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Fancy Food is Overrated
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Sarape



Joined: 15 Dec 2004
Posts: 583
Location: Anniston Alabama USA

PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 8:22 pm    Post subject: Fancy Food is Overrated Reply with quote

It can't be just me: Doesn't a good old-fashion deli sandwitch taste better than any fine food cooked and served in a fancy restaurant? Or a corn dog from the fair, or a hot dog and mustard at the stadium? Or a meat-ball hogy?

I think it is a myth to think that the best-tasting food can be found in a restaurant. The conclusion is that chefs are overpaid and sit-down restaurants are too expensive.

The question this raises is: would a corn dog served in a great restaurant still taste like a corn dog?
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Donna



Joined: 14 Oct 2005
Posts: 827
Location: Oakland, CA

PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 8:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well Sarape,

I have to part company with you on this one. Yes, I once had a cheese steak in Philly that sent me to the moon with joy. However, I wouldn't eat a corn dog - at a fair or ANYWHERE - for love or money.

There are so many SIMPLE good foods that don't require being cooked to death in a tub of lard. I don't care for a lot of sauces - but a fabulous slab of wild caught salmon or a perfectly roasted chicken or even a ratatouille - will appeal to me far more than a corn dog or a meat ball hoagy.

That said, I do believe that a stodgy atmosphere at a resaurant can take away from the pleasure of eating a good meal. I have eaten in some of the finest and best known resaurants in the Bay Area - with celebrity chefs and all, such as Chez Panisse, Oliveto and Masa's. The best of these institutions want you to be relaxed and enjoy your food as though you were sitting in your own dining room. The difficult ones want you to genuflect when the meall arrives at the table. So, I suppose if you like corn dogs, a corn dog would taste just as good at Chez Panisse - where they want you to feel At Home- but it might not taste so great at a place where the reputation is more important than the customer.

Just one girl's opinion...

PS I can hardly believe that a guy who puts yams in his oatmeal likes corndogs! You are a man of many surprises!
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cris



Joined: 28 Dec 2005
Posts: 41
Location: usa /md french background

PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 9:19 pm    Post subject: fancy food Reply with quote

yes it is just you.
i do like basic food , it can taste good as in feel good but not better as in 100 years of working on that recipe.
if you don't appreciate the difference don't pay for it .Enjoy your oat meal with cabbage tea if they can bring you as much pleasure as a fancy meal with a nice bottle do for me.
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Sarape



Joined: 15 Dec 2004
Posts: 583
Location: Anniston Alabama USA

PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Donna, your arguments are very good ones and somewhat convincing. Sure if you care about nutrition, then that corn dog is not recommended and your wild salmon is the choice. And I know taste isn't the only judge of quality. I think you may still agree with me that your Phlly steak tasted better than the salmon, though likely your brain told you to prefer the salmon.

Your second argument about the restaurant atmosphere is remeniscent of the discussions I've had on listening to concert music in formal attire at the symphony. Is it better to make the concert (or dining) experience elegant or natural? Same arguments have been applied to church services.

Quite interesting subjects. We may never know how a corn dog tastes in Delmonicos.
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cake whore



Joined: 19 Dec 2005
Posts: 22

PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 11:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow! Serape, you bring up an explosive subject, one I'm sure will elicit many emotions and opinions.

Here's mine...

I agree that the best tasting foods are not always found in restaurants. Some of my most memorable meals were prepared by non-chefs in an informal setting. My definition of great food is any dish made from the best quality ingredients, carefully prepared with passion, tempered by a bit of knowledge and experience. I don't believe that you have to attend culinary school to be a great cook, some of the best just do it intuitively.

As a chef, I have to disagree that we are over paid. Have you ever worked in a commercial kitchen? The work is hard, challenging, and often dangerous and the hours are long. At the end of any given day, the waitresses often earn more than the chefs.

Yes, sit-down restaurants are expensive, but so are the costs of running one. 75% of new restaurants don't make it past the second year. Those that do, don't see profits until their fifth year.

When I crave a great sandwich, I go to a deli. Stadium hot dogs are bliss! Of course, a corn dog would still taste like a corn dog in the most fabulous of restaurants...it is what it is...but why would anyone go to a great restaurant for a corndog? Shocked
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Sarape



Joined: 15 Dec 2004
Posts: 583
Location: Anniston Alabama USA

PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 11:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've watched chefs at work through the glass and I know they work hard. In the system as it stands, they earn their wages.

cake_whore: your comments about the great food remind me of the comment used to define "classical" architecture, which is: classical architecture refers to any work which uses the best techniques and styles of the past which have been tried and tested and proved to be successful.

So, our best restaurants should provide classical food.

Alternatively, maybe a new, high-end restaurant idea: keep the prices, the high culture and the ambiance, but serve deli or state-fair food: corn dogs, rubben sandwitches, apple fritters.

I'm may be going crazy in this week before retirement, however.
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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 1654
Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound

PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't let the glamour of the Food Network fool you, the VAST majority of us are underpaid, keep long hours and work their bums off. I agree that not all food is great because it comes from a restaurant, it is good because the recipe/chef is solid.
Everyone has different taste and style there is no way to lump them all together and say they are not worth it. A chef at home can be teriffic or terrible. The hot dog stand by my house ROCKS, but the one five miles away is horrible. Like what you like, but there are many people here who make their living in the food industry, and don't appreciate being told they are overpaid and can't produce a wonderful dining experience.

If you are talking about a specific restaurant or have a comparison, please share. Don't just lump us all together.
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JustMe



Joined: 13 Apr 2005
Posts: 213
Location: Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 2:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"To everything there is a season..."

Why would you want to eat a corndog in a restaurant with white table linens and a sommelier? You've just elevated the price ten fold.

The restaurant experience is not only about the food: it's about the service, the ambience. It's about the mood. I wouldn't want to eat in a fine restaurant every day just as some days I want to treat myself to the whole experience.

Are some places over pretentious? Definitely. Are the reasons people dine there valid? It doesn't matter, does it? It fills a niche. If you don't enjoy that kind of environment then don't frequent those places. No one is demanding that you do.

As for the deli sandwich? On a certain day the deli sandwich is just perfect! It's just what I want. On another day I want a roast of lamb cooked to perfection, or a pasta with a sauce "to die for". On those days the chef is the person I want cooking for me.

I remember a food critic making a comment once saying that s/he had been on the road for quite awhile, dining out continually & really wanted just a plain, plain dish. The chef knew who s/he was & couldn't resist his instinct to fancy up despite the request to the contrary. On that particular day, no matter how accomplished the chef, the customer would have been disappointed.

Don't let all those glamourous cooking shows fool anyone, one glimpse "back stage" at a restaurant will show you how hard a chef works...and those insane hours. My glass is raised to all the chefs out there. I may love to cook, but I don't envy you your jobs.

Life is too complicated for generalizations.
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Leo



Joined: 25 Nov 2005
Posts: 94
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not setting foot into this one..

In the name of research, do let us know if you successfully sneak a corn dog into Delmonicos..
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FoodSciGeek



Joined: 19 Aug 2005
Posts: 143
Location: Vancouver

PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 4:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

With no offence intended to our host, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal that identified French Food as the most overated. It was late last week I think.

It's not that one kind of food is better than the other; certain things are appropriate at different times. So much about taste is subjective and related to personal experience. For example, I hate cardomon. I know lots of people love it, it's supposed to be the it spice this year. For me, it reminds me of the smell of the anesthesia we used to put the fruit flies to sleep in genetics lab in university. Chai tea makes me gag, but I know it's not bad.

However, there are the food snobs who will turn up their noses at the simpler things or process or junk foods, no matter how good they taste. Not any of the C&Z posters of course.
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Elizagard



Joined: 28 Mar 2005
Posts: 31
Location: San Francisco Bay Area

PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 2:01 pm    Post subject: Stirring things up Reply with quote

You clearly wanted to stir things up. I don't know what the restaurants in your area are like, but in San Francisco, there are some really good restaurants with great food. For me, I care far more about the food than the ambience. Recently, I had an amazing sea bass with a thinly sliced potato crust. I actually do like corn dogs, but not anywhere nearly as much.

And while I am willing to pay more for something I cannot make myself or cannot find easily anywhere, why would I pay a lot for a corn dog? Didn't Rocco de Spirito attempt to do a restaurant with down-home food and French service? It was a disaster for many reasons. Yes, there are many restaurants that are overrated. That's always a disappointment esp. if they are expensive, but you can't paint all of them with the same brush.
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just had a great grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. I’m not kidding. It was great: sourdough bread sliced just exactly as thick as I like so as to get the optimum ratio of bread to creamy cheese, fantastic cheddar with just a hint of milky sweetness midst the now-I’ve-got-your-attention sharpness and sundried tomato & basil infused olive oil. Three simple ingredients that, with the addition of heat, added up to perfection.

I grilled it just the way I like it too — really crisp outsides with just a hint of char to contrast with the melty creaminess of the cheese. It was simple ingredients raised to their zenith for my personal edification. I had it with a Diet Pepsi on a plate right next to my computer while I watched news analysis of the Alito hearings. ‘Cause that’s how I felt like enjoying every bite. (Did I use the word "enjoy"?!)

I don’t go to white tablecloth restaurants. As Debbie remembers (what a memory!) I’ve described myself as “rode hard and put away wet”. And that’s true. I am feisty, funky, demanding and have no particular intention of compromising with the demands of serious restaurant dining. I would be in jeans (the scruffier the more comfy) or I would look like Alfalfa when he had to put on the celluloid collar and slick down his hair. I wouldn’t fit in. I wouldn’t be comfortable. And I wouldn’t enjoy myself knowing that I was compromising the experience of people around me who pay serious money to have an elegant dining experience in spite me. So what would be the point?

I also have a problem with choking on any item that costs more than $20. That’s me. So I learned to cook and spend way more than $20 on arcane kinds of salt. And I follow food writing so I can learn to cook new things in creative ways. That’s my personal solution.

Now Thomas Keller may make a grilled cheese sandwich — it may very well be on the menu at The French Laundry. I dunno. If he does, I truly believe he does it in an authentic, imaginative and ironic way that is well worth what it is he charges. ‘Cause Thomas Keller’s credo is respect for what the food is. And, man do I respect that attitude and respect him!

I suspect I’d remember such a sandwich for a long time, compare every grilled cheese sandwich, thereafter, to it and try to recreate it over and over. For that, I might be willing to go out and buy the ensemble that would gain me entre to The French Laundry. (…but I suppose I’d probably still pick my teeth unconsciously to savor the last ort to a roomful of horror. What can I say? I’ve had to live my whole life with the fact that I’m incorrigible… ) But, my point is, how do you amortize the cost of a meal over the lifetime of a memory worth keeping?

Nevertheless, even though this figment of my imagination will never happen, I’m grateful that there are people like Thomas Keller who study and work hard and experience bankruptcy after bankruptcy and support whole staffs to be able to achieve what they can. I’m glad for all the creative people in the world who hold our lives above the mundane and give us a window to the possibilities of what the human experience might be. I’m grateful that there people in the world who can patronize and support their efforts and make it possible for me to be aware of horizons that I might not have considered and will never be able to achieve in the same way.

I’m glad that there are artisan chefs who support individual farmers and millers and cheesemakers and chocolatiers and vintners who wouldn’t be able to stay in business without them and the markets they create in their restaurants and in the foodie public. I can’t even tell you how reassuring it is to know that there are folks who share the pleasure and hospitality of food all around the world while powerful, destructive people engage in unnecessary and murderous hostilities that drive us further apart. I’m standing up and cheering for anyone and everyone who holds the line against Archer Daniels Midland and McDonalds and RJR Nabisco. And I’m hoping that everyone everywhere is so fortunate as to have the food that they need and gets to enjoy it in the way that means the most to them. Served on white tablecloths or dirt floors or ferris wheels. Vive la différence!
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Sarape



Joined: 15 Dec 2004
Posts: 583
Location: Anniston Alabama USA

PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 10:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow. That's why Rainey is the chief ambassador and chairman of the board on this group.

Very nicely written.

We all should be grateful that we live in a society at a time when both the hotdog with mustard and the $20 appetizer at the restaurant are availabe for our choosing.
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simona



Joined: 11 Mar 2005
Posts: 696
Location: israel

PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Sarape, thank you of bringing to this forum a controversial subject
It was badly needed, in my opinion.
I read carefully all the comments. I think we are talking in fact about three different, though interconnected subjects.
1.Ovepaid chefs: I tend to agree with the chefs in the forum ( Erin, Cake Whore, Leo(?), they are definitely not overpaid ( we are not talking about Alain Ducasse), their work is very hard, long hours, difficullt conditions. Over-expensive restaurants shouldn't be mixed with over(or under)paid chefs.
2. Expensive restaurants - they usually are expensive not because of the overpaid chefs ( who are not overpaid). Expensive of course is relative, I'm sure Mr. Rockefeller doesn't mind. But that's not the point. An expensive, famous restaurant, charges for its brand-name, like Nike and Adidas ( or Gucci-Pucci etc), and it's up to us to decide if we can afford it or not. These restaurants are interested only in those who can afford, and high prices are a kind of subtle selection of customers.
Some of them are very good and worth the price, some of them are interesting, experimental, and to some of them people go to see and be seen. Personally I don't mind eating a corner hot-dog at lunch and having a fancy dinner ( one I could afford ). I don't snub either possibility. I'll enjoy both.
3. Luxury food.vs corn hot dogs ( never had one, i'll have to try one next time Im in the US): most of us don't want to eat everyday in a fancy restaurant or eat every day corn hot dog . It's like FoodSciGeek wrote:certain things are appropiate at certain times: and many people consider going to a restaurant on a festive occasion, and choose one which suits them. Dressing up a little, enjoying a good athmospere, being served instead of serving, talking with your table companions instead of doing the dishes and tasting things you're not cooking at home, could be an enriching and satisfying experience, not necessarily feeling being ripped off.
In my opinion, this subject has many undertones: socio-economical, ethnic, ideological, even religious, all of these unappropriate to this forum. So Sarape, you were right to sum up by saying that it's fortunate we have today the choice of whateve suits us.

No more war, let's have a good hot dog and a glass of champagne instead!
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David



Joined: 30 Sep 2004
Posts: 1855
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

They are all just different kinds of experiences Sarape! i truly love a good sausage with sauerkraut and mustard from a sausage wagon out her on Bank St and have never been known to pooh pooh a good chip wagon. But I love a good boeuf bourgignon and pan seared foie gras, and I'm just not going to find that in the local diner. I don't care for the pretentious upper end restaurant but a good bistro/resto with classic french or italian cuisine and tables packed with people and tables jammed almost together, a little warm with the hubble bubble of a happy crowd enjoying good food and good company---now that is heaven.

Oh and a high tea at a reputable "English" tearoom is an experience not to be equalled at home. (for those on the west North American coast--think the Empress Hotel in Victoria!)
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