The Great Hall
Which side of the fault line are you on? The Great Hall: Which side of the fault line are you on?
By Chef_Mars (Chef_Mars) on Sunday, September 18, 2005 - 11:20 pm: Edit

I found this article enlightning and thought some of you cooks, chefs and art directors might find it thought provoking. Let me know if you want the rest of the article posted and I will do so.

"when you got nothing else, go exotic" Now which ones of you would seriously consider Richard Blais a chef?

As always, culinarily yours...
Chef Mars

September 17, 2005
Chefs Gone Wild:
Where to Eat This Fall
A Look at Menus From Classic to Avant-Garde

September 17, 2005; Page P1

Richard Blais may be the most conspicuous chef in Atlanta. Last year, his experimental cuisine made his restaurant, Blais, the talk of the city's restaurant scene. His foie gras milkshakes and cubes of jellied Tang drew admiration -- and some mirth -- from local critics, but diners stayed away in droves. In six months, the restaurant was dead.

Mr. Blais is back. This time around, he's making mustard ice cream tableside by mixing custard with liquid nitrogen at One Midtown Kitchen, and creating recipes for raw-lamb meatballs and rabbit pizza for a new place called Piebar. "We're doing the same food," says Mr. Blais. He says he's confident it will work in Atlanta now because "the public is changing."

Is it? There's a fault line running through the restaurant world this fall that separates some unusual, and even bizarre, experimental cuisine from the kind of food most people eat. On one side are young chefs who say adventurous diners are ready for such avant-garde dishes as cod with white-chocolate sauce and prosciutto consommé -- and not just in culinary hot spots such as New York and Chicago. On the other side are chefs who are just as excited about preparing classic dishes, especially when they can give them a contemporary twist with seasonal ingredients from local suppliers.

By Chefjoannam (Chefjoannam) on Monday, September 19, 2005 - 03:52 am: Edit

Funny you should say that. I'm going to Chicago n about 3 weeks, and I've got three restaurants (so far) on my list that I want to go to:

TRU, Tramonto and Gale Gand
Topolobampo, Rick Bayless
Alinea, Grant Achatz

Achatz is a protegé of Keller. He has also worked under Adriá of El Bullí. (Señor Foam, as I refer to him. Affectionately, of course.)


I have worked at a place here in Los Angeles where the chef uses foams and emuslions and bakes eggshells in bread dough covered with ash to serve things in the shells. He serves things up on rocks and slate and in test tubes and candle holders. People go nuts over it.

In my little corner of the industry, though, I haven't had anyone ask for foams, gelées, emulsions, or other esoteric treatments. My creations are ususally eaten from plates, with forks. (oh the horror!)

People who hire me want real food, delicious food, good-sized portions, and things they recognize. Nobody's asked for young coconut shreds enveloped in a sheet of carrot gelée. I have fielded no requests for foie gras with broiled filet of peach in vanilla-chili sauce. The other day I made cookies with white chocolate chips and pink peppercorns and couldn't give them away. (they were delicious, really!) I have a hard time getting people to choose the more adventurous appetizers when I'm doing a cocktail party!

I try to put my passion into juicy roast chicken and creamy mashed potatoes and perfectly-cooked green beans... but then I have to explain that chicken that is wet-looking inside is not raw, it's MOIST. No, there is no wasabi or garlic in those potatoes, just a bit of butter and salt, like nature intended. And I'll toss those beans with a bit of salt & pepper and some really nice olive oil; they do not need anything else, they are perfect.

Then the other side of the coin - I get asked, "what do you do that is exciting with beef?" and my answer is "I will cook it perfectly over an open flame or on a grill-pan, maybe serve it with a compound butter...or sautéed mushrooms...what did you have in mind?" and they want wellingtons, they want sauces, they want something DONE to that hunk of beef, or else they don't feel like it's "special".

So you can't win for losing.

Find out what your client wants, and serve it up. Buy good ingredients. Charge a fair price. Wash your hands. Pay your workers. Wear good shoes. Be excellent to each other. It's a simple business, really.

I have a slight problem with the holier-than-thou attitudes of chefs who drop farmers' and ranchers' names on their menus. Do customers TRULY care if you use Niman pork? Will a customer actually notice if your raisins came from a private farm on the central coast or from Sysco?

After all, now you can buy Emeril-brand heirloom tomatoes at Ralphs! (They have no smell and little flavor, but oooh, the colors!)

Make the food with love, don't make love to the food.

I shop at the farmers markets whenever I can, and I admit to using a bit of gelatin here and there...I'd give culinary aromatherapy a shot if a client was into it, but I draw the line at feeding grown adults by hand because I want them to experience the bite as I intend for them to experience it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to Alinea in October! Just because my clients don't get off on weird experiential food doesn't mean I won't!

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Monday, September 19, 2005 - 09:30 am: Edit

Great post Chefjoannam! I, too, run a catering business, and I too, follow the "Buy good ingredients, wash your hands, pay your workers" route, because, like you said, it all makes perfectly logical sense.

But people's tastes DO change. Here in Lotus-land(an affectionate term for Vancouver...) there are just as many natural foods stores, petitions and rallys against GM foods, and free range raised meats, as in California. (well, on a per capita basis...) Now take Rob Feenie, for instance. The only Canuck who's won a the Iron Chef, he has taken publicity a little extreme; his face is plastered on the backs of busses these days, but he frequently uses produce from "X"'s organic farm, or "Y"'s born-in-the-wild quails, etc., in his Vancouver restaurants. Customers do care about where their food comes from, and they will pay for it. If you are going to fork out $80 for a meal, you might as well know where most of the stuff is coming from.

I see this trickling down into catering too. One bride this summer insisted she wanted salmon, but absolutely not farmed Atlantic, and she was willing to pay for wild Coho. Thank god the Atkins fiasco is over, but for a while I was making steak sandwiches served on lettuce wraps too--it cost,and they paid.

Good food will always be around as long as there are intelligent people around. Eggshell and ash bread is good for shock effect, but no one will buy it...

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Monday, September 19, 2005 - 12:31 pm: Edit

fois gras milkshake? I think NOT!!

By Ilpro (Ilpro) on Monday, September 19, 2005 - 01:51 pm: Edit


Excellent post! Im ready to eat now!

I have been guilty of adding the name of a few local farms to my menus. In doing so I am letting my customers know this item is truly from local ingredients and I am also giving that small farmer a bit of notoriety. I am at a country club and have invited farmers in for dinner with myself and my wife. Its instant friendship after that. They see their items showcased on my menu and go nuts. They run out and tell everyone about the club. It just works out good all the way around.

Again... Excellent post.

PS... Foodpump has a great post also!

By Chefjoannam (Chefjoannam) on Monday, September 19, 2005 - 02:34 pm: Edit

Thanks for the compliments, Charles and Foodpump, and to ChefMars for the thread.

Foodpump's comment about the salmon options reminds me of a client who made me run all over town buying organic meat and organic produce and this and that...but I'd see fast-food wrappers in her trash when I went there to cook. Whatever.

Charles wrote: ---I have been guilty of adding the name of a few local farms to my menus. In doing so I am letting my customers know this item is truly from local ingredients and I am also giving that small farmer a bit of notoriety.---

That's nothing to be guilty about! If it's local, and quality, then its important! It's being true to the providers! If you're bragging that "this good food came from right here, grown by our local farming families" that's beautiful. If you're doing it the way someone would carry a Gucci purse or LV luggage, that's a bit crass.

Feel guilty about having "name brand" pork jowls shipped in, special order, by air, on new years eve, because a client specifically wanted Bucatini all'Amatricia. (I did, 12/31/04, and he paid a buttload of money for those pig cheeks!)

On the other hand, I found some tiny white heirloom carrots at the Santa Monica farmers' market and served them up at a dinner, even though they weren't on the menu, because they were so sweet and really beautiful. salt and butter. Done. The client later told me her friends were talking about those carrots for weeks.

If a little carrot can have that much impact on a dinner, imagine what our clients' reactions would be if we put that much care and attention into procuring ingredients for the rest of the meal?

Which gets back to the original point: Sure, you can make a lasting bubble out of mozzerella cheese and coat the inside of it with toasted flour and tomato dust and call it your "masterpiz-za", but if your clients have to stop by a drive-thru on the way home, because they're still HUNGRY, did you serve up dinner or a show?

There's room for both, in my opinion.

(fwiw, I also plan on getting white castle sliders when I go home!)

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Monday, September 19, 2005 - 03:54 pm: Edit

I will write more on this later, I have to prepare for a hurricane but, in the Food Arts magazine this month is an article about the guy in England who started all this, Heston Blumenthal is his name I think. He just started cooking a couple of years ago and he has a Michelin star (or three)?? The Fat Duck is the restaurant in England.
Also in Chicago there is a place, Moto, the Chef is Homaro Cantu and one of his main ingredients is CO2, yes like in soda!
This is called Molecular Gastronomy, an ensuing and trendy fad I hope, (not here for long) the idea is to cook or prepare foods with molecular commonalities.
Laser is used for cooking also, there are items like filet mignon with the crust inside and the rare part on the outside, they are working on a bread with the crust on the inside and the (dough) white outside, there's snail porridge, smoked bacon and egg ice cream, sardine on toast sorbet, mango and Douglass Fir puree, nitro corn soup, beef with braised pizza, lobster and fresh orange soda, pork belly and Kentucky fried ice cream, and of course lasered filet mignon!!!!!!
Where did I find out all this you ask???????????...I just got back from the NRN's R & D Convention and MUFSO in Orlando and this is the best food convention I have ever gone to, you meet Corporate Chefs from every chain and small company in the field, you get insights into what's in the horizon food's free also!!!
The top things coming up in food, the term "fresh" in everything and more creative uses of grains and legumes, blueberry, broccoli, oats, oranges, pumpkins, salmon, soy, spinach, tea, tomatoes, turkey, walnuts, yogurt, also look for levels of fresh, yes, you thought fresh was fresh right???...well think again!!!!!!
.....and no this is no joke!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By Chef_Mars (Chef_Mars) on Monday, September 19, 2005 - 08:57 pm: Edit

I am impressed by the quality of this thread and the comments and thank all of you. Yes, as Chefjoannam closed out his piece, there is room for both and even for all, but I personally cringe at the absurd, the kinds of con jobs goofs like Richard Blais serve up. The media covers these absurdities, labels them great food and then "bastes" the creator as one of the new top chefs. Maybe "Chef" Blais changes out nitrous oxide for liquid nitrogen? But in the end I ask where is the "construction", you know, the foundation grounded in discipline upon which great food is created.

I was going to post the full Wall Street Journal article but it is too large. I have it posted online at:
Read The Full Story

Chefmanny, good luck with the approaching hurricane. In 1998 when I was working and living in the Dominican Republic at Casa de Campo, we took an 8 hour direct hit from the eye of Hurricane Georges. I know about good recovery because I was a part of it. The company I worked for was absolutely prepared for the hit and the recovery effort and we were partially open for the Christmas-New Year season that year. We had a plan, used a team and each player played their position.

Culinarily Yours,
Chef Mars

By Chefjoannam (Chefjoannam) on Monday, September 19, 2005 - 10:12 pm: Edit

Uh, I'm a chick ;-) Chef JoAnna M.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 08:34 am: Edit

Nothing like a "Chick-Chef", ;).........
I guess I said most of what I was going to the way, the hurricane kept moving West so we are just getting rain and a bit of wind every few minutes or, another one bites the Gulf!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We did get the day off work and that's why I'm posting now!!
The keys are getting hit a bit harder but nothing like "K"!!!
I agree with Chef Mars, this sounds like a marketing ploy and, the product sounds like crap, too bad the American public is so gullible that they actually fall for crap like this!!!!!!
It is also unfortunate that some Culinary professionals give this legitimate attention, some of these guys have not cooked until a year or two ago, they are using the public as guinea pigs, I wonder if they stop at BK or McD's on the way home to eat?????????????
Another thing I picked up on at the R & D convention is that food companies have been run by marketing people in the past and many still are.....there is a trend now to have Culinarians at the helm more so, the Chef is becoming the focal point of food, go figure that!!!!!???.
Also, it used to take a year to two to roll out a new menu item with several millions of dollar invested, well the new trend is to put out "LTO's", "limited time offers" at a more frequent pace, evry 4-6 months; so, the Chefs are having to produce more menu items, faster, at a lower roll out cost. One of the reasons for this was, too many items flopping after a 2-3 million dollar investment and a public always looking for new, "fresh" food items.
I have to tell you the most interesting person I met at the convention, actually I met him at the first one is Bob Okura, the Corp. Chef at The Cheesecake Factory. This man has been at this position over nine years, unheard of for any R & D Chef, and he is not a young gun like most of the guys in these positions now but the man is a well of knowledge and, very down to earth.

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 12:58 pm: Edit

Good read here... Manny, glad to hear you're ok and that hurrycane is past you... looks like it might hit Tx now... Up here in dallas we'll probably just get tons of rain, but there's tons of oil "stuff" down in Galveston... get ready 4.00/gallon
Sorry to get off topic...

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 01:23 pm: Edit

what could possibly go wrong?

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 02:30 pm: Edit

A lot of rain......wind is not bad at all in my area.....Spike this is you man....your last name is Murphy right?????
Anything that can go wrong....will!!!!!

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