the dog's-dinner approach (everything on a plate). It's just that, in the hands of unskilled practitioners – and they are many – the penchant for excess often produces less-than-appetizing results. My favorite example of this (and my apologies to those of you who may already have heard my rant): a local overly-championed restaurant offered, as an appetizer, a potato pancake topped with a crabcake topped with a slice of seared foie gras topped with mango salsa. Now that's just wrong.

I couldn't agree more. In the hands of an unskilled chef, the simpler, the better. I just recall some really odd-sounding combinations that worked because the chef understood how tastes meld--and if we're paying for an artist, shouldn't we be getting one?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just yesterday I saw a bowl of strawberries in the dessert menu at the restaurant where I ate lunch. I ordered the profiteroles with chocolate sauce, basically for the reasons you noted in your piece, I tend to order things that normally don't come out of my own kitchen at home. We have strawberries for dessert all the time! But as I overheard the discussion at the next table I wondered if I should have ordered the strawberries. They were really enjoying them.

Nice piece, I hope to see more. :smile:

How about some strawberries WITH your profiteroles? I'm a big believer that fruit is a component of a desert, not a desert.

If I saw diners enjoying a dish of strawberries more than my desert, I wouldn't ask about their pastry chef; I'd ask about where they do their shopping. Something about that just seems wrong.

Thanks for your feedback :smile:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That article really makes me think. My wife tells me that I am "black and white" when it comes to a lot of issues, food being the biggest one. As a young chef, it has been really frustrating to witness good restaurants get by with ordering food (mostly produce) from all parts of the world, put every ingredient that arrived that day on a plate, and sell it for a big price. Therefore I would lean more toward the idea of procuring (sp) the finest, local ingredients and unbasterdising (is that a word?) them. Chef's hold a certain responsibility to the dining public to search for the best raw ingredients and relay its natural flavor to the plate, then to the palate. Call it laziness, or lack of passion, or lack of training; either way, the mix-jumble-mess of food that some chef's offer makes me long for a fresh strawberry, dipped in sour cream and then brown sugar. :biggrin:

Why does it have to be either/or? Can't we expect excellent ingredients AND unique, skillful preparations that involve more than a simple saute? As a chef, you're the expert, and from what I've read, your peers tend to agree with you. But from a diner's perspective, I can tell you I want something more.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"The question is whether the ability to source great foodstuffs qualifies one as

    America's greatest chef or merely its most skillful shopper."

  Can anyone answer this?

Well, the chef still has to manage to prepare these ingredients in an appetizing way. Even using the simplest preparations it is possible to make Kobe beef dry and tough, or to take a free range chicken and roast it in such a manner that it comes out flavorless.

Having great ingredients certainly makes it easier, but the chef still has to have some skill. Skillfull shopping should be a prerequisite for being a wonderful chef, if a chef can procur the finest ingredients, and recognize them as such, I will always prefer his or her food over another chef who may be technically more proficient but who has to try to hide the defects in his/her ingredients.

You raise an excellent point: even great ingredients are no assurance of a great dish. It is perfectly possible to mask a great simple taste. I'm not suggesting overkill is never a problem. I just happen to believe that it shouldn't be either/or. The ingredients are the foundation. As far as I'm concerned, a truly skillful chef should be able to do something that will allow me to experience the components in a whole new way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that a bowl of strawberries is a perfect dessert, and that sometimes we are so busy looking for something complicated that we forget the true beauty of the ingredients themselves. It is great we are reminded that a strawberry is sweet and taste the sun that has nurtured it. I personally would NEVER pay 37 dollars for 4 scallops, but I do like the simplicity of the dish, and would remind myself that at home I can prepare something so simple, pure and delicious. I am a little bit of the Alice Waters school of thought. But I also like to experience something that has taken an artist to create, and could not be duplicated. But I still would not pay 37 dollars for 4 scallops, even if they were "fussy food".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i don't know...i love scallops. i might pay $37 for them - it would depend on a lot of other factors. if i'm in a very expensive restaurant - that's just kind of what they cost. maybe the "right" thing to order is beef a regular person can't acquire - or something more classically illustrative of a chef's skill.

for me ambiance, quality, service and skill combine to make the meal. i would expect 4 pristine dayboat scallops for $37 to knock my socks off - but i love that suspension of disbelief while waiting for my food. and maybe i could make those scallops at home - but i bet there was a cucumber emulsion or dusting of black salt that made the chef decide it merited a spot on the menu. i also have no problems eating something out that i could make at home. it inspires me to reach in my own cooking - beyond what i've been served or moves me to try new flavor/seasoning combinations. :smile:

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with Andrew's point that the "less is more" approach has become something of a formula repeated endlessly in upscale dining rooms around the country.  One unfortunate upshot is that you can easily find yourself dropping $100 on dinner for two, for food you can pretty much cook at home.  Heirloom tomato salads, braised short ribs and strawberries?  I don't need talented cooks doing things that I do in my own kitchen, I need them to do things I can't.

Sometimes I wonder if the trend is so wide-spread because, as with a lot of pasta/Italian places, you can get by with a pretty thin bench in the kitchen.  You don't have to have staged with Ducasse to slice tomatoes or boil pasta, so the chef doesn't have to spend time hunting down highly skilled, expensive help and risk losing them to a competitor or  their own venture after only a short time.

I agree 100%. I live in a relatively hick part of the US - but even I can get superb raspberries this time of year. And my husband makes great whipped cream. So why would I want to pay money to eat this at a restaurant?

I can also do the "pasta" thing - with stuff like fresh homemade pesto (all you need is fresh basil - a few common ingredients - and a food processor). Or tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

When I go to a high end restaurant and spend big money - I want something I would never in a million years think of making myself - something that would take me forever to make - even if I dared to try - something that looks beautiful - and tastes delicious. Something I can look at and eat and say - this person is 1000 times more talented than I am. Otherwise - what's the point of eating out (on the high end)?

By the way - I kind of disagree on the short ribs - because the last time I ate them was at Le Cirque 2000. Not only were the ribs exquisite - but they took the marrow out of the ribs - combined it with some other stuff (who knows what it was?) - and stuffed it back into the ribs. The ribs were wonderful but I could have eaten about a pint of that marrow. Note that at this same meal - I had fruit sorbet for dessert. Sounds boring - but each of the 4 or 5 sorbets was a perfect tromp l'oeil of the fruit. The plate was both delicious - and gorgeous. A real knockout. Robyn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Good morning, Foodblog!

Helenjp tagged me yesterday afternoon from across the Pacific, so the Foodblog has now landed in California. First, I would like the thank all the previous bloggers who gave us a window into their kitchens and demonstrated so many amazing kinds of food. I have really enjoyed reading them. This blog is going to be a little more, well, Studs Turkel. For one thing, my wife and I went shopping yesterday, so anything I'm going to eat until Saturday morning is going to come from what's already in the kitchen and pantry. So you have my word that, no matter how tempting it is to "embellish" one's normal meals for the eGullet crowd, this is what I would have eaten even if I weren't blogging. At least until Saturday. Then I shop again and the plan is to load up on the foie gras and caviar and hold an Iron Chef tournament in the backyard. :biggrin:

We've been cleaning all day yesterday, so I haven't had a chance to prepare a bio, but here's the barest sketch. I'm a 26-year-old computer programmer in Livermore, CA, about fifty miles east of San Francisco. I mention my job because my employer doesn't allow cameras on site. That means I'll have to photograph my lunch (I brown bag) in the morning and post on "tape delay." Hopefully this will be more tolerable than the Sydney Olympics broadcasts. I've only been cooking since 1998 or so, but I'm learning. I lean toward French and Italian in general, but I'll try anything once.

Without further ado, breakfast:

7:10 AM

I wish I had time to make a more substantial breakfast, but this is what I typically have on weekdays.

i9340.jpgi9341.jpg

i9337.jpg

The first bowl is "Barbara's Grain Shop," a whole grain (hey, corn is a grain, sorta) cereal with lots of fiber. It's the best tasting high-fiber cereal I've had. The second is a favorite of U.S. kids, Lucky Charms. It's practically the anti-Grain Shop, heavily advertised and full of sugar-coated puffs and what they call "marshmallows," which have almost nothing to do with real marshmallows except being full of sugar and gelatin. Whatever you call them, they taste good, especially when soaked with milk. Finally, a bowl of Cheerios, a toasted puffed oat cereal. Oh, the milk is 1%.

OK, that's it for breakfast. See you at lunch.

Walt

Walt Nissen -- Livermore, CA
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...