Sunday, April 17, 2011

Welcome a new TBOE reader! Oh, and some stuff about cooking (POP!Best!)

Or maybe two new readers: A Twofer Sunday! Or something.

Hot on the heels of my posting The Best Cookbook, in which I opined that

We have, then, reached a point in our culture where cooking is purely for entertainment,

and also noted that

Cooking... has all the other hallmarks of an art that isn't practiced by most people. We have more TV shows about chefs and cooking than we do about detectives with troubled homelives, and we have shows about restaurants and how to find them, and we have shows where cooks go to restaurants. We've done from dinner theater to dinner as theater...

Which I thought was clever, and which also spurred on a Chicago chef and a New York food writer to use me as their muse; in a New York Times article titled (less cleverly) In Chicago, The Chef Grant Achatz Is Selling Tickets To His New Restaurant, food writer Pete Wells expands on my thesis:

BY this point, nearly everyone agrees that dining out has replaced going to the theater and that chefs are rock stars. So why don’t restaurants sell tickets? Grant Achatz, the highly praised chef of Alinea in Chicago, has asked himself the same question.
Grant Achatz didn't just ask himself the question I thought of first, but he answered it by deciding that (as the NYT headline spoiled for you) he's going to sell tickets to his restaurant, called Next (which is a pun -- because not only is it Grant's next restaurant but it's the next thing in restaurants. I'm starting to really like Grant.)

Tickets will go for $45-$75, assuming you don't buy them from a scalper and assuming you don't get confused and buy old tickets to a Charlie Sheen live show, and can be resold; the cost of the ticket includes the whole shebang, as nobody in the restaurant business says but they should: drinks, food, and whatever else it is people get in restaurants that don't have playlands (the only kind of restaurants I eat in anymore.)

And, apparently, restaurants sans playlands feature more than just mere food and drink from this era: Grant Achatz is going to time travel:

The menu will change four times a year, with each new edition featuring the cuisine of a particular place and time. When the restaurant opens, Mr. Achatz said, the theme will be Paris in 1912, with painstakingly researched evocations of Escoffier-era cuisine. Three months later, the kitchen will turn out a fresh set of recipes — evoking, say, postwar Sicily, or Hong Kong 25 years from now, with modern techniques employed to imagine the future of Chinese cuisine.

One side effect of all this rock starrery is to put the hurt on waiters:

But the plan would also have value for Mr. Achatz and his main partner in Next and Alinea, Nick Kokonas. By law, restaurants may distribute tips only to those employees who work in service. But the service charge included in the ticket price “gives him control over the money,” said Bill Guilfoyle, an associate professor of business management at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. “He can give it to whomever he sees fit.”

Mr. Achatz could pay cooks more than members of the wait staff, a reversal of the usual pecking order that could allow him to recruit shining kitchen talent.

Really? Waiters make more than cooks at restaurants? Is that true of every industry, that the person who carries things for you makes more than the people that make the stuff? Because I thought that the rule of Less Talent=More Money applied only to banks and Fox News contributors.

Of course, the idea that cooking is entertainment didn't originate with me...

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