Chefs and Foodies Getting Dumber : A Rant

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Joined Aug 25, 2001
Honest to g/God(s), I think the culinary community is going the way of the fall of the Roman Empire - shear excess, decoration without reason, overblown everything.

A recent question on the starchef.com forum was:
"As a new functions co-ordinator at a National University Students residental College, I have been given the task of finding a synonym for the Russian Style of banquetting, ie table service of platters. If I use the term Russian Banquet, patrons may expect Russian food. Some-one [sic]has suggested tapas platters, but of course that implies light style antipasto [the dolt doesnt even realize that tapas is small dishes and some include VERY unlight foods. Iberian sausage is hardly "light"] and not favoured by our manager. I have limited time to have the suitable word/s. There is suitable synonyms, but for the life of me I cannot think of it. Please help. I will be pleased for an email to ***" There were NO replies - too tough a question for "star chefs, I guess.

Duh! The answer is "family style." Sorry that it's not exotic. Even worse it doesn't:
.. fit with towering morsels (intentional but real oxymoron) of food that most eaters (altho the pseudo-cognoscenti would never admit it) look at and think "Now what?";
.. include a small side portion of chopped up whatever is fashionable masquerading as a "SALSA"
... include any foreign language,
... include any of the following words:
foam, free-range, natural, organic, species of vegatable etc.

When the simple phrase, "family style", becomes as outdated as "coal bin",
the food community has gone beserk (beserque woul dbe more fashionable).

I LOVE food, I cook it and eat it. I like interesting food with interesting ingredients; no meat and spuds guy here. I know an awful lot about food (modestly). (Even more modestly) I am a great home cook - many cuisines etc. If you doubt that, check out some of my postings here.

When a certain chef on the Food Network becomes famous because he cooks like a lot of suburban dads on the weekend and adds the ubiquitous salsas, it's nutso time.

I know NO honest diner who
thinks 2 scallops is amusing no matter how well cooked or decorated or
wants to disassemble their plate etc etc etc.

Come on get real.
 
1,908
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Joined Oct 28, 1999
...and so it goes that the next questions has to be, who are we cooking for?

CapeCodder, I agree with your perspective. The 'hoorahs' often come from other 'insiders' rahter than customers. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, however, "know thy customer" is rule one.
 
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Joined Jul 27, 2004
I completely agree. My husband and I are both at the point where we are AFRAID to go out. Seriously.

We're going to make a reservation, got to dinner, plop down $100-$200 for a meal and then what?

I'll tell you what, we'll spend the rest of the evening (if not the week!) discussing how they could have done this and they could have done that.

The problem for us is two-fold...

1) The food is good but not special. Everything we eat we could have made at home ourselves.

2) They use bizzaro combinations and call it "the latest trend" - frankly, I just call it "junk food" science! :D
 
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Joined Apr 28, 2003
I don't know if anyone gets this show in the states but on FoodTV Canada, theres a show called Made to Order featuring these 2 brothers in a restaurant here in TO. Talk about "hoiety-toiety" everything has to be build up like a cake with 10 layers no taller then the length of my thumb garnished with a radish from some country I've never heard of and organic sauces.

Whatever happend to family restaurants? Simplicity? Locally grown?
 
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Joined Jun 29, 2004
I actually like that show alot more than most of the others... Their style looks somewhat original at least.

Most TV 'chefs' have little skill, lack creativity, and their food is very ordinary looking... (adding a fancy salsa or some truffle oil doesn't do much...)

I prefer to use local, pretty ordinary ingredients, and cook them in a creative, unique way...
 

kuan

Moderator
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I also want a job as a functions coordinator for a major University which entails going out on the internet and finding synomyms for "Russian style of banqueting" or whatever.

"Served the way your momma would serve it." How about that? :)

Anyway I thought Russian service was portioned and arranged onto a platter, then served off the platter by servers. I thought that was a required course in culinary school.
 
1,070
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Joined Dec 8, 1999
Russian service is as Kuan describes. Family style is the "self-serve" version. Just call it platter service. Whatever they're paying that person, it's too much if they couldn't figure that out without help from the internet.
 
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Joined Dec 12, 2000
The worst though, is customers who couldn't cook their way out of a paper bag to save their souls, and yet they try to give the server the impression that they were trained in a five star kitchen. Like my friend, we went out for dinner one night and she had honey garlic wings, when the food was brought out to the table she picked up a wing, took one bite and in that voice reserved for a totally amazing dish, she's like, "MMM, they used real garlic on these wings". she actually thought that the kitchen made the honey garlic sauce to order.
 
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Joined Sep 21, 2001
No, I disagree. The worst are clueless owners who think they are blessed with a silver palate. I worked for someone like that once. They would see something in a magazine and want their kitchen to do it with no idea as to what food cost or labor cost or whether the kitchen and staff were able to do the food justice. Then at a later time scream at the chef for going over budget with food and labor cost.....
 
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Joined Jun 28, 2004
I was having a drink with a friend who owns an Italian restaurant when she got a call that her hostess was sick. Already in a panic over her in-laws & friends coming for dinner (old, old Italian family group of 10...some would describe as "mafioso", big spenders but very demanding, men go to the bar for grappa, while the women order appetizers), she lost it. I volunteered to hostess.

A local wacko who tries to impress everyone he comes into contact with and his weird girlfriend came in and asked for one of the "dark booths". He then turned off the little lamp on the wall, which left just some overhead lighting making his pale girlfriend look like she had just come back from the dead. His first question to the waitress was could he go into the kitchen to check to see if the veal was pink. He asked if the salad could be dressed at the table to make sure it was real balsamic vinegar. We all know him and know he was just trying to impress this corpse he had brought to dinner.

Now the kicker. He approached me with a bottle of wine. He had ordered it, but for some reason wanted my opinion if it was a good wine to go with the veal. (Maybe trying to impress me with his wine knowledge?) Very diplomatically (and biting my tongue all the way), I said, "Well, it does say 'a fine dessert wine' on the bottle." He just said, oh yes, and schlumped away.
The server later told me he pulled her aside at the service station and asked
if he could change the wine to a house chianti.

He still returns to the restaurant, and all the servers fight to not have "Mr. Pink Veal" sit in their station.
 

kuan

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I think I know that guy! Next time just beat the crap out of a piece of pork and serve it to Mr. Pink Veal :)
 
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Joined Nov 17, 2000
:confused:
kuan said:
I also want a job as a functions coordinator for a major University which entails going out on the internet and finding synomyms for "Russian style of banqueting" or whatever.

I knew there were people who had jobs naming things, but I just never realized that I could have parlayed my word skills for a cool job like finding synonyms! And here I am teaching sophomores about ancient civilizations!
I absolutely hate obscure names for menu items. I don't know all that much about Food as a category, but I sure hate trying to figure out what something is from a weird, cutesy name. I have noticed a local tendency toward naming entrees that scares me just a bit. Somehow, there's a bit of honesty in a local Mexican restaurant that serves "Combinations" with a description of each and an English to Spanish translation for all the special words. They aren't trying to hide the ingredients. I realize this isn't exactly what you guys are talking about, but I'm working with a pretty limited Food arena here!
It is really peculiar that the best place to eat around here (for my money) is a Thai restaurant. The food is great. It's clean. The workers are wonderful. They have a clear menu (no synonyms!) and sushi that is capable of convincing my husband that, yes, he does like raw fish, and so do I!
 
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Joined Aug 25, 2004
The worst ones are " Doctor's Office Chef " !!! You know those sit on their azz all day long , reading cooking mags and by the end of the day ( or worst , doctor visit ) , they think they are the "CHEF" . My friend works for one of those . It is the owner's wife ( I myself worked w/ some wonderful owners just to clear that out ) . She wants to change the freaking specials every week to suit her diet and whatever she sees on the mag !!!! She hates FAT but will eat extra butter w/ bread because " it is not on the dish " (!) so it does not count ..LOL . And yes , she wants to do just about everything she see on the mags so she "looks" trendy . She cares nothing for food cost , labor cost because she is the "artist" but she will ***** later if the bills show up ! My friend just doesn't give a sh*t any more and looking for a new job . Too sad though , she ( my friend ) put so much in to to bring the place around .
 

kuan

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Joined Jun 11, 2001
I have a tip for your friend. Don't ever work in a country club.
 

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