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Opinionated Abut Dining Survey

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December 12, 2007

Comments

Luxeat

Hi Steve,

thanks for such a detailed review. Maybe i was not lucky that night, but my dinner in WD-50 recently was very disappointing http://www.luxeat.com/my_weblog/2007/12/wd50--the-prize.html ... Maybe the dishes were creative, but nothing was delicious... I agree that cooking is art and even science(and i am the first in line for expermental cuisine), but ultimately it has to taste good.
Anyway, i am glad that you enjoyed it!!!

Best

Aiste

Steve Plotnicki

Hey Aiste maybe you need to eat there with me next time :)

chef4cook

Steve,
While I agree with keeping a dish or dishes that are classics. I also understand getting tired of doing a dish. After a while, you just get bored with looking at it and, you reach a point where it's just time to go! from a chef's point of view.

Steve Plotnicki

You should tell that to Heston Blumenthal.

Look I understand that chefs want to be creative and they don't want to stand still. But restaurants are service businesses that depend on repeat customers. And the simple fact of the matter is that if there were greater continuity to the menu at restaurants like WD-50 or Alinea, I would enjoy myself more so I would return on a more frequent basis. Besides as a matter of logic, the entire approach of the discardable doesn't make sense because it argues against a dish being great enough to preserve in the first place.

Luxeat

:)

Aiste

Phil Mossop

Tell me about it. Unfortunately it is difficult to separate a Chef who builds his entire reputation (and is lauded for it) on being at the very cutting edge of cuisine development to then stop once he finds a dish that customers respond to.

What Steve isn't clarifying perhaps is that a dish doesn't stop evolving once its on then menu (Heston DEFINITELY knows all about this!). In many resepcts with Chefs like Wylie, keeping a dish on the menu and playing with it is likely to yield even greater results.

Again however, for Chefs like Wylie whose motivation comes from the thrill of something new - this might not be enough.

One other problem with this constant tinkering is the effect it has on the kitchen. With no disrespect intended to the rest of the kitchen at WD or any other avant-garde restaurant it is often the Head Chef who is the creative mind and developer of this type of food. Getting the kitchen to execute your 'wild idea' is fine but (in my personal experience) takes the rest of the brigade a little longer to get to grips with. There is two losers in this - the customers who dine before the new dishes are bedded in and then of course the restaurant when the negative comments start to appear online.

Its not the only reason but i can tell you it is one reason why the opinions of a meal at a restaurant like WD50 can range from being inspired to horrified.

What needs to happen is for Chefs like Dufresne, Cantu, Achatz, Mendes, Rogan, Brock, Bains et al to make the link between themselves and the classics like Robuchon, Ducasse, Passard and Tros Gros. Each of the former is 'legendary' for one thing or another be it mash, vegetables, a sauce or whatever and the one thing a diner can be almost guaranteed when eating there is not innovation but a 1st class meal - ultimately the thing that will make your diner feel it was value for money.

Whilst innovation is great nobody feels good about paying $150+ for being someones guinea pig. Modern chefs need to find a way to keep their creativity and constant innovation whilst at the same time continuously raise their own benchmark with regards to consistency. This is something that very few have so far achieved (Blumenthal, Gagnaire, and maybe even Aduriz) but that given more time i am sure some of those names listed above will join them

Steve Plotnicki

Thanks Phil (for those who do not know Phil, he is the owner of the London restaurant Bacchus and employs Nuno Mendes as his chef.)

As you say, the tension is between artistic endeavor and customer satisfaction. I think the chefs who are not willing to ackowledge that customer satisfaction is an important part of the mix, are throwing away something that is valuable to their long term reputation. And it is done in the name of what - making people eat something they would rather eat less than the dishes that have been discarded? That strategy might work for other arts and crafts. For example, nobody expects painters, composers, playwrights etc. to be stagnant and when you go see new works you do not want a rehash of something you have already experienced. But cuisine is different from the perspective that while you might be interested in a new Harold Pinter play, his earlier work is performed on a regular basis and theater-goers have access to it. In this instance, when Wylie's cod dish disappeared from his menu, the net effect of his decision means that diners lost access to one of the best dishes created in contemporary cuisine. That seems an awfuly high price to pay in the name of culinary progress.

rot

being a chef i understand both sides of the story and i cook a lot of art-science inspired cuisine but the only thing i notice about a lot of the experimental restaurants (not all of them, just a few) is the lack of balance in a sense of balancing out the way your customers may feel about a dish(es), if you make a signature dish then take it off it seems as though there is no more progression to it, but the whole idea behind this style of cooking is to try and see what each ingredient is capable of, why not keep the signature flavor profile and start tweaking it make it better or make new textures with that same flavor profile, or try to enhance or tweak the same flavor profile? this would seem to be a point where you could strike a balance with a customer and keep them happy, everyone loves that comfortable feeling of looking foward to something familiar and a lot of people love the feeling of something new, and this is something that these places forget and where the balance is lost (in my opinion). i understand the artistic side seems to be taking over a lot but if you are going to have some sweet new technique and it doesn't enhance anything on the plate or it actually lacks flavor/texture for a cool shape then why put it on the plate to begin with? and if you do want to experiment with some sweet new technique at least offer your "solid" dishes to make up for what doesn't work or what is still an idea that needs to be expanded upon. Now there are people pouring out of the culinary schools like cattle who mimick this new style and have no real foundation in real cooking and they think because these other restaurants are doing all this new experimenting they need to be too. i have talked with a lot of people outside of the dining scene and i ask them what they hear about this new cuisine and a lot of them think its "foams" and "wierd stuff" and the problem is that for a lot of people it is just foams! they serve all this shit with no substance, the whole idea of a foam or air is to act like a seasoning or scent, like for instance you make a yuzu kosho air go with a nice sized portion of venison loin that has been cooked properly, the job of the air is to enhance or season the venison, but instead there are "chefs" who would rather give you a tiny ass cube of venison and a bowl of yuzu kosho air, then the dish becomes a gimmick, and thats what a lot of the cuisine seems like right now is gimmick, how many textures of foam and gels can i fit on one plate, while making 35 different powders to scatter around it while the substance is a complete afterthought. (sorry i am getting worked up) this is the shit that is going to sink this idea of expressing yourself, its almost like good bands making great music then 16 yr olds come rip off there style and turn it into shit that sells for a couple years then people say "why and how the fuck did i ever listen to that, i need to torch these cds and never speak of this again" right now i feel as though whatever it's called nowadays to the ones who exploit it "molecular gastronomy" is like the early 90's grunge scene, everyone thought grunge was cool and wore these ugly ass flannels but it just died one day and people look back and laugh. i hope that is not the future of this style of cuisine, but i feel there needs to be a change for the future of this cuisine and strinking a real balance between art/science/customers/comfort/uncomfort/ego (because art and science are not the only things in the equation) will be a good start.

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