10.06.2009

The end of the culinary world as you know it.

The world is ending.  Restaurants are closing, chefs are without jobs, and Gourmet will soon be no more.  The food world at large is being dominated by a handful of cooking based reality shows and a million terrible recipe and food blogs.  Trends are turning over so quickly that even your Mom has a calcium chloride/sodium alginate set up, right next to her bread maker and pizza stone.  Things have regressed so far that opening a restaurant seems like suicide.  Let's just open a quesadilla food cart instead! 

Well, I say bullshit to all this doom and gloom.  You realize what's about to happen, right?  You can see what's around to corner, can't you?

Here, in San Francisco, there is a group of chefs that are rightly considered to be at the top of their gameThey're all in the same age group, they all came up paying their dues, and they're all brilliant at their craft.  They're who you want to work for in this town.  When you see them get together, it's like a meeting of the illuminati.  They are the chefs that will be cited as the dominant influences for the next generation.  And that next generation is about to come into its own.  Right now we are standing on the edge of a whole new era of chefs.  Young cooks, that came up through less traditional avenues than our predecessors.  Cooks that are embracing traditional and boundry pushing techniques--often on the same plate.  It's happening already.  Chefs like Charlie Kleinman, Ryan Farr, Brandon Jew, Thomas McNaughton, Chad Newton, Ian Begg, Justin Simoneaux, James Syhabout, Ron Pei and Luis Villavilazquez are all young, driven, and quickly making a name for themselves citywide.  And beyond the traditional kitchen format there are chefs like Anthony Myint and Josh Skenes that aren't just cooking good food, but are challenging the idea of what a restaurant is in the first place.  Add in a crop of hungry and talented sous chefs (Brett Cooper of Coi, Alejandro Rodriguez of Nopa) and I just cant see how an eater wouldn't be foaming at the mouth for what's coming.

Think about it like this:  No era of chefs has ever had access to the quality and variety of farm fresh ingredients that this group does.  No era of chefs is as closely tied to organics and sustainability.  No era of chefs has had their worlds brought closer by means of the internet and social networking like this group does.  And no era of chefs has had such a rabid audience for the next big thing, and the next big chef.  And come to think of it, few eras of chefs care as little about celebrity as this group does.  It's an interesting dynamic; cooks that have seen the cost of selling out, television, and cooking for awards and not for guests.  These next chefs run their kitchens with humility and dignity, and they don't forget the whole point--that cooking is just food, and its supposed to be fun.

I think the most exciting thing is to look forward.  5 years, 10 years, 15 years...where is this new class of chefs going to lead the San Francisco culinary scene?  What will be their impact on the next group of cooks coming up under them?  Who is going to end up running a 4 star kitchen...and who is going to open a quiet neighborhood spot?  The culinary world is not ending.  The future is bright, and we all get to be a part of it.

notes:


quotes and conversations.

"I love you Mer-mer.  I'm going to make you the happiest woman in the world."
-Camaal

Me:  We're on orange alert?
Nick:  Yeah.
Me:  Yeah dude!  That's my favorite alert!  It's one alert away from code red.
Dega:  Which one is Amber alert.
Me:  Amber alert is a kidnapped child.

A tall, cute girl walks by.
Camaal:  Why not.
Paulie:  Because she's twice your size?
Camaal:  So?  Danny is twice my size.
Paulie:  ?....

Goose:  Never suck dick for crack.
Me:  That's good advice.
Ponder.  I have par cooked risotto stuck in my teeth.
Me:  I don't even think we're listening to each other anymore.

EddieWhy did you tell an entire week in October to fuck off?
(3 hours pass)
Goose:  Hey dude, I just wanted you to know that when you told this week to fuck off, you put it for next month. 
Me:  Yeah, that's part of this week sucking.

Me:  I don't think you can base an entire film on an unlikeable character.
Amy:  But it's been done.
Me:  Yeah, in the Phantom Menace with that little kid.
Corey:  I got your phantom menace right here.

Amy:  When you told Brooke about millennial values, did you use your nerd voice?
Me:  No, I used my CNN voice, pented my fingers, and used air quotes.
Amy:  Nice.

Rachel:  You should get Corey to run with you.
Me:  I don't think that's gonna happen.  Corey's gotta stop eating melted brie on triscuits first. 
Corey:  It's baguette ends.  Triscuits are for sliced cheddar.

Merrell is plating, and she's short on a set.
Eddie:  Did I fuck you?
Merrell:  Don't say that Eddie.  It's weird.

Me:  Fire two families.
Goose:  Hey dude, there better not be more than six families left cuz I ain't got more than that.  So if they're tryin' to get me, they're gonna be out of luck cuz I only prepped for..
Me:  FIRETWOFAMILIES!!!!
Goose:  Yes.

Me:  What about you Goose?  Would you pay to see nude pictures of me on the internet?
Goose:  Well, I guess if you were tryin to raise money or something.

Eddie:  Guess what I made yesterday?  Fish and chips.  Only I didn't have potatoes, so I made onion rings instead.
Me:  Wow, that's extra un-healthy.
Eddie:  And that was for breakfast!

Eddie:  I'm going to Sonoma at the end of the month.  The Rancho Gordo outlet store is there, and they have t-shirts.  I'm gonnna get one.
Me:  That's very geeky of you.
Eddie:  I like beans.  They're delicious, and economical...
Me:  You're still talking about beans.

Corey:  Mer-mer, your balls taste good in my mouth.
Merrell:  Thanks Corey.
Me:  Weird, Matty told her the same thing last night.

Me:  OK Gerardo.  If you could bone down with a really hot girl, but she had a robot vagina, would you do it?
Gerardo:  I don't know what that would feel like.
Ponder:  Trick question!  That would be the end of the world.  That's cylon vagina.
Me:  OK.  Same question, but this time it's shark vagina.
Gerardo:...
Eddie:  Trick question!  Sharks don't have vaginas!
Gerardo:...



from top: dega's text, cipollini eyes, burnt bacon, corey and goose, superglue, baby snails, you touch your dick, a brand new vitaprep

12 comments:

Pavlov said...

Wait, sharks don't have vaginas? Guess I can go ahead and cross of that diving trip I had planned...

I agree, this generation has a lot to look forward to in the world of food. As long as they don't fuck it up and all want to be the next Grant Achatz. We could use many good cooks doing simple food well. And only a few doing the crazy shit to see what is possible.

masked_superstar said...

http://blog.businessgreen.com/2008/01/so-is-las-vegas.html
http://www.slashfood.com/2008/01/16/vertical-farm-rises-in-las-vegas/
vegas vertical farm plan was put out there.

Wolfgang said...

"...and I feel fine."

Great post.

Oh, fresh new batch of arugula, no little snails. At least in mine.

Paul L. said...

I may have been the stalker on your flickr account. I was discussing food carts and seemed to remember you taking a picture of one and posted to twitter. I was originally searching photos on here in each blog post (wow, that was a pain) and then ended up getting into flickr. But, I was there just once. I swear.

All I can say is...dude, you take a lot of photos.

samin said...

How come there are no women on those chef lists? What about Jessica Boncutter (Bar Jules), or Julya Shin (who runs the Pizzaiolo kitchen), Beth Wells (Chez Panisse) or Kayta Smulewitz (Dopo/Adesso)?

Richie said...

@Pavlov - The next Grant Achatz is fine, as long as he's pushing and innovating. As for shark vaginas, sorry to ruin your plans.

@masked superstar - nice to see Vegas embracing new technology like that.

@wolfgang - no snails this week...

@paul - the stuff on my flickr account was far creepier than food carts. I link to it because I think flickr is a great medium for sharing, but someone searched some weird and personal shit about me and my family on there.

@samiin - good point about no women on my list. the closest answer I can give you is this: I don't know the chefs from Pizziaolo or Chez. Kayta, who I know and admire, is not the chef of Dopo--John is. I know she has influence on the dessert menu, but shes mostly FOH, yes? As for Jessica, she's probably as close to fitting on this list--but I consider her closer to the group that Melissa Perello and Michelle Mah are in...which is this kinda in between group. Anyway, great point.

samin said...

richie, i'm not sure what you mean about "in between," but i do know that kayta is a great cook. i met her several years ago in italy when she came to stage at the restaurant where i worked, and later she spent some time with us at cp. she is a superb cook in her own right, and though her name may not be on the marquee, i'd be willing to bet she has her share of influence on what goes on in that (savory) kitchen.

three of the most important chefs i look to as role models are men, and i know that this world is male-dominated. i just think it's curious that we are so hard pressed to come up with a few women chefs to add to such lists.

Lisa said...

Awesome and insightful, as usual. I've been watching the ebb and flow of the celebrity chef craze for years now and I think it's definitely winding down. Friends I know who dine out often are staying loyal to smaller places, those with consistently good food, sans flash, which they can afford often, instead of only once in a while. I think this may actually encourage people who understand the backbreaking work involved in running even a small establishment to take the plunge and use those many, many resources that are now available that weren't only a short time ago. And those small places may soon be the next big thing.

As for Gourmet folding, it's a shame that it's going down because it's such an institution but I can't help but wonder if they brought it on themselves with the irritatingly ugly layout and its holier-than-you, dear reader attitude. I remember when it was good, very good, something anyone who had any interest in food should read but now--meh. Ruth Reichl will be fine; I just hope everyone else lands on their feet.

redsneakz said...

I love coming back from not reading for a long time, and still finding you here.

Celebrity chefs and sellouts are nothing new, of course - viz Chef Boyardee - but the level of sellout and the culture of MEdiocrity (caps on purpose) has gone too far, indeed. I used to be a dedicated foodie, but even early on, I found myself not attracted at all to Food Network - and now that I'm without cable, I have no idea who you're talking about.

It's true in F&B like in real life that the bad money forces out the good - but there's still good out there. I'm glad the scene continues to grow.

Richie said...

@samin - yes, Kayta is a talented cook...but again, she's not the chef, and just doesn't fit the description of the rest of the chefs on this list. After your comment, I had a chat with some of my cooks, and here's what I came up with. Chefs like Nancy Oakes, Loretta Keller, and Traci DeJardins are all from a different generation of chefs than the ones that I listed in the first group. Michelle Mah, Jessica Boncutter, and Melissa Perello all made their names and talents known well before this new generation came up. (Melissa trained most of these guys) Maybe Lauren Kiino could be in the first group? I dont know.
Call it what you want, but for me, that list represents whats going on in SF.

@Lisa - the future resides in the neighborhood restaurant. I think the split between the real food world and the tv/celebrity world is going to widen...until the celebrity trend dies, and the food community tightens.

@redsneakz - thanks for coming back! if food network and all the recipe blogs in the world went away, I would probably sleep better at night.

Shuna Fish said...

I keep thinking about this post because I don't like it. I get it and I might even agree with a lot of it but it doesn't sit right with me.

Not that I have to like everything, because I sure do know that not everyone likes what I (have to) say.

But,
1. Where are the women? Where are the female chefs?
2. Where are the pastry chefs?
3. It's great NoPa is so damn busy, but you know what? Not that many other places are. Try working somewhere that can not hire, can not buy great proteins, can not shop at the ferry plaza farmers market. Don't tell me you don't know a dozen great cooks and pastry chefs/cooks that are out of work or have had to leave SF to find work.

It's not all bad, yes. But it is pretty fucking bad and you know it. You are so so lucky you work at a busy place. But know that all over the world restaurants and their staff are suffering.

Remember that we have all the glossies to tell us about the hot new young (mostly white) male chefs.

We hope for the voice of the voiceless in blogs.

spanish bombs said...

Raw denim: do not wash ever, basically, especially not for the first six months. (And this is assuming religiously wearing your jeans!)

This will make the little crinkles, honeycombs (back of knees), and whiskers rub off the dye, and then when you finally do wash (gentle, Woolite black or preferably no detergent, don't dry), the dye will run out and you will have customly worn jeans.

Wash rarely, as washing gets rid of the wonderful sheen. Also, this is not really worth doing except with reasonably fitted cuts because only they will rub enough for good wear. If you have a looser cut, you shouldn't ever wash, since the jeans' main asset is now the sheen.

In case you were wondering.