There’s a deleted scene in Almost Famous, where the lead guitarist for the band Stillwater talks about why he loves music. I’m paraphrasing here, but the jist of the monologue was that it was the tiniest of imperfections of an otherwise perfect song that made rock and roll such a joy to behold.
I have the same feeling towards restaurants.
Don’t get me wrong…I have a great deal of respect to the chefs, owners and staffs of the various three and four star restaurants I’ve been to in my life. I’ve enjoyed food that I couldn’t recreate in my lifetime, and I’ve been the recipient of customer service so precise that I would have sworn that there was a Marine drill sergeant masquarading as a floor manager. In my mind, I equate these places to classical music – highly talented artisans and craftsmans working in concert to provide the consumer the most technically proficient product that can be had.
But my heart? My heart belongs to the rock and rollers of the food world. These are the people who know only three or four chords, and only know how to keep tempo in 4/4 time, yet can bring thousands of people to their feet, light their lighters, bang their heads and get their asses out on the dance floor or into a mosh pit.
These are the folks who make Philly Cheesesteaks, bowls of Tex-Mex Chili, and Barbeque in it’s many iterations. These are people who wouldn’t know mirepoix from soffritto, and don’t give a damn about this gap in their knowledge. It’s the folks who run the pho houses, teriyaki joints, and Indian buffets that get their followings by word of mouth. It’s the restaurants that I go to on a regular basis as opposed to the restaurants I go to on special occaissions.
Or to put it another way, I recognize the artistry and influence of the Haydens, Bachs and Copelands of the world, and even click on them in my iPod from time to time. But when push comes to shove, I’m more likely to listen to The Clash, Husker Du, or The Who.
So when I see things such as chefs trying to make a foie gras hot dog, or sell haute hamburgers, I chuckle a bit inside. To me, this sounds as odd as Yo-Yo Ma covering The Killers. Yeah it may sound interesting, and certainly they’ll be a proficiency to it which cannot be denied, but it’s still not rock and roll.
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