For whom do we cook?
Seriously. I am asking the question and I want somebody to tell me. Who are you cooking for? Is it for your own sense of satisfaction and pride? Or is it to make money? Or... for the respect of the other members of our ego-inflated industry?
I run the kitchen of 20-person crew, doing 400+ covers on a Friday night. Our food is pretty good. Are there short-cut items? Yes, of course. And don't judge me for that. If there weren't some convenience items, my crew would be a staff of 50. So hold on to that before we go further. We have an open-hearth pizza oven and we pull our own dough. We roast whole chickens. We grill a few good steaks. We also use pre-made tartar sauce and blue cheese dressing that originate at our commissary that serves 9 other places in our hospitality group. Does it bother me? Sometimes. But not always. Sometimes, not having to deal with the knuckle-headed stuff is a relief. And by the way, we don't use forceps, tweezers or liquid nitrogen. No slam intended for those that do; quite the contrary. Instead, I don't expect the food we do to show up in print, photographed, Yelp-ed or otherwise starred/forked/Zagated. The food is 'middle America,' as if such a thing existed. Would I service the needs of the pages on Bon Apetit, Plate or Food Arts? No. Doesn't that make me less of a culinary force?
When I read about what is going on in some serious culinary-epicenters and metropolitan dynamos, I do get envious. And humbled. I feel less significant on the culinary forefront. Then I remember that most people don't that way or certainly don't do it very often. How do I know? Because Olive Garden is crowded. And so is Lonestar. And don't forget Chili's, Applebees and Famous Dave's. I would not relax my own standards or sense of pride to 'get by' with mediocre food and that's not what I am saying. I am saying, does a really good $16 bison burger measure up to $160 tasting menu? Should it?
The new Chef movie is coming out and in the trailer the conflict arises that said Chef clashes with the owner and he sets sail for the open road with a food truck so he can do his own food. Is he feeding his customers or feeding his ego? For whom do we cook?