Comerse sus propios platos

Chefs should apply the discipline to their work of trying their own dishes. In general, they don’t. Why? We’d like to think that they continue to taste them, at least during the process of creating the dish, when they’re adding this or that… or taking something out. According to our resources, however, there are many who bypass the practice, trusting wholly in their intuition. There are celebrities, like Pierre Gagnaire, who boasted of their ability to improvise on the go. But those were different times, times in which we applauded unexpected culinary endeavors. Even today there are certain heirs of libertinage, alchemists, mannerists, showmen and magicians who surprise you with daring, playful combinations, brimming with bad taste. The other day, for example, blinded by the desire to show off, a certain well-known chef, winner of some award or another, served a cold effervescent soup in a long-stemmed Spanish carafe meant for drinking wine. As usual, in a boring manner, he entered the dining room later to receive the applause. How droll. And then the question… How was it? Response: Have you actually sat down to try this dish? And he of course replies: Isn’t it great?

Why do they even ask your opinion if they’re not willing to listen to the response. If you don’t tell them the truth, they blame the diner, their friend, the food critic or their mother… I have heard enough kitchen conversations to know, except for a few honorable exceptions, the general disdain expressed towards the dinner guests. There is no longer any respect for paying customers. In certain cases, they probably don’t deserve it. But this attitude can certainly be applied to chefs as well. What can we think about a chef who proposes cold champagne soup with seaweed in a long-stemmed carafe? Either we claim it’s genius, or we assume he’s about to fumigate the dining room.

Why is there so little respect for restaurant clients? Not to mention food critics, who take the proverbial cake for dining room treatment. These, when playing in favor of the host, cannot express even the slightest desire on their own part. They are stuffed like fat ducks with whatever they desire, in whatever proportion they want it in. It’s all fine and dandy to give the chef confidence, but only up to a certain limit. Why should I have to gorge myself on scallops and squab four days in a row? Giving the chef freedom to express his work is fair and necessary, but never completely. If we really want to see how he works, to taste the quality of the genres he employs, and understand the state of the kitchen he has created… the reality is, we must be able to order several different dishes; dishes which might raise doubts about the concepts, the products, or the preparation involved. Pork cheeks, which are always precooked, are usually a good indicator. The same goes for the suckling pig confit, conserved sous-vide. Dare to take some risks in trying the sea bream, the sole or the turbot, which always give you a good idea of the honorability of the restaurant. Not to mention the tiger shrimp or other crustaceans. The possibility of ordering crêpes stuffed with baby eel in June is an exciting temptation, but how can we tell the shipwrecked server that it lacks in both criteria and ethics? Crêpes with baby eels, out of season, in June! Then they complain that we lowered their rating. They protest that the critic won’t allow himself to be duped. And if the person happens to be a regular citizen, even harsher comments begin to fly.

This lack of respect for the will of others has caused many chefs to forget to include a certain required dish in many a tasting menu. What is there to do in such instances? Utter catastrophe ensues when they impose a menu on you, then hide certain dishes and make mistakes. Effervescent champagne soup with seaweed in a long-stemmed carafe…