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 Post subject: Sous Chef
PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 9:47 am 
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Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2009 5:03 pm
Posts: 1089
This is a slim volume about one day on the line at a fine dining spot in Manhattan.
It's told in the second person, which I kind of like, but plenty of people find it obnoxious. It's also that new genre, the fictionalized memoir. There are the requisite people doing the requisite things, but they are composites. The restaurant is also not named, nor is the Chef. I think it began life as an article in the New Yorker.
It was an enjoyable read, as accurate as any account I've read.
It does raise the same questions in me that most of these stories do- why is this type of cooking pushed as the pinnacle of food? They do 300 covers in one night and are nearly done in, I do 700 covers three times a day with the same amount of staff. Sure, our food doesn't come with a dozen garnishes that need tweezers to put in just the right place on a plate, but it still has to appeal to a population that has much less choice about where they eat. (Even if they choose to go off campus, Beloit is lean in the great eatery department.)
I love the thought and effort that goes into high-end fine dining. I love the creative artistry that can be brought to plating. But if the goal of all of this is to feed people, to nurture them, then a venue that serves a minute elite slice of the population does it in a minor way. Too much of the adulation of these place seems to be purely monetary- if it costs that much, it must be special.


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 Post subject: Re: Sous Chef
PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 10:27 am 
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Joined: Fri Dec 19, 2008 10:45 pm
Posts: 1531
Location: Ottawa, ON
The daily hero's never get public (in the greater sense of The Public) love, though sometimes may get some from individuals. Feeding people has many purposes, from getting sustenance to entertainment. It is natural that the most extreme forms get the most attention for the public at large; this is pretty much the case for everything that gets adulation. It does not mean they wouldn't defend their local sandwich maker with their lives.


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 Post subject: Re: Sous Chef
PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 2:16 pm 
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Joined: Sun Oct 21, 2012 8:51 am
Posts: 660
Location: W. Montana
Fine dining isn't something that's in my life. I live in a semi-rural area now where the eateries are pretty plain; chain restaurants and local diners mostly.
Once a week I go to the nearby senior center with some of my friends where we're give a lunch of soup, big salad bar with at least 12 selections, main dish with sides, dessert and unlimited coffee. All this for $3.50! The cooks there are simply amazing at putting out really good, wholesome food for a minimal price.
The county supplements the costs and controls the environment. It's a warm, friendly atmosphere and a great place to get together.


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 Post subject: Re: Sous Chef
PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 1:59 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:03 am
Posts: 5129
Location: Portland, OR
Becky,

Well, I think part of the idea of "fine dining" is "something you'd never make at home". Fussy plating and elaborate, multi-step preparations are a big part of that. It justifies paying a lot of money even if you can cook and/or eat elsewhere, because you won't get that same exact thing anywhere else. And, frankly, stuff which looks impressive often, psycologically, tastes impressive.

Also, there's a lot of "bored palate syndrome"; a lot of haute cuisine is about being exotic for the sake of being exotic, because the food critics are bored to death by seared salmon and pork chops; you need to hit them with something they haven't had before to get their attention -- even if the thing is weird and not very good.

Also ... when you go out, you are paying for three things: ingredients, labor and skill. Ingredients are available in the grocery store for a fraction of the cost. Skill often can't be increased past a certain point. So the main way to justify paying more is to add additional labor to the food (and service), and fussy plating and extra prep steps is part of that.

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 Post subject: Re: Sous Chef
PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 6:35 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2009 5:03 pm
Posts: 1089
I guess I'm tired of being told that painting your sauces and dropping snipped herbs is the only true way to be great in the food industry. Having to scratch cook the amount of food we do, for less than $3.00 per plate, make it attractive to our diners, etc, etc.....that kind of work is sneered at. Cook a piece of great fish correctly and it will be fantastic. Offer a selection of $30.00/pound cheeses, they will be amazing. I really understand why diners find fine dining so nifty-I like to be one of them when I can. I just find the snobbery in the industry irritating.


Last edited by BeckyH on Mon Feb 16, 2015 4:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Sous Chef
PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 11:43 pm 
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Location: Portland, OR
Becky,

I can understand that. FWIW, there's undeserved snobbery in every industry, including mine (Software). Academia is possibly the worst ...

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 Post subject: Re: Sous Chef
PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2015 9:34 am 
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Joined: Wed Apr 27, 2011 3:27 pm
Posts: 526
Location: Finger Lakes Wine Country
I found "Sous Chef" available for audio download at my local library. I was easy enough to listen to, but I suspect that it will quickly fade from the "must read" lists of foodie lit.

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 Post subject: Re: Sous Chef
PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2015 9:57 am 
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Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Posts: 1159
Location: New York
jim262 wrote:
I found "Sous Chef" available for audio download at my local library. I was easy enough to listen to, but I suspect that it will quickly fade from the "must read" lists of foodie lit.

I'm reading it now and it's just ok. I agree that is's not a "must read".


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