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View Full Version : The Rise of Egotarian Cuisine



Chuckles
04-04-2014, 10:20 AM
Check out this article from GQ. It's a great take on the impact of young chef's practicing 'modern cooking'. Really good read. Here's a taste but follow the link for the whole article.

Something has gone wrong in our restaurant kitchens lately. Suddenly, a new breed of chefs seem to have decided that they should be cooking not for your pleasure but for their own. In this competitive, male-dominated school of cooking, the dishes that customers are served may be highly inventive and intelligent, but as Alan Richman notes, too often they are more self-indulgent than inspired. The result? Restaurants where the only person who needs to be pleased is never you, just the Something has gone wrong in our restaurant kitchens lately. Suddenly, a new breed of chefs seem to have decided that they should be cooking not for your pleasure but for their own. In this competitive, male-dominated school of cooking, the dishes that customers are served may be highly inventive and intelligent, but as Alan Richman notes, too often they are more self-indulgent than inspired. The result? Restaurants where the only person who needs to be pleased is never you, just the chef.


http://www.gq.com/life/food/201403/alan-richman-dude-food?currentPage=1

jared08
04-04-2014, 01:45 PM
Great read. There is a happy medium where old and new can coexist. But right now. Egos are deffinitly too big and getting the best of a select few.

JDA_NC
04-04-2014, 03:20 PM
First off, is anyone else sick and tired of this gender obsession in food media? It's getting ridiculous. I have nothing against working with female cooks or for female Chefs, but one of the things that's attractive about working in a kitchen is that it's all about performance. If you can do the job and have the results to show for it, that's what matters - not your education, your background, or how you look or talk. There's this weird push in media that we somehow NEED more women in professional kitchens. Why? And 90% of the time, these people supporting this agenda don't work in kitchens and most likely have never spent any serious time doing so.

That aside, there were a lot of good points in the article. It's crazy just how many restaurants seem concerned with (for lack of a better phrase) putting their d--- on a plate. The attitude doesn't just affect diners but also trickles down into the attitude of the staff and how they treat people in general. A lot of folks seem to lose sight of the fact that this is the hospitality business. I do this to make people happy and give them an enjoyable experience. Not to show off with the prettiest plate-ups or just how locally all of their product is sourced. As a young cook I want to work in kitchens that push and excite me, but I don't ever want to work in a restaurant that acts like people should be grateful that they get to eat there - it should be the other way around.

I recently staged at a restaurant where the staff (and Chef) loudly complained about things like a 10 top at 8 o'clock. Or when a table asked for substitutions, the remarked that they should go eat at another, less fancy restaurant down the street serving the same type of cuisine. They also all used horrible, dull house knives that they constantly ran through the dish machine (which I never saw even when I worked in chain restaurants)... but that's another story. I spent a few days checking things out there and they never did over 40 covers. When I first interviewed with the Chef, he made a remark about how their town was 'actually lucky to have a restaurant like [theirs]'. What?! It was one of the weirdest experiences I've ever had.

apathetic
04-04-2014, 05:08 PM
That was a interesting article, thanks for sharing.

CoqaVin
04-04-2014, 08:13 PM
Ego's galore. It is not about cooking anymore. It is about ego's. Sad thing happening these days.

Namaxy
04-04-2014, 08:55 PM
Completely true Juxtaposition: Late 70's on a trip to NYC my grandfather takes our family to Lutece. My sister is only 7. Without any fanfare they bring her a slice of onion tart...only without onions....just bacon and a little cheese. Then spaetzle with butter for the main course. No issues.

Fast forward to today. My wife and I take our 10 and 8 year old to a tiny restaurant in Lenox which bills itself as a 'creative American Pasta Bar'. Three of us order from the menu. For my 8 year old I ask the server to pick whatever pasta is convenient, and bring it with just olive oil or butter. Response was...'I'm sorry, Chef doesn't accept alterations.'

jared08
04-05-2014, 12:09 AM
I was really expecting more discussion on this hot topic..

Chuckles
04-05-2014, 12:46 AM
The article talks about the types of restaurants often popping up and closing quickly. This is because they are not run like businesses. If the chef is a brash egotist then there needs to be a strong personality that can advocate for the guest. Chefs also need someone that they trust that feels comfortable telling them when they have gone too far. Editing is crucial to all creative endeavors. When a self confident creative person is surrounded by intimidated enablers in an environment where there are no creative boundaries or limits the focus and clarity of ideas is easily diffused. More important than an aptitude for inventive cuisine is an ability to build a team. A chef needs people with talent to execute the menu and at least one person with the strength to say 'stop being an a$$hole and make the fu@&ing buttered noodles for the kid.' If no one is allowed to speak truth to power you are not a chef, you are Caligula.

eshua
04-05-2014, 02:13 AM
One of my favorite spots has a menu that reads: "Any modifications will be polity refused."

Its a tiny line, two guys put out plates for 40 seats, the ticket times and quality are better for it.

Most places can't get away with it, but it's not ego. Its not "I know better".

60%+ of my tickets have special requests, and we do a significantly worse job like that. That's not to say there are not lots of drunken narcissist around. Just better examples of our work.

marc4pt0
04-05-2014, 05:16 AM
I think it's funny that, albeit a very real/true topic, this piece was written in the same fashion he was lamenting about. I 100% agree with what he is saying, but this new un-edited style doesn't just stop here in the food world, it's everywhere. Especially in this author's fluidless speed bump riddled commentary. The irony, for me, was just too hard to resist mentioning.

When I took on my current position it meant that I would be leaving the county to return to the city. I recall one of my concerns being that I wasn't even remotely close to being hip enough to be a chef in the city these days. I'm like the antithesis to this in fact. It still makes me chuckle when I think about it, and the reality is even more humorous in that I find myself wanting to be one of the hip sometimes. I will actually catch myself in the middle of planning a dish or dishes that are too trendy, designed (subconsciously) to impress other chef's when they come by. That's when I pinch myself to remind me that other chefs do not, will not pay the bills. Their support is always welcomed, but it's the 1000's of guests in general that I need to like me, not the hand full of fellow professional cooks. So I will serve buttered pasta, always.
I will always explore foods through creativity as well, but not in this selfish "I thought of this, not you, therefore I am obviously deeper in my own tattooed angst then you" mentality. (I have absolutely nothing against tattoos, just to be clear)

TheDispossessed
04-05-2014, 07:45 AM
I generally found the article agreeable. When i first started cooking, I was really wowed by beautiful and complicated food. I still have a ton of respect for that side of the craft, and the people who push the boundaries. That said, I've learned it's not how i like to eat, and often times it's not what a neighborhood wants or needs. My passion for cooking came from the simple food served in my household. I like to make people happy with delicious food and I am not too concerned with impressing anyone.
Young people now are apt to create 'scenes' hipsterish worlds of exclusivity and too-coolness that tend to suck the life out of the craft they claim to uphold. Whether it's food that's uninspired, music you can't dance to, art that is meaningless and unmoving. What con you do? Hopefully a bigger percentage of young chefs in the next few generations will just want to make delicious and sometimes not the prettiest or fussiest food.
Also, it's just a labor issue too. In my restaurant, we can't afford to have 5 guys anymore to make plates for a 40 seat restaurant, so we had to ditch the 12 component dishes and what not.

Chuckles
04-05-2014, 08:48 AM
Right now I am working hard on austerity and restraint in my dishes. It's more about what I can leave off and still get the point accross. When the article says chef's tell their story through food I couldn't help picturing my 'food story'. It is me sitting on my couch at 2:00am surrounded by cookbooks and empty beers just pounding my head on the coffee table.

Salty dog
04-05-2014, 10:44 AM
I think he nailed it.

There was a time I wanted to be the greatest Chef in the country. Then I grew up.

Chuckles
04-05-2014, 01:20 PM
It is a good point concerning the maturation process.

Before I started cooking a sang opera. I was young and lucky to have some great opportunities to perform with people much more experienced and polished than I was. While my directors, conductors and castmates may have recognized that I was performing at a high level for my age, I am pretty sure the majority of the audience members just thought I was being blown out of the water by the other singers on the stage. Had I stuck with it I would just now be able to keep up with the more mature performers.

Likewise in cooking. Twenty something chefs can take risks and push boundaries. Often then, after realizing how hard it is to run a restaurant they take a step back grow up a bit and begin making the food they will be remembered for. For example I have four line cooks right now that were running kitchens before coming on board with me.

I am all for younger people finding there voice. Hell, that's what I am doing. It is just hard to overlook that chefs have 50 plus person payrolls attached to all of their stepping stones.

Salty dog
04-05-2014, 01:48 PM
It kind of relates to a conversation I had last night. An associate of mine was looking for a way to describe our restaurant and business. I gave her the same answer I always give when quizzed about this business in general, "to meet and ideally exceed the customers expectations".

It's no secret.

marc4pt0
04-05-2014, 01:55 PM
Right now I am working hard on austerity and restraint in my dishes. It's more about what I can leave off and still get the point accross. When the article says chef's tell their story through food I couldn't help picturing my 'food story'. It is me sitting on my couch at 2:00am surrounded by cookbooks and empty beers just pounding my head on the coffee table.


It kind of relates to a conversation I had last night. An associate of mine was looking for a way to describe our restaurant and business. I gave her the same answer I always give when quizzed about this business in general, "to meet and ideally exceed the customers expectations".

It's no secret.

Two really big thumbs up in agreement here

mr drinky
04-05-2014, 11:45 PM
When I sober up, I am going to read this article.

k.

CoqaVin
04-06-2014, 08:33 AM
Simplicity, a lot of people over think everything

Zerob
04-06-2014, 09:24 PM
I feel that there's been too many new restaurants with gimmicks and buzz words; truffle this, pork belly that, organic, siracha. I've been to restaurants that cost hundreds a person, but at the end of the day, the food I remember best is one that's a hole in the wall who just makes simple, good food. They're the one who's been around since my parents time and mine and hopefully my children's.

I bbq a lot and always laugh at the BBQ spice rubs that advertised something like 20 different spices. It's like putting a sauce on a steak, but the best steaks just need some salt and pepper.

There are defiantly a new breed of chefs who've watched too food network and like to overcomplicate dishes for their egos and as a gimmick, but at the end of the day, most people wouldn't actually know the difference.

Chuckles
04-07-2014, 01:05 AM
"The better one understands and is able to define an intricate framework of limitations the greater is the freedom lent one's creative imagination." Richard Olney

"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is the sign of perfection." Curnonsky

gavination
04-07-2014, 07:28 PM
I think it's funny that, albeit a very real/true topic, this piece was written in the same fashion he was lamenting about. I 100% agree with what he is saying, but this new un-edited style doesn't just stop here in the food world, it's everywhere. Especially in this author's fluidless speed bump riddled commentary. The irony, for me, was just too hard to resist mentioning.
I'm glad you said it. Otherwise I was going to. I couldn't figure out what the author was actually trying to convey half the time. What a terrible writer. Hard stops and short sentences with new paragraphs doesn't add emphasis or artistic flare. It just makes for a terrible reading experience. Damn hipsters. :D

That aside, part of the problem exists with the public and the media as well. S*** like this gets idolized by morons on Yelp who think their opinion matters because they dine out once a month as well as hipster publications. Some loosely apply to this term. This kind of "food", if you can call it that, persists because people will rant and fawn over it. They love it because they want to love it - not because it's actually any good. They feel that society will approve of them more if they jump on the bandwagon. It's amazing what people will convince themselves of as well as lie about.

A radio station did a bit a few months ago regarding "new bands" and interviewed concert goers at a festival. These mock-up names ran the gamut from toilet humor to the most outrageous, non-sensical puns so as to be obviously fabricated. Sure enough, people made comments about how great their albums were and which songs were their favorites. They even attempted to give well-thought out critiques about their lyrical direction. Silly, silly human nature.

Bad food and bad service seem to go hand in hand. At least in Portland. I'm sure elsewhere too. People love it. They rave about how "authentic" the poor Italian service was. People want to be cool and hipster food with hipster service are hot right now with certain parts of the population. It's trending. Or at least that's what Twitter told me. ;)

chefbolchoz
04-25-2014, 01:18 PM
First off, is anyone else sick and tired of this gender obsession in food media? It's getting ridiculous. I have nothing against working with female cooks or for female Chefs, but one of the things that's attractive about working in a kitchen is that it's all about performance. If you can do the job and have the results to show for it, that's what matters - not your education, your background, or how you look or talk. There's this weird push in media that we somehow NEED more women in professional kitchens. Why? And 90% of the time, these people supporting this agenda don't work in kitchens and most likely have never spent any serious time doing so.

That aside, there were a lot of good points in the article. It's crazy just how many restaurants seem concerned with (for lack of a better phrase) putting their d--- on a plate. The attitude doesn't just affect diners but also trickles down into the attitude of the staff and how they treat people in general. A lot of folks seem to lose sight of the fact that this is the hospitality business. I do this to make people happy and give them an enjoyable experience. Not to show off with the prettiest plate-ups or just how locally all of their product is sourced. As a young cook I want to work in kitchens that push and excite me, but I don't ever want to work in a restaurant that acts like people should be grateful that they get to eat there - it should be the other way around.

I recently staged at a restaurant where the staff (and Chef) loudly complained about things like a 10 top at 8 o'clock. Or when a table asked for substitutions, the remarked that they should go eat at another, less fancy restaurant down the street serving the same type of cuisine. They also all used horrible, dull house knives that they constantly ran through the dish machine (which I never saw even when I worked in chain restaurants)... but that's another story. I spent a few days checking things out there and they never did over 40 covers. When I first interviewed with the Chef, he made a remark about how their town was 'actually lucky to have a restaurant like [theirs]'. What?! It was one of the weirdest experiences I've ever had.

Hundred percent agree with your first point I do not understand it. Also, just reading your last two points was a great reminder of what service is and how it is supposed to be, thanks for the kick in the pants

Salty dog
04-25-2014, 11:47 PM
the douche bag sounds like me.

NO ChoP!
04-26-2014, 09:12 AM
At our club we had a daily chef's whim and a fresh catch of the day. It got to the point where that is all that sold. So in response to this we scrapped the seasonal menu and have gone with a daily chalkboard menu, in which we've had great success. It has allowed me to do some really fun things, and my crew has become much more enthusiastic and stronger.

A member once told my executive that she could make the dish she had at home. For some reason, this stuck with him, and he pushed me to do things that weren't my style. Turning spring pea and watercress into a minted pea gelee using gelitin and agar just left a bad taste in mouth. It was like green pudding cubes!

The success of the chalkboard menu, being soley my brainwork has been vindication.

Umberto
05-24-2014, 05:04 PM
I think chefs have every right to make fixed menu's without substitutions. My boss will make specialty dishes if a customer asks and he has the ingredients. I do believe the key to good food is not necessarily making pretty ornate plates, but utilize smaller menu's with seasonal product and offer contrasting tastes. Easier said than done, much easier said than done.