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Anthony Bourdain -- Chicago Chefs' View of Same

Anthony Bourdain -- Chicago Chefs' View of Same
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  • Post #31 - October 11th, 2006, 3:08 pm
    Post #31 - October 11th, 2006, 3:08 pm Post #31 - October 11th, 2006, 3:08 pm
    Ah, but the question is, do more people who are actually likely to eat at Alinea or Topolobampo read this site each day than read a daily paper? It's possible, or at least the numbers (if you could define such a thing-- of course research firms define such indefinables definitively all the time) would show much less distance between them than raw visitor stats for us and subscriber stats for them would indicate.

    That's what I was a little surprised, but not really, to see in this piece. The assumption that food chat online is still the province of about four pale-skinned, pimply guys in their parents' basements, and the real discussion happens in dead tree media or on TV, as sure as it did when Life magazine ruled the West. I say not really surprised because you still hear this from crusty old CEOs, ad agencies with a vested interest in 17.5% TV spot commissions, friends of mine who are convinced that Fox News is watched by 100 million Americans whom it has turned into its robotic slaves and crowded out all possible dissent, etc. etc. That online media has long since gone mainstream, and attracts numbers which are genuinely comparable to any other form of media (at least in the sense of a specific target audience), is still news to a lot of folks-- chefs included, it would appear.

    Full disclosure: This post typed in a basement, but it's my own, not my parents'. And I have a light but discernible tan.
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  • Post #32 - October 11th, 2006, 4:17 pm
    Post #32 - October 11th, 2006, 4:17 pm Post #32 - October 11th, 2006, 4:17 pm
    Trotter did not respond to that question.

    Kahan and Nahabedian said they don't read the boards; Achatz said he finds them "a valuable tool to understand the guest." Kahan said, "There are crazy people out there who spend all their time doing that." Bayless said the stuff that's been quoted.

    I didn't really see those comments as offering any direct comparison between the internet and traditional media. The question followed directly on Achatz's comments that unattributed copying of food from other chefs was now a "self-policing" matter thanks to the boards. I see any characterization of denizens of the food boards as nerds, just that comparison to boring people at parties. That was kind of a weird comment to make about what are some of the most enthusiastic restaurant goers in Chicago, I must admit. Isn't it good for them that there are people who are so interested?
  • Post #33 - October 11th, 2006, 6:22 pm
    Post #33 - October 11th, 2006, 6:22 pm Post #33 - October 11th, 2006, 6:22 pm
    MJN wrote:
    Most importantly, everyone on this board knows a beef from Al's, a cemita from Taqueria Puebla, and a poached quail egg ravioli from Schwa have an equivalent food value in terms of sublime taste and unparalleled experience, and yet the former two would never even be starred (they might be backhandedly given forks or some other cheap rating system).
    The food boards exist to expose the quality of those experiences, and do so better than the old guard.

    Well put, MJN. I will have to start eating more beefs from Al's and cemita from Taqueria Puebla.':D'

    Also, regarding Bayless' comment about being bored by opinionated foodies at parties: Isn't a guy entitled to a break now and then? Any well-known chef's social life could begin to feel like one of those deadly workplace parties where nothing but shoptalk is exchanged. Some of us look to this site as a break from the mental ruts of the workplace-- even if we are food obsessed or work in the food business. It's just that Bayless has yet to discover how charming and mulitfaceted we are.
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  • Post #34 - October 11th, 2006, 6:53 pm
    Post #34 - October 11th, 2006, 6:53 pm Post #34 - October 11th, 2006, 6:53 pm
    Josephine wrote:Also, regarding Bayless' comment about being bored by opinionated foodies at parties: Isn't a guy entitled to a break now and then? Any well-known chef's social life could begin to feel like one of those deadly workplace parties where nothing but shoptalk is exchanged. Some of us look to this site as a break from the mental ruts of the workplace-- even if we are food obsessed or work in the food business. It's just that Bayless has yet to discover how charming and mulitfaceted we are.


    Well put, Josephine. It's a bit like a doctor going to a party and everyone telling him about all their aches and pains. It's got to get old. Still, Bayless has put himself in the public eye and should be ready, and indeed happy, to deal with all that carries with it. He's the "sizzle" of his empire and people will always be attracted and anxious to interact.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #35 - October 12th, 2006, 9:54 am
    Post #35 - October 12th, 2006, 9:54 am Post #35 - October 12th, 2006, 9:54 am
    MJN wrote:I agree with the chefs on the star system. It's stupid.

    aschie30 wrote:my attempts to get them to eat at restaurant that, say, Vettel just rated well would inevitably be met with apathy, due in large part, to their view that all well-reviewed restaurants fit into a category that requires (a) exposing yourself to stuffy service and trendiness bordering on gimmick; and (b) dropping on average about $200 per couple on food.


    The problem with the star system is that it assumes that there's a single sliding scale and all restaurants fit neatly on it. You can see this in Carrie Nahabedian's comments about Schwa, which basically say, we have nice stemware and they don't, we checked off the stemware box, how can you say they get a three and we don't? (Though in fact she did, I guess she's saying if Schwa gets three for food, she deserves 3-1/2 for food plus stemware.)

    But I think a lot of people, like Aschie's friends, don't share the underlying criteria of the 4/3/2/1 star worldview these days. Service at Schwa-- which was unfussy, informal, yet incredibly well attuned to whatever we needed at the moment, or might want at the next moment-- was far better than more formal service I've had at some other places, because it wasn't trying to impress me with irrelevant flourishes. True, my napkin wasn't a swan when I came back from the bathroom. But frankly, if I'd had to go get our food myself from the window each time it came up, I'd still rank Schwa higher than any other fine dining experience this year. Decor and service matter, sure, except when they don't.

    To me, the least interesting possible restaurant in the world is a two-star restaurant. One star is Kuma's, you walk into a bar and are quite happily surprised by the quality of the food. Four stars is Alinea, genuine greatness, three stars is Follia, a place that has some definite spots of excellence. But what's two stars? A place that aims to be top drawer, charges the same prices as three stars, but then fails to deliver, fails to satisfy. It's the middle of the traditional scale but for me it's rock bottom, a place that charged me enough that I'm going to grumble about it, without exciting me. So give me low-rent discoveries, give me high-rent marvels, but spare me the mediocre middle of quality food done passably well but no better-- for too much money.
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  • Post #36 - October 12th, 2006, 10:06 am
    Post #36 - October 12th, 2006, 10:06 am Post #36 - October 12th, 2006, 10:06 am
    With regard to the star system:

    One of the best meals I have ever had was at a place called Joe's at the Wailea Tennis Club (Maui).

    It was an ugly restaurant that looked like what it is: A tennis club restaurant.

    However, the cooking was amazing, the wine program was interesting, and the one waiter who worked with us knew the menu forward and back and had some great and unconventional ideas about wine.

    How do you rank a place like that on the star system? How do you compare the service there to the service at someplace like Tru?

    It can't be done.

    Instead, what you can do is provide a written review that spells out exactly what I said above.

    By the way, I will trade one waiter who understand the menu for six that provide service but don't know the menu any day of the week.
  • Post #37 - October 12th, 2006, 10:18 am
    Post #37 - October 12th, 2006, 10:18 am Post #37 - October 12th, 2006, 10:18 am
    Josephine wrote:Also, regarding Bayless' comment about being bored by opinionated foodies at parties: Isn't a guy entitled to a break now and then? Any well-known chef's social life could begin to feel like one of those deadly workplace parties where nothing but shoptalk is exchanged.


    Eh, I don't buy that. Besides, you're assuming his statement stems from, let's say, exasperation rather than, let's say, snobbery. Taking his statement at face value, he stated that internet forums were something he'd only look at maybe twice a year and likened the posters to bores at parties. Perhaps if he said, "I only look at those forums once in awhile to discern what people are saying about my restaurants," then I think he would have just sounded neutral. But adding the phrase about the bores at parties (and who says he's not one of those bores?), colors his comment.

    While I don't take his statement personally, frankly, I don't give one sh*t what Bayless would think about me even if we were to meet, I think his attitude is appalling and ill-advised for a public figure who runs a business. More than that, I think it shows a certain snobbery and propensity to turn his nose up at the very people who made his restaurant popular. But then again, maybe he's secure in his position because the last time I ate at Frontera, I swear I was the only local in a sea of tourists who probably don't read Chicago magazine, lthforum or egullet.
  • Post #38 - October 12th, 2006, 10:24 am
    Post #38 - October 12th, 2006, 10:24 am Post #38 - October 12th, 2006, 10:24 am
    It is interesting that Bayless would deliberately turn his back on what people think of his place.

    Admittedly, all reviews and comments are subjective. However, if the same comments keep coming up, that should send some signals.

    I was never a fan of Ambria in part because I found their wine guy [I don't given him enough credit to call him a Sommelier -- the title would imply some talent] to be a pretentious ass. He reminded me of a bunch of first year law students who wanted to Fill The Room With Their Brilliance. That just might be my experience with the place. However, if I was running Ambria and I saw 20 posts saying the same thing, I might decide to reevaluate my wine program.

    Bayless has a great restaurant and he's been doing this a while. If I were him though, I would want to have some idea what people think, even if I might not want to talk shop at every party.
  • Post #39 - October 12th, 2006, 4:21 pm
    Post #39 - October 12th, 2006, 4:21 pm Post #39 - October 12th, 2006, 4:21 pm
    DML wrote:I was never a fan of Ambria in part because I found their wine guy [I don't given him enough credit to call him a Sommelier -- the title would imply some talent] to be a pretentious ass. He reminded me of a bunch of first year law students who wanted to Fill The Room With Their Brilliance.


    Wow, glad to see we're not the onlypeople who share that opinion! :)

    (Ambria, you listening? - is he still there, anyway?)
    Leek

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  • Post #40 - October 12th, 2006, 4:51 pm
    Post #40 - October 12th, 2006, 4:51 pm Post #40 - October 12th, 2006, 4:51 pm
    leek wrote:(Ambria, you listening? - is he still there, anyway?)


    As of June, yes.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #41 - October 12th, 2006, 6:03 pm
    Post #41 - October 12th, 2006, 6:03 pm Post #41 - October 12th, 2006, 6:03 pm
    I find this discussion interesting -- but I'll tell you, the single feeling I came away with after reading this group interview was that none of these guys really wanted to be in the room talking about this stuff. It seemed pretty negative in general and if I didn't have to go catch a train I would grab it and type in examples. But all of them seemed really annoyed at the questions they were being asked and what felt to me like the whole process. I don't think they found any of this valid. For whatever reason..and for whatever it's worth.

    Ciao!

    Shannon
  • Post #42 - October 12th, 2006, 6:24 pm
    Post #42 - October 12th, 2006, 6:24 pm Post #42 - October 12th, 2006, 6:24 pm
    earthlydesire wrote:I find this discussion interesting -- but I'll tell you, the single feeling I came away with after reading this group interview was that none of these guys really wanted to be in the room talking about this stuff.


    I couldn't agree more. I read an undertone of "are we finished yet?"

    Best,
    Michael

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