Commenting has been turned off for this post

In England, the Fat Duck is fun once a year but on a regular basis the traditional French food served at the Waterside Inn would be a pleasant weekly event.

One lionises the chef and the other doesn't, it lionises the food; the food focus is better.

Expand full comment

It’s the chefs that are too self involved??

Expand full comment

I worked in kitchens from 15 until 35 and also got my culinary degree. Worked at some really nice places, and even one that had stars. But I agree with the writer that those places are just too much. It's good old fashioned showing off, from the chefs to the people who dine there. A waste of time, money and more importantly the wasted food. Fresh and simple with good presentaion is what I seek these days. Just as we have for thousands of years. The foo foo is just doo doo

Expand full comment

Thanks for this Tanya! I’m a huge fan of The Bear 🐻 but more for the character development and interactions…best serious series I’ve seen in a good long while. You’ve hit the nail on the head with the relationship of these “starred” restaurants and their customers - maybe we’ll see more of that in The Bear soon?

Expand full comment

I will not go to a restaurant that is all about the chef.

Expand full comment

While I agree largely with much of what the author is selling - that food is food first and art second, I think I disagree with her attitude. Some of this might simply be due to the nature of a critique as, inherently, it is the opposite of “the man in the arena,” but also due to the reality that such a job requires a discerning - albeit, superficial - palate… if she likes everything (or even most of) what she ate, there would be incentive for neither the kitchen nor the reader to care. If anything, there’s incentive to be more picky about the better places so they will bend over backwards every time you come in.

Yes, these chefs are trying to convey something beyond the physical dish they plate - their summers in wherever they grew up or their winters when grampa was particularly gentle or whatever it is that made them love their dish… exactly like the author gives special meaning to that snapper cooked in the aftermath of catastrophe. Is the food good? That must come first but even the author notes that circumstance plays a heavy role in how a meal is received.

I’ve never had the luxury of eating at Per Se, so I’ll take the author’s word for it and that Chef Keller failed in that particular respect. At the same time, I’ve made his ratatouille in the Imam Biyaldi style (that he created for the film) and it perfectly turns beautiful provincial memories into haute cuisine. I imagine the author has tried to do the equivalent with that snapper when cooking for friends.

Art, at its most fundamental, is technique - it is the application of one’s knowledge to serve a purpose; a chair, in order to serve the function of a chair, must be able to support the weight of a seated human being. High art transcends that purpose, but doesn’t abandon it. A beautiful chair still must meet that basic requirement, or it’s simply a beautiful facsimile of a chair - still art on some level (many levels) but, if the intent was to make a chair, the artist has failed at that most fundamental level. We all fail and we either learn from failure or continue to fail in the same manner.

If the meal you had at Per Se was bad, continuing to eat it only to insult it later… that’s a critical approach, sure, and within the wheelhouse of the critic’s art - but it’s cowardly duplicitous and nothing close to high art. Also, it’s a missed opportunity to see how the restaurant addresses a failing - one from which those of us who haven’t the luxury of an expense account could genuinely benefit.

Expand full comment

Most people overestimate the importance of how food is cooked (the chef!) and underestimate the selection of good ingredients. Great ingredients from an artisan grower or farmers market prepared simply so their innate flavors shine will always be better than a heavily processed meal even at a fancy restaurant. For example I could eat lightly steamed mixed greens from my farmer with some good EVOO and Meyer lemon every day of the week, and often do, whereas eating out almost always sits heavy and I wouldn’t want to more than once in awhile, perhaps because they are always adding in too much to disguise their shitty ingredients - just like Hollywood, where most films use an overbearing soundtrack and excessive CGI to disguise an empty meaningless script. If Americans paid attention to their bodies they’d eat out a lot less, and many restaurants would simply go out of business. Tonight I’ll look forward to my quick preparations based around tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella, no Michelin starred reservations required.

Expand full comment

I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment on the food side, but I work in film & tv so I know much more about that industry. Much like newspapers and other industries it has been captured by the culture wars. “The Bear” is the latest progressive show that looks down on every day people and what they enjoy to do, eat and live for. It’s not ok that it’s an amazing sandwich shop. People must conform to their idea of greatness to be considered worthy. It’s hard to watch my industry’s product these days. I’ve gone back to rewatching old shows and tv.

Expand full comment

It’s been a while since I watched the first two seasons and have yet to watch the third - but wasn’t that “amazing sandwich shop” failing to make ends meet?

The idea of trying to turn it into a brigade-system haute cuisine kitchen still doesn’t make sense to me (demanding an entirely different clientele), but what they were doing definitely wasn’t working. If they’re trying to get back to the workaday roots of the techniques now defining fine cuisine (housewives making the best of the shit cuts their husbands could afford), I applaud that and hope they are able to tie it in to someplace as blue collar as inner-city Chicago.

Expand full comment

I enjoyed this piece, and I look forward to more from Tanya Gold.

Expand full comment

Gold has a point.


I have eaten at Michelin star restaurants in England, France, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain. Germany, Portugal, Austria.

Some have blown my socks off, some have disappointed. The ones that have disappointed were the 3 star restaurants.

I had a magnificent meal at a 1 star restaurant in Seville, for example.

In Copenhagen I ate at a three Michelin star restaurant. Meh. The next night I ate at Gott, a husband and wife team (total staff compliment), in a very small space with 3 or 4 tables. Thoroughly enjoyed the set menu!

The first 'up there' restaurant I ate at was, in fact, Per Se in early 2000. I thought it was excellent.

While the food is the star (!) of the show, Michelin stars are awarded for ambience, decor, service levels...

A friend decries 'clever food' and I can see what she means when it comes to Michelin star restaurants. One night in Amsterdam I had a superb meal with 'clever' food at a 2 Michelin star restaurant. Loved it. The next day I had a paper cornet of French fries with mayonnaise, eaten on the street under an awning to avoid the rain. Loved those fries!

Recently I ate at an unpretentious restaurant in Verona and had sublime ravioli filled with pumpkin, cheese and amaretti biscuits.

Expand full comment

Loved this!

Expand full comment

I worked at a place in Savannah, front of the house, and the owner was told by a Michelin reviewer that he'd have given a star if there were a better chandelier. That was in 98, and every time I read about Michelin stars I think about what picky poopers the reviewers are.

Loved the article. Thanks.

Expand full comment

Michelin stars came about as food tourism guides to get folks to drive more (hopefully on Michelin tires). Good food is the driving factor, but everything else that goes into the experience is also a consideration.

Has it lost sight of what it was meant to be? Absolutely.

Has it become a cannibalistic inner circle of célébrité and social distinction?

Of course.

Is it time for something better? Something more in tune with modern tastes and the common man?

I certainly think so.

Can such a thing be done, with the proper balance of discerning taste and everyday interest?

I doubt it but, if the FP wants to issue me a company card and the freedom to use it, I’m willing to prove myself wrong.

Expand full comment

I've eaten at a Michelin three-star once, and a few days afterwards I had dinner with friends at my local Irish pub, where I had a $15 shepherd's pie and a pint. The latter was far more satisfying!

Expand full comment

....and I thought it was just me who was tired of the 'tasting course' requirement of the Michelin star restaurant scene. 3 hours of little plates that just kept coming at you and frankly just wear you down at the end. After a recent visit to one in Lisbon, we cancelled our others scheduled on our European trip and just focused on well reviewed restaurants of young chefs who let you eat a meal in peace and tried some fun things along the way. I felt they CARED about whether i truly liked their food.

Expand full comment

I can’t sit that long. I get antsy, especially if I’m not actually getting fed at a restaurant.

Expand full comment

I used to travel to Europe for work, for a big company, and had a company credit card which I used to go out to eat. So, whatever I ordered, I wasn't paying, and so I went to the most expensive, exclusive places I could find. I took friends with me. It was fun, and the food was good, but in terms of how food makes me feel after I eat, all that rich food was misery inducing. Too much booze was a factor as well. It took days to get over those meals, and the meals I cook for myself now, in my humble kitchen, are far better for me and afterwards, I feel great. I got the 'exclusive' food experience done and over with early, and have not looked back. My friends that are still out there, chasing that food high, think I'm crazy, but maintain that a Chili's meal is about 90% as good as the best eateries in the world. Salmon tastes like salmon, wherever you eat it. A good steak is about the steak, not the chef. You don't have to be a genius to make a good salsa. And, I refuse to be condescended to by food.

Expand full comment

In 2019 I ate at a three-starred restaurant in Basel, Switzerland. When I was done, I was mad at the server for bossing us around, mad at the chef for being too precious, and mad at myself for wasting so much money.

Totally agree that simple, unpretentious, perfectly cooked food is The Way.

Expand full comment