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Fat Guy

Smoking and Dogs in Restaurants

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In the US you hardly ever see smoking in restaurants anymore. You also rarely see dogs, except at some outdoor cafes. In France, you see smoking and dogs in the dining rooms of even Michelin three-star restaurants.

I'm interested, how do people feel about these two phenomena?

Dogs don't bother me at all, so long as they behave. In fact I find it hard to imagine what rationale the boards of health of pretty much every city in America use to prohibit dogs in dining rooms (even though they allow guide dogs, which, needless to say, are dogs). In a nation where 39 percent of households have at least one dog (according to APPMA), this prohibition seems puzzling (I don't know what percentage of French households have dogs). I suppose some people are allergic to pets, but I've never heard that offered as the reason for a ban.

We discussed smoking here before, but it was when the site had only a few dozen members and I doubt many of the current members have seen the thread. It was also never discussed within the larger context I'm trying to present here. So I'm bringing it up again.

Smoking bothers me a lot. I firmly believe people have the right to smoke, and I indulge in the occasional cigar, but I find that being in a restaurant near people who are smoking significantly diminishes my enjoyment of a meal. It seems to me that from a gastronomic/oenological perspective it's abundantly clear that smoke inhibits our ability to taste and smell -- and therefore appreciate -- fine food and wine.

At the same time, I can't help thinking that there is some conclusion to be drawn about French tolerance and lack of neo-puritanical inhibition from the dual issues of smoking and dogs. If there's one thing I hate more than smoke being blown in my face during a three-star meal, it's joyless hysterical American smoke-haters. I admire very much the French zest for life and prioritization of pleasure, even if it is accompanied by an addiction to bureaucracy and inefficiency.

Approximately 28 percent of Americans smoke, by the way, according to the Surgeon General. Again I don't know the number in France.


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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Fascinating observation Steven--how could any serious contender for gastronomic capital of the world allow smoking in their temples?


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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First, I do not approve of dogs or babies in places where smoking is allowed.

Klc asks a question always in the back of many minds. The French are heavy smokers as a nation. Many great chefs smoke and some very highly respected restaurants in Paris pride themselves on the cigars they offer for sale to their clients. (Michel Bras, by the way, requests his guests not to smoke in the dining room.) I know one chef whose taste buds seemed well above average to me at the time he was a heavy smoker. Nevertheless, he quit upon the urging of a new girlfriend. Sometime after he quit, he said food tasted different. He found that food had a greater depth of flavor and that the flavors were far more complex. It's possible to enjoy food under handicapped conditions, I'm just not sure why anyone would want to do so. I see fewer and fewer people smoking in fine restaurants even in France. I often put up with smoke in bars, cafes and bistros in Paris, but I can deal far more easily with the short potentail health risk and discomfort than I can with the idea that a hundred dollar meal and accompanying wine will be ruined, even to a small degree. I have avoided some fine restaurants because I have been told cigar smoking is encouraged.


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 oonce came across a smoking dog in a country Pub, it had fallen asleep in front of a log fire and his long hair was singeing.

I'm a none smoker aand am fore bans in places where Ihave no option but to go, such as work, however, Pubs/Restaurants are not compulsory, if you don't like it don't go there. For what its worth life is improved by both, although as Ihave said I have neither.

Regards

Phil

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People are as free to chose their place of employment as they are to choose where to eat. In any event, as bartenders and waiters work in pubs and restaurants, these are their work places.Why an office worker should have privileges not offered to a restaurant worker is beyond me.

I do not approve of smoking dogs, but I'll bet the PETA folk outdo me on this one.


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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France is a nation heavily committed to smoking, and will probably ban restaurants rather than be forced (by the EEC) to have no smoking in restaurants :)

I'm an ex-smoker, but I totally support free choice on the matter. When I smoked, I would never light a cigarette in a restaurant without asking the diners at adjacent tables "Would you prefer that I don't smoke?". (The question "Do you object to my smoking" is unsatisfactory, because it almost demands a polite answer of "NO" ).  Actually, if tables were close together, I just wouldn't smoke anyway.

I'm entirely happy with the current norm in the USA and UK to have separated smoking/non areas, and now that I'm a non-smoker I won't sit in a smoking area, because I just don't enjoy the food as much.

In Cyprus recently, I went into a smart restaurant, was conducted to a table and asked the maitre d' "Is this smoking or non-smoking?". He shrugged his shoulders :)

On the subject of dogs in restaurants, I have no problems in principle, but I can understand non-dog-lovers objecting on the basis that the dog might have fleas, or be unclean. My view of that is that a human being might equally qualify under either condition :)

And Bux, I entirely agree with you. In Australia, new legislation does offer bar/restaurant workers the same rights as office workers. That will spread to the UK and USA within  a few years, I guess.

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Smoking and dogs...

We had dinner at a small place in Paris a few years ago, and happened to sit next to a French couple and their daughter. We chatted a bit, and noticed the shopping bag on the banquette between mom and daughter was moving. Eventually a mini-terrier head emerged from the bag, was given a scrap of meat, and retreated.

After they realized we were fine with the dog, he emerged, sat between the two, and became the center of attention. He sampled some of what we had, and what his family had.

The maitre d' came out and said a few words to the husband, who whispered something to the wife. She said to us "We must all leave immediately, the kitchen is on fire. " We left by one aisle, they left by the other, as the pompeurs arrived. No public announcement was made, but hordes of people immediately emerged...


Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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Rail Paul, that was a superb, on-topic post. ;)


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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